If you ever find yourself at home watching rerun after rerun of Gunsmoke and start worrying that you should be doing something more production, rest assured that you’re in good company. There’s one Gunsmoke fan who loved to watch reruns of the series: Marshal Matt Dillon.
In an interview with The Associated Press, James Arness revealed that he still watched reruns of his series in his free time. As a viewer of the long-running series, he said, “I can enjoy them all.” He was also well aware that Gunsmoke was a cut above the rest of the television airing at the time, and even to this day.
Arness had a firsthand perspective of the show’s success, and he had his own theories about how it came about. He stated, “What made us different from other Westerns was the fact that Gunsmoke wasn’t just action and a lot of shooting; They were character-study shows.”
But when he was first offered the opportunity to test for Gunsmoke, Arness was unsure that a television series was the right avenue in his career. He stated that he was worried that the series would be canceled quickly, and in the wake of the series, the label of “television actor” would be forced onto Arness, limiting his opportunities.
It was a friend who offered Arness the golden advice to take the role that would define his career. This friend was certainly a man that you should probably listen to if he’s talking to you about Westerns. Arness stated that John Wayne encouraged him to take the role, reasoning that it would be a wonderful learning opportunity and citing his own experience.
Wayne said, “When I was starting out, I did a lot of quickie Westerns and serials. You learn so much. Plus, you’ll get a tremendous audience of people who will know who you are.”
In addition to providing Arness with some great advice, Wayne also provided the introduction to the first episode of the series, meaning that he had a hand in the success of the show in more ways than one.