‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Once Described Show as ‘Quality Material’

If anyone could know about calling Gunsmoke and its episodes “quality material,” then it sure was legendary lead actor James Arness.

You know that Arness played Marshal Matt Dillon on the CBS Western series for 20 seasons. He made his mark on the show that moved from radio to television. What, though, did he happen to say about the show’s material? Let’s take a look with some help from GunsmokeNet.com.

“The bottom line is I was fortunate to get this role and be in a project that had such quality material,” he said. “It was mostly a question, especially in the early going, of the role carrying me along.”

‘Gunsmoke’ Star Also Was Supported By Cast of Solid Actors

Arness had quite a cast to support him throughout the show’s run, too. Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Ken Curtis, Dennis Weaver, Buck Taylor, and Burt Reynolds are among those who helped keep Dodge City going. Of course, it was Arness’ Dillon that made sure law and order were the rules of the day.

The Gunsmoke star had a long, solid friendship with movie legend John Wayne. Arness had appeared in a few movies with Wayne back in the day. When he took the lead role on the TV show, Wayne came on board and introduced his friend to those watching in 1955. It was a rare thing to see The Duke do such a thing on the small screen. After all, he had made his name on the big screen.

But the shows that did show what was happening in Dodge City definitely brought fans in from all over. Even in the year 2022, people will still sit down and watch Gunsmoke on TV. The consistent good guy vs. bad guy energy within those episodes always provides a sense of tension and drama. That’s a good thing for a show like this one to have and probably is one reason it lasted for 20 seasons.

John Wayne Had Very Important Question For Arness Early In Friendship

As we mentioned, Arness and Wayne had a long friendship that lasted for many years. Yet The Duke definitely had a key question to ask the young actor.

“[When we first met, John Wayne] asked me a couple of questions about my acting,” Arness said in an interview. “Then he said, ‘The main thing I have to know is – do you drink?’”

Arness would say that he “didn’t want to say because I didn’t know him at the time; maybe he was a teetotaler.” Wayne was certainly not at that time or in his life. “I said, ‘Well, I have been known to take one occasionally.’ We got a big laugh out of that and he put me on the picture Big Jim McLain.”

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