James Arness, who played Marshall Matt Dillon on TV’s long running western ‘Gunsmoke’, died today. He was 88 years old. His younger brother, actor Peter Graves, died just last year.
As Marshall Matt Dillon, James Arness kept the peace in Dodge City for 20 years. Gunsmoke ran from 1955 to 1975. Gunsmoke was famous for it’s departure from the popular western’s of the day. It took on more complex scenarios and themes, where sometimes the lines between good guys and bad guys blurred. Marshall Dillon was no singing, white hatted cowboy. In all, 635 episodes were shot. Arness also acted in more than 50 tv movies and films.
Some of Matt Dillon’s most famous quotes from Gunsmoke include those he made while walking alone on Boot Hill. They included:
“I’ve seen a lot of men buried up here on Boot Hill, and most of them really earned what they got. The cheated at cards, robbed banks, stole horses, murdered innocent men, and picked fights with friend and enemy alike. They lived and died as though they’d never heard of the law, and they treated me like a trespasser. Someone who had no right to interfere with their bloody little games. But I shot it out with ’em anyway, and I guess I’ll go right on doing it. As long as I last.” (1958)
“Men die for a lot of reasons. I’ve even heard of worthy ones, like a man who’s willing to face it for the good that might come after. But he’s a far different breed than most of this Boot Hill trash. These men die for fools’ reasons – a spilt drink, a wrong card, an imagined insult. But the worst is a man who dies for nothing… for no reason at all.” (1956)
“I’ve seen a lot of young men come west full of big hopes and dreams, and then break themselves trying to work the land that often does nothing for ’em but twist their hearts and fill ’em with defeat and hatred and anger. A lot of ’em turn pretty mean as a result. But the meanest I ever ran into was a woman.” (1958)
“It’s a long, mean ride up the trail. Breathing the dust of half-wild Texas cattle, eating poor on salt meat and beans, drinking branch water for months at a time. You don’t wonder when they hit Dodge they load up on cheap whiskey and go on the shoot for each other. And for me.” (1958)
“When the wind comes out of the west a hundred miles high and a thousand miles wide, it dries the settlers out like buffalo bums and leaves them cracked and empty, wishing they’d never left Indiana. But some of them really can’t take it. They start spinning around like poisoned wolves, baffled but dangerous in their hurt and anger. Those are the hardest I have to go up against.” (1957)