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 he was 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."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
James Arness on playing the title character in the science fiction classic "The Thing" and on meeting John Wayne
James Arness on Dodge City, the setting of Gunsmoke
James Arness on CBS president William S. Paley's affinity for Gunsmoke
James Arness on Bette Davis guest starring on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Burt Reynolds as "Quint" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on the cancellation of Gunsmoke in 1975
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his experience with World War II; on his early interest in acting
On being cast in his first feature film "The Farmer's Daughter"; on playing the title character in the science fiction classic "The Thing" and on meeting John Wayne; on his first television appearance, playing William Tell on a Hallmark Hall of Fame live broadcast

Chapter 2

On appearing on Lux Video Theatre; on appearing on The Lone Ranger; on being cast as "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
On John Wayne introducing the first episode of Gunsmoke; on the concept of Gunsmoke, and on the production schedule of the show; on the character of "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
On the rules the writers set for his character "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke; on CBS president William S. Paley's affinity for Gunsmoke
On "Matt Dillon's" relationship with "Miss Kitty" played by Amanda Blake on Gunsmoke; on Dennis Weaver as "Chester" on Gunsmoke

Chapter 3

On making personal appearances with Dennis Weaver during the run of Gunsmoke; on Ken Curtis as "Festus" on Gunsmoke; on Milburn Stone as "Doc" on Gunsmoke
On Burt Reynolds as "Quint" on Gunsmoke; on Dodge City, the setting of Gunsmoke; on the various storylines of Gunsmoke, and on how his character changed over the years
On working with the behind-the-scenes staff of Gunsmoke; on hiring New York actors to appear on Gunsmoke

Chapter 4

On casting actors for Gunsmoke; on Gunsmoke expanding from a half-hour to an hour, and on how it impacted the storyline; on William S. Paley saving Gunsmoke from cancellation
On Bette Davis guest starring on Gunsmoke; on Gilbert Roland guest-starring on Gunsmoke; on Fran Ryan guest-starring on Gunsmoke
On favorite Gunsmoke storylines; on the cancellation of Gunsmoke in 1975; on starring on How the West Was Won

Chapter 5

On his favorite episode of How the West Was Won, and on the casting of the show; on the Hollywood Blacklist; on starring in McClain's Law
On doing several Gunsmoke reunion movies; on career achievements and regrets; on the legacy of Gunsmoke
On how the industry has changed since he started; on advice to an aspiring actor and on his autobiography; on how he would like to be remembered
Shows

Gunsmoke

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James Arness on being cast as "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on John Wayne introducing the first episode of Gunsmoke
James Arness on the concept of Gunsmoke, and on the production schedule of the show
James Arness on the character of "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on the rules the writers set for his character "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on CBS president William S. Paley's affinity for Gunsmoke
James Arness on "Matt Dillon's" relationship with "Miss Kitty" played by Amanda Blake on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Dennis Weaver as "Chester" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on making personal appearances with Dennis Weaver during the run of Gunsmoke
James Arness on Ken Curtis as "Festus" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Milburn Stone as "Doc" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Burt Reynolds as "Quint" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Dodge City, the setting of Gunsmoke
James Arness on the various storylines of Gunsmoke, and on how his character changed over the years
James Arness on working with the behind-the-scenes staff of Gunsmoke
James Arness on hiring New York actors to appear on Gunsmoke
James Arness on casting actors for Gunsmoke
James Arness on Gunsmoke expanding from a half-hour to an hour, and on how it impacted the storyline
James Arness on William S. Paley saving Gunsmoke from cancellation
James Arness on Bette Davis guest-starring on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Gilbert Roland guest-starring on Gunsmoke
James Arness on Fran Ryan guest-starring on Gunsmoke
James Arness on favorite Gunsmoke storylines
James Arness on the cancellation of Gunsmoke in 1975
James Arness on doing several Gunsmoke reunion movies
James Arness on the legacy of Gunsmoke

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 on How the West was Won
James Arness on his favorite episode of How the West Was Won, and on the casting of the show

Lone Ranger, The

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James Arness on appearing on The Lone Ranger

Lux Video Theatre

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James Arness on appearing on Lux Video Theatre

McClain's Law

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James Arness on starring in McClain's Law
Topics

Advice

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James Arness on advice to an aspiring actor

Characters & Catchphrases

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

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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James Arness on having a mentor and being a mentor

Historic Events and Social Change

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James Arness on his experience with World War II

Hollywood Blacklist

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James Arness on the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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James Arness on the Hollywood Blacklist

Pivotal Career Moments

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James Arness on having a mentor and being a mentor

Pop Culture

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

Television Industry

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James Arness on the Hollywood Blacklist
James Arness on how the industry has changed since he started
James Arness on advice to an aspiring actor

War

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James Arness on his experience with World War II

World War II

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James Arness on his experience with World War II
Professions

Actor

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James Arness on advice to an aspiring actor

Performers

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James Arness on advice to an aspiring actor
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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James Arness on starring in McClain's Law

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
James Arness on playing "Marshall Matt Dillon" on Gunsmoke
James Arness on How the West Was Won
James Arness on doing several Gunsmoke reunion movies
People

Amanda Blake

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James Arness on "Matt Dillon's" relationship with "Miss Kitty" played by Amanda Blake on Gunsmoke

Bette Davis

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James Arness on Bette Davis guest starring on Gunsmoke

William S. Paley

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James Arness on CBS president William S. Paley's affinity for Gunsmoke
James Arness on William S. Paley saving Gunsmoke from cancellation

Burt Reynolds

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James Arness on Burt Reynolds as "Quint" on Gunsmoke

John Wayne

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James Arness on John Wayne introducing the first episode of Gunsmoke

Dennis Weaver

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James Arness on Dennis Weaver as "Chester" on Gunsmoke

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