A ''Gunsmoke'' producer wrote an angry letter to a newspaper after a columnist called James Arness lazy

A good old Western standoff, right in the middle of the newspaper.

You can say all the mean things you'd like, just keep in mind that you're not speaking in a vacuum; people can hear you, and might just disagree with what you have to say.

This is especially true if you're someone with a wide platform, like say, a newspaper columnist for the Chicago Tribune. One writer decided to share his feelings on the show Gunsmoke, particularly the series star, James Arness.

Unfortunately, the original column is lost to the sands of time. However, we do know that the columnist called Arness a lazy actor with an easy role in Matt Dillon. The reason we know this is because a second column was published to address the rebuttal the original piece of writing received. You see, after the Tribune writer's critique of Arness was published, much like Marshal Matt Dillon, a Gunsmoke producer sprang into action and immediately came to the aid of his friend.

The second column was published in 1974 and includes snippets of Gunsmoke producer, John Mantley's, response to the Tribune column. He wrote, "He [Arness] is one of the farthest things from being a lazy actor. He is one of the most professional actors I have ever worked with."

Mantley wasn't just making wild claims; he came to the argument with evidence, citing a time when Arness put himself in peril's way just for the series. He wrote, "When we were on location in Grant's Pass on the Rogue River, he [Arness] willingly hurled himself into the rapids and insisted upon doing many of the difficult and dangerous swimming stunts himself — just because he is that kind of man!"

Gunsmoke would end its run about a year after the second column was published but many of those who worked on Gunsmoke remembered Arness as a brave and kind man, every bit as good as his character.

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2 Comments

WGH 4 months ago
First, James Arness had really bad arthritis which limited his time on screen towards the end of the series. Probably why they called him lazy.

And it was a very one-dimensional character, which would have been easier to play. But that wasn't James' fault.
Runeshaper 4 months ago
Calling someone lazy is a pretty big accusation, especially if you don't know them personally and/or see them fairly often.
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