Gunsmoke star James Arness would have to let Matt Dillon put his personal feelings on hold. A visit to Dodge City would help him. No, not the classic TV version that you have seen for decades. Arness, along with his fellow cast members, actually did go check out the real Dodge City one time. It made an impression on him as an actor and person.
Gunsmoke’ Actor James Arness Has Big Celebration In Dodge City
“We did go,” Gunsmoke actor Arness said in an interview with SCVNewsmaker.com. “I think it was about the second year of the show. We put together a big bunch of the Western guys and we went back there and had a big celebration.” Are there some similarities between Arness and his character Matt Dillon? A director on Gunsmoke did talk about it one time.
“Arness had a lot of Matt Dillon’s gutsiness, to begin with,” director Ted Post told TV Guide in an interview. “This guy’s long-suit as an actor is the compassion that comes out in a poignant look that I call Weltschmerz-world pain. Gary Cooper had it. So did Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy, they all have it. Arness has it and doesn’t even know it.” Weltschmerz means to carry the world’s troubles on your shoulders.
Arness Remembers About Being Cast In His Forever Role
It’s always interesting to hear how actors got roles that stuck with them forever. Arness did tell the story about being cast as Matt Dillon. “I had heard that they were going to do this television show out of Gunsmoke,” he said in an interview. “I had heard it on the radio many times…and they were looking at practically every actor in town. But they hadn’t called me so I was in this picture. And I had a pretty good part in this picture.”
That picture’s film director offered a few words of wise counsel for the then-young actor. “He said to me, ‘You’re at the point where if you got just the right break in a movie, you might really step up. If you get stuck in a television series like this western thing and it goes a couple of seasons and then dies, you’ll be in bad trouble in the movies. You’ll be used goods and you won’t be anywhere.’ And I paid attention to his views because he was an old-timer.”
Arness then tells the people at Gunsmoke to forget about it. That’s until John Wayne comes into the picture. “The Duke called me,” the Dillon actor says. “He said, ‘You would be crazy not to take this…You will really learn a lot about being in front of the camera and working on stunts.’ He really talked turkey to me.”