James Arness

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his two-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, James Arness (1923-2011) speaks about his early years and experiences, which included serving in the army during World War II, and recalls his start in local radio in Minneapolis. He notes his break into acting in movies and lists several in which he appeared. He describes his experiences in early television, including anthology series that were done "live." He then speaks in great detail about the role for which he is best known, that of "Marshal Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke. For Gunsmoke, he talks about his initial reluctance to take the part (until convinced by John Wayne for whom he was under contract). Arness describes the series characters and their relationships with each other, and discusses working with the behind-the-scenes talent, including key producers and directors. He also talks about later television roles, including his appearance as a regular on the late 1970s western series How the West Was Won. B-roll consists of photos from his Hollywood years (including films "The Farmer's Daughter" and "The Thing") and a still each of Arness in Gunsmoke and The McCahans. Henry Colman conducted the interview on August 16, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA.

"If Matt Dillon had to shoot somebody, you'd cut around to him. You could see that he just hated to have to do that and he felt a sort of revulsion over it. That's something that hadn't really been done much up to that point."

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
James Arness on the concept of Gunsmoke as the first TV Western geared more to adults than children, and on the process of filming an episode 
James Arness on reprising his role as "Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke TV movies
James Arness on his first television appearance, playing William Tell on a Hallmark Hall of Fame live broadcast
James Arness on starring in The Macahans, which became How the West Was Won
James Arness on the casting of How the West Was Won
James Arness on starring in Gunsmoke, and on the cast and crew
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On growing up in Minneapolis; on his World War II military experience; on developing an interest in acting; on his first jobs in radio; on his first film roles; on his first television role

Chapter 2

On his early roles on Lux Video Theatre and The Lone Ranger
On being cast as "Marshal Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke; on the premise of the series and its production; on the characters on the series

Chapter 3

On starring on Gunsmoke

Chapter 4

On changes to Gunsmoke during its run; on memorable guest stars
On the cancellation of Gunsmoke in 1975; on starring in The Macahans, which became How the West Was Won

Chapter 5

On the casting of How the West Was Won
On how the Blacklist didn't affect him; on having surgery which ended How the West Was Won; on his short-lived series McClain's Law
On reprising his role as "Matt Dillon" in Gunsmoke TV movies; on the legacy of Gunsmoke and Westerns; on his thoughts on then-current television; on his advice to aspiring actors and how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Gunsmoke

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James Arness on the concept of Gunsmoke as the first TV Western geared more to adults than children, and on the process of filming an episode
James Arness on actor Milburn Stone, who played "Doc" on Gunsmoke, who was very important in setting the tone of the show, as he had grown up in a western town 
James Arness on starring in Gunsmoke, and on the cast and crew
James Arness on reprising his role as "Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke TV movies

Hallmark Hall of Fame

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James Arness on his first television appearance, playing William Tell on a Hallmark Hall of Fame live broadcast

How the West was Won

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James Arness on starring in The Macahans, which became How the West Was Won
James Arness on the casting of How the West Was Won

Lone Ranger, The

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James Arness on appearing on an episode of The Lone Ranger early in his career
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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James Arness on the amount of violence on Gunsmoke

Characters & Catchphrases

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James Arness on the character of "Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke

Pop Culture

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James Arness on the character of "Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke

Sex & Violence

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James Arness on the amount of violence on Gunsmoke and show's reaction to the anti-violence campaign

Television Industry

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James Arness on the amount of violence on Gunsmoke
Genres

Western Series

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James Arness on the concept of Gunsmoke as the first TV Western geared more to adults than children, and on the process of filming an episode 
James Arness on actor Milburn Stone, who played "Doc" on Gunsmoke, who was very important in setting the tone of the show, as he had grown up in a western town; on the character of Matt Dillon
James Arness on the amount of violence on Gunsmoke
People

John Mantley

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On starring in The Macahans, which became How the West Was Won

William S. Paley

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James Arness on how TV executive William S. Paley was so fond of Gunsmoke he gave the actor his personal phone to contact him anytime he had a problem

Milburn Stone

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James Arness on actor Milburn Stone, who played "Doc" on Gunsmoke, who was very important in setting the tone of the show, as he had grown up in a western town; on the character of Matt Dillon

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