Marshal Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke” became a larger-than-life figure to many. He was a hero and a character many people looked up to. During the show’s many years on television, viewers got to know this famous lawman and what made him tick.
However, getting to know the actor who played Marshal Matt Dillon was a different story. That actor, of course, was James Arness.
According to MeTV, Arness remained a mystery to many – even the people he worked with. In fact, a 1973 report by The Tallahassee Democrat described Arness as “one of the most private men in Hollywood.” The actor was not someone who went out in public to be seen by fans. Instead, he preferred to spend his time doing other things. He liked to sail and to ski. He had a vacation home in Hawaii. He also used his private plane to spend time in Baja California.
One of the co-stars who talked about how the lead actor of “Gunsmoke” was difficult to get to know was Amanda Blake. She played the character of Miss Kitty in the beloved Western. Even though she didn’t get close to James Arness, the actress said she enjoyed working with him. She said that he was often calm and pleasing to be around.
“Jim is the mystery man. Like most men, he’s an overgrown 12-year-old. He’s delightful, charming, one of the funniest men I’ve ever known. I really don’t know much about him, because he’s a private person. But he’s fun to work with,” Blake once shared.
Festus Actor Ken Curtis Said ‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness Was ‘Terrific to Work With’
Blake wasn’t the only “Gunsmoke” actor who enjoyed working with James Arness. Another was Ken Curtis. He played Festus, the often irritable deputy of Marshal Matt Dillon. Curtis said that Arness was very steady on the set.
“I’ve been on the show 10 years and Jim hasn’t changed one iota,” the Festus actor said.
It was the steadiness of Arness that Curtis credits as one reason why “Gunsmoke” was on television for so very long. People, Curtis said, wanted to continue to keep working with Arness.
“I’ve seen many shows go down the drain because the star becomes impossible and disliked by everyone. He’s terrific to work with. When the time comes to buckle down to work, he’s ready,” Curtis also shared.
Another “Gunsmoke” co-star who praised James Arness was Millburn Stone. He played Doc in the Western.
“He’s the most unhypocritical man I know. He’s consistent. He is what he is, lives the way he does, and that’s it,” Stone shared.
Arness also had a fan in the legendary comedian Carol Burnett. “I’m thrilled to be giving this wonderful award to this wonderful man. I don’t know this man, but I’ve had the hots for him for years,” Burnett once said.
In typical James Arness fashion, when he received a “Man of the Year” award he downplayed what he had accomplished. “I’m a lucky guy,” he said.