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R.I.P. Ben Bates, James Arness' longtime stuntman and former Marlboro Man

The cowboy also played a villainous creature in 'Swamp Thing.'

Image: Gunsmoke "The Fourth Victim" / Marlboro, 1969

Texas native Ben Bates was performing in the Chicago Rodeo in 1967 when he was spotted by an ad man. The cowboy was plucked from the horse circuit and made the new Marlboro Man. Throughout the late Sixties, Bates appeared in print and television ads as the rugged smoker. In 1970, he received an ANDY Award, an industry trophy given out by the the Advertising Club of New York, for playing the iconic Marlboro Man.

Two years later, he landed a gig that required even more of his natural cowboy skills. Bates became the stunt double for James Arness on Gunsmoke. For the final four seasons of the long-running Western, Bates performed the more dangerous Marshal Matt Dillon stunts. In the final season, he had a brief cameo in "The Fourth Victim." In the episode's final scene, two Matt Dillon doppelgangers appear at a standoff to confuse a gunman. One of them is Bates. After the villain is shot, Festus thanks the Matt Dillon lookalike, referring to him by name. "Ben… you done 'er just right," the deputy declares.

Bates continued to double Arness for a quarter century, in Gunsmoke reunion films.

In the 2001 book James Arness: An Autobiography, Bates recalled how Arness gifted him Matt Dillon's .45 pistol after Gunsmoke ended. "You mean more to me than putting this into a museum somewhere," Arness told him. "You can imagine how that made me feel," Bates said.

Earlier this month, on October 4, Bates passed away at the age of 84, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

In his later years, Bates continued to proudly represent Gunsmoke. He was recently on hand at the unveiling of the Matt Dillon statue in Dodge City, Kansas. Last year, Janet Arness, the actor's widow, presented him with a Silver Spur Award.

In addition to his Gunsmoke work, Bates also appeared in the original 1982 Swamp Thing film, directed by Wes Craven. To portray the evil creature that fights Swamp Thing, Bates wore a heavy costume during filming, which caused him to faint from heat exhaustion.

The life of a stunt man was not always glamorous, but it took true grit.

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  • Roger Smith of '77 Sunset Strip'
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  • FILM HISTORIAN ROBERT OSBORNE
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  • RED WEST, THE ELVIS PRESLEY BODYGUARD WHO PLAYED THE PERFECT TV TOUGH GUY
  • JOHN CYGAN OF 'THE COMMISH' AND 'BOB'
  • MIGUEL FERRER, SON OF JOSÉ FERRER AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY
  • Francine York, 'Batman' actress and 1960s star
  • BRUCE LANSBURY, BROTHER OF ANGELA, PRODUCER OF 'WONDER WOMAN' AND 'WILD WILD WEST'
  • JEFFREY HAYDEN, DIRECTOR OF ALL OF OUR FAVORITE TV EPISODES
  • ADAM WEST, TV'S BELOVED BATMAN
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • BARBARA HALE OF 'PERRY MASON'
  • Roger Moore
  • ERIN MORAN OF 'HAPPY DAYS' AND 'JOANIE LOVES CHACHI'
  • DINA MERRILL, THE BILLIONAIRE HEIRESS WHO PLAYED BATMAN VILLAIN CALAMITY JAN
  • Mike Connors, star of 'Mannix'
  • Don Rickles
  • RICHARD HATCH of 'BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'
  • MICHAEL PARKS OF 'THEN CAME BRONSON' AND 'TWIN PEAKS'
  • Chuck Barris, host of 'The Gong Show'
  • Roger Smith of '77 Sunset Strip'
  • ELENA VERDUGO OF 'MARCUS WELBY, M.D.'
  • CURT LOWENS, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WAR HERO AND 'HOGAN'S HEROES' ACTOR
  • JUDGE JOSEPH WAPNER OF 'THE PEOPLE'S COURT'
  • FILM HISTORIAN ROBERT OSBORNE
  • Dick Gautier, Hymie the Robot from 'Get Smart'
  • LAWRENCE MONTAIGNE OF 'STAR TREK'
  • LOLA ALBRIGHT OF 'PETER GUNN'
  • CHELSEA BROWN OF 'ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN'
  • QUINN O'HARA OF 'THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI'
  • PETER HANSEN OF 'GENERAL HOSPITAL' AND 'GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.'
  • JUNE FORAY, THE VOICE OF ROCKY THE FLYING SQUIRREL
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  • JEFFREY HAYDEN, DIRECTOR OF ALL OF OUR FAVORITE TV EPISODES

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