James Arness may have been an actor, but that doesn’t mean the Gunsmoke star loved the spotlight. A Gunsmoke producer once discussed how James Arness preferred to keep a low profile. The actor, who kind of fell into it, really wasn’t one to relish in fame.
“[James Arness] has never held court as many actors do,” Gunsmoke producer Norman Macdonnell said in a 1966 interview. “There has never been an admiring throng around Jim (James Arness). He’d much rather go to his dressing room and lie down or talk to one of the guys. There is no exhibitionistic thing about Jim. All he wants is to do the show and get away.”
Arness joined the show fairly inexperienced, and he was a pretty green actor at first. He didn’t exactly follow the industry-standard way of behaving. Yet slowly but surely, production came to love working with him as he was unlike any other actor in the industry.
Arness also grew quite close with his co-stars, even though there were rumors.
Arness Loved Starring in ‘Gunsmoke’
And Arness really seemed to love doing the show considering he broke the record at the time for the longest amount of time an actor has played a TV character. His role as Matt Dillon remains absolutely iconic. That record has since been broken by Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. But it remains incredibly impressive nonetheless.
When asked about how much longer he could do Gunsmoke in a 1962 interview, even after they had been filming for over a decade, Arness simply said “Forever, if people want it. We’ve all probably had our secret doubts about going on with it. Maybe there isn’t much more I can do with the role after all this time. But so what?”
“The dough’s still coming in, and I could keep on playing Matt Dillon forever,” Arness continued“When Dennis [Weaver] left the show this past season to seek out greener pastures, I told him he’d be back. And he did return.”
Arness also Liked Another Surprising Art Form
Arness was a very artistic type. On top of acting, he also really appreciated another art form, poetry. It was one of the things he excelled in in school. The Gunsmoke actor was a huge fan of Byron, Shakespeare, Keats, and Emily Dickinson and even recited one of her poems by heart in an interview.
James Arness was a star, but it appears the art is what he appreciated about show business. Never one for the spotlight, Arness’s career really revolved around doing what he loved: playing Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.
Arness lived a long life, passing away at 88 years old in 2011 in Los Angeles.