Many of you know that James Arness has passed on. Arness played Sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, which was on television for twenty years. As I look at wikipedia, I see that so many of the other main actors on the series have died: Miss Kitty, Doc, Chester, and Festus. But Newly is still alive, and I was just reminded that Burt Reynolds was also on the series!
I have nostalgia about Gunsmoke. I’d remember watching it on sunny weekend afternoons with my Dad. There were also times when my Dad and I would watch it in the late afternoon, after he came home from work. It was on TV Land and the Western Channel—but, unfortunately, both only showed a limited number of episodes. My Dad and I liked this one episode in which there was a liberal advocate for prisoners, and she was trying to convert Matt to her cause on a train, as Matt was supervising someone he captured. Doc philosophized with her, but Matt simply said, “You’re talking to the wrong man, maam. My job’s just to bring them in!”
I admired Sheriff Dillon’s tough-but-fair approach to the law. I vaguely recall him saying to someone who learned the error of his ways: “Usually, it’s someone who knows what he did wrong who knows how to fix the situation” (or words to that effect). Matt struck me as someone who carried himself with confidence, but without vanity—and that’s why I was disappointed to watch a 1980’s Gunsmoke movie in which he dyed his hair black, even though he was old. That looked ugly! I would have preferred him playing an older, grayer Sheriff Dillon!
In any case, R.I.P. James Arness!