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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

And Dodge City fades away...

Possibly the first song I ever teared up to- and there are thousands- was the closing theme to Gunsmoke.  I always had to watch to the very end; it wasn't over till the coffee pot with the big black spot appeared and the final fanfare sounded.

Funny how they always said that Remmington Steele gained its popularity because of the sexual tension between the two main characters that was never resolved.  Once it was, the show went down and swiftly out.  In a way, that was Gunsmoke, too- except that for 20 years, it never was resolved.  It was as if Matt and Kitty were the two pillars that held the town/the show up- to move them would collapse it all.  Back then, we would have rather seen the house stand than the love resolved.  "Those were different times, those were different days."

Matt Dillon was like Spock on Star Trek, or Vision in the Mighty Avengers- somewhat aloof, keeping his own counsel, calm in the face of anything.  He was Captain America- totally human, yet totally reliable.  You felt you could tell him a joke at the Long Branch, yet would wilt under his glare if you dropped a gum wrapper in the street.  And nobody could have pulled that off near as well as Jim Arness.

The actor was 32 when friend John Wayne declined the lead role in "Gunsmoke" and recommended Arness instead. Afraid of being typecast, Arness initially rejected it.

"Go ahead and take it, Jim," Wayne urged him. "You're too big for pictures. Guys like Gregory Peck and I don't want a big lug like you towering over us. Make your mark in television."

I'm not going to dig up his whole life on here; you can do that on your own.  But I will share with you what he said himself, on his own fansite:

Hi friends,

I decided to write a letter to you for Janet to post on our website in the event I was no longer here.

I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends. The best part of my life was my family, especially my wife Janet. Many of you met her at Dodge City so you understand what a special person she is.

I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years.

I was honored to have served in the army for my country. I was at Anzio during WWII and it makes you realize how very precious life is.

Thank you again for all the many letters, cards, emails and gifts we received from you over the years. You are and always have been truly appreciated.


Jim Arness

Just as Gunsmoke was the last survivor of the TV western, Jim was the last survivor of the core group on the show. Kitty- Amanda Blake- died in 1989 at the age of 60.  Festus- Ken Curtis- passed in 1991 at the age of 74.  Milburn Stone- Doc- died in 1980 at the age of 75.  Even of the rest- Dennis Weaver (Chester) died in 2006 and Glenn Strange (Sam the bartender) while the show was still filming in 1973- only Buck Taylor (Newly) outlasted Jim.  The Matt-Doc-Festus dynamic is still copied in so many show, but never truly duplicated.

I'm sure now that some Hollywood copycat will now think a new, revamped Gunsmoke will make a great movie- Kitty will be a madam rather than a businesswoman, Festus might well be a drug addict, and Doc will be an anachronistic figure embittered by being past his prime.  And of course, Matt will have his choice of scantily clad women- and he will choose often.  And people who never knew the original will say, "how stupid, why would anyone watch this crap!"

But I won't be watching.  I'll be at home whistling the closing theme- if I can...


  1. He will be missed. We used to watch it without fail. Back when you could watch TV with your children and not be explaining what the actors are doing, or what Viagra was or feminine hygiene products were for. Ah the good old days. Nice tribute.. Thanks for sharing.

  2. CWM:
    That is a brilliant tribute to one of the BEST shows EVER on TV...

    Glad you posted it today.

    (and into the sunset he rides...)

    Stay safe up there.

  3. The end of this legend of a man marks the end of a remarkable era.
    James Arness: a class act all the way to the end. Rest In Peace.