‘Gunsmoke’: James Arness’ Wife Opens Up About Marriage to Western Icon in 2017 Interview

by Katie Maloney
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James Arness and his wife went on the most romantic first date ever. Then he didn’t call for three months.

If Gunsmoke icon James Arness was a Tinder date, he would be the worst. Yes, he was tall, handsome, polite, and a famous actor, but he dropped the ball after a super romantic date with his future wife, Janet Surtees. Luckily, she gave him the benefit of the doubt and went on a second date (three months later) and the two were married for 33 years. During an interview, Janet shares the funny stories behind their romance.

The two met during the last season of Gunsmoke. Janet was working for a clothing store owned by the wife of Jim’s make-up artist. Janet worked there for seven years and grew close with the couple. One night, the owner of the store invited Janet over to meet Jim.

“She would tell me about Jim and their adventures. But I never met him. Then one night she said, ‘Well, Jim is coming over for dinner. Why don’t you come over and meet him? ‘And I thought, ‘Eew, an actor I don’t know,'” said Janet laughing.

However, her son’s love for Gunsmoke convinced her to go.

“But my son was a really big fan of Gunsmoke and was watching it every Monday night. So I thought, ‘Well, okay, I’ll meet Jim and tell my son I met him,'” said Janet.

Janet arrived before Jim and nervously waited for him to arrive.

“Then there was a knock at the door. And here comes this huge man through the door. I was like, “Oh my gosh, he is a big guy,'” said Janet with a laugh. “He was very polite and friendly.”

It Took James Arness Three Months To Call His Wife

The night they first met, the two spent the night talking about their families, work, and favorite hobbies.

“After dinner, he walked me out to my car and said, ‘Well, I’d like to call you,'” said Janet.

He called Janet the next day and asked if he could fly her to the mountains on his private plane (nice move, Jim). Obviously, Janet accepted. Before arriving at his home in the mountains, the two stopped at the grocery store because “Jim loved food.” They picked up bread, cheese, wine, and “other goodies.” While shopping, Janet noticed a lifesize advertisement with James on it.

The two spent the rest of the day horseback riding through nature and picnicking outdoors. So, basically, the most romantic date ever. James flew Janet back later that day. Then, what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened for three months.

Janet’s friend, who owned the dress shop and knew Jim, suggested that Janet call him. But Janet refused. She said, “I am sure Jim has countless girls calling him. If he wants to call me, he will.” Three months later, he finally called. Luckily, Janet didn’t hold a grudge and the two went on a second date. The two were inseparable after that and married a few years later.

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