HomeEntertainment NewsJohn Wayne Helped Launch James Arness' Career With Gunsmoke

John Wayne Helped Launch James Arness’ Career With Gunsmoke

James Arness apparently still held The Duke in high regard when he spoke about being recommended for the part:

“When the ‘Gunsmoke’ offer came in, [John Wayne] said, ‘I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I have a young man here under contract who I think would maybe fit the bill.’ So he very graciously offered to introduce the first episode. And it was great. It was a wonderful thing. He was a one-of-a-kind guy. There just was never anybody else like him.”

Arness seems eternally grateful, but the two stars had an eventual falling out over an issue concerning John Wayne’s passion project to make a big budget epic about the battle of the Alamo. Wayne had been working to secure the funding for almost 15 years, and had planned to play the much smaller role of Sam Houston in “The Alamo” which eventually made it to theaters in 1960. To secure the proper backing for the $12 million dollar budget, he agreed to star as Davy Crockett and wound up throwing in $1.5 million of his own fortune after taking out second mortgages on his opulent homes to secure a loan. 

Hoping that Arness would return the favor of being cast in the hit show “Gunsmoke,” Wayne set up a meeting for Arness about filling in for the role of Sam Houston. Arness completely flaked and never showed up to the interview, leaving Wayne hanging — something The Duke never forgot. Richard Boone ended up playing Houston, and Arness never appeared in another feature film again.



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