‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Once Reflected on Exploring the Outdoors in His Youth

There is something unique and wonderful when reading about stars like Gunsmoke legend James Arness talking about his youth.

Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon on the legendary CBS western drama, reflects upon being in The Great Outdoors.

Here’s what it says in an interview reproduced by Gunsmokenet.com.

“Jim’s main memories of childhood are of days when he tramped the woods, days when he skimmed across frozen Lake Harriet in an iceboat,” TV Guide writer Robert De Roos states from December 1966. “‘I was always restless as hell,’ Jim once told me. ‘On days when the wind was blowing, I’d almost go crazy sitting in school.’”

Arness just was not a star on TVs all over America. He really did not like the spotlight. The actor was known as a loner who focused on his work, family, and life itself.

Getting someone to talk about him or even him to do an interview was just impossible.

The Gunsmoke actor reached a point where he simply refused to do interviews. Also, he would shut down interviews that co-stars were doing where Arness might have been mentioned.

So, the show ran for 20 seasons on CBS. It went from 1955 to 1975, spanning a number of generations of both fans and actors.

‘Gunsmoke’ Star Simply Wantd To Be Lead Actor On Show ‘Forever’

If Gunsmoke had run another 10 years after it left the CBS primetime lineup, then it would have been OK with Arness.

He talks about this in an interview from 1962 with Australia’s TV Times. He is asked toward the end of the interview how long his .45 gun will “keep smoking.”

“Forever, if people want it,” Arness says.

The longevity of the show was brought up as a question.

At that time, Gunsmoke had been on for seven seasons. Some people feared Matt Dillon might grow stale.

Oh boy. So, Arness acknowledged the possibility but still provided his own thoughts.

He says, “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?”

Arness also says in the interview that he doesn’t care when actors leave.

He adds that people often want them back at some point anyway.

“The dough’s still coming in, and I could keep on playing Matt Dillon forever,” Arness says. “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.”

Weaver had made a name for himself on the show as Chester Goode but left to appear in Kentucky Jones that lasted for one season.

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