When you think of classic westerns, it’s impossible not to think of Marshal Matt Dillon from the series “Gunsmoke.” Portrayed by the late James Arness for two decades on CBS, fans will remember Arness for his iconic acting on the beloved series.
During his time as Dodge City’s Marshal on “Gunsmoke,” Arness did quite well for himself. He earned $1,200 an episode. Although later, when the show won awards and continued to be a hit with critics and fans, he renegotiated his contract. As a result, he later got a whopping $20,000 an episode. Not too shabby considering in today’s money, that would’ve been equivalent to over $150,000.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, when Arness died on June 3, 2011, his net worth was estimated to be $8 million. However, his earnings were not without effort. According to DoYouRemeber.com, Arness performed his own stunts while playing the lawman on “Gunsmoke.”
Although this doesn’t come as much of a shock considering Arness was a seriously tough guy before becoming an actor. Arness served in the United States Army and had the role of rifleman. He also suffered a leg injury during World War II during a battle in Anzio, Italy.
James Arness’ Work After ‘Gunsmoke’
Even after his stint on “Gunsmoke,” Arness would go on to star in other roles. Arness landed roles on other westerns including “How the West Was Won.” He also booked roles in TV movies such as Red River and The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory.
Of course, he reprised his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in several Gunsmoke movies. Arness starred in five made-for-television films based on the characters of Dodge City between 1987 and 1994.
However, Arness made a left turn from westerns when he played a police officer in the short-lived series, “McClain’s Law,” co-starring with Marshall Colt. Arness also proved he had international success when his role as Zeb Macahan in “How the West Was Won” made him a popular figure across the pond. Over in the UK, the show became more popular there than in the United States.
In addition to his work in westerns, Arness also starred in a couple of science fiction films. He appeared in Them! and The Thing From Another World. He played The Thing in the latter of the two films.