James Arness

An Autobiography [LARGE PRINT]

Large Print Edition


In stock

About the Book

James Arness was born May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis. He entered college just as World War II began and dreamed of being a naval aviator. It seemed as if every night his fraternity was having a party to send off a brother to the service. Young Arness got his interview with a naval flight program officer, but his hopes vanished as he was informed that his six foot seven inch height disqualified him automatically. He wrote his draft board asking that they call him up as soon as possible and so he ended up as a private in the famed Third Infantry Division where he earned a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Because of his stature, he was chosen to be first off the landing craft (to test the depth of the water) when his division landed at Anzio, Italy. He was subsequently wounded by enemy machine gun fire and spent eighteen months recovering in overseas and stateside hospitals. Later his height would help him strike a commanding figure in the role of U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon of Dodge City. After Arness had toiled in Hollywood for a decade, John Wayne recommended him to CBS executives for the Gunsmoke part (after Wayne turned it down). As the principal performer of Gunsmoke for twenty years (1955–1975), the actor and the character took on mythic proportions—a born leader, honest and strong. Rare is the actor who has been cast in a role that so deeply fits his true self.

James Arness gives a full account of his early years, his family, his military career, his film work in Hollywood which included appearances in the cult-favorite science fiction movies Them! and The Thing. He had a long run on Gunsmoke, a role in the highly popular television miniseries How The West Was Won, and his post-theatrical period is also covered. This is the long anticipated, never-before-told account of one of the icons of twentieth-century television. There are many personal revelations of interacting with some of the Gunsmoke family ensemble, such as Miss Kitty, Doc and Festus. His own work as a producer is covered. Throughout are rare, previously unpublished photographs from the author’s personal collection. Appendices include comments by show biz colleagues and fellow Gunsmoke alumni, and a sampling of letters received from his legions of fans. Actor and fellow Gunsmoke performer Burt Reynolds has written a foreword to the book.

This entry refers to the LARGE PRINT edition. For the standard edition please see ISBN 978-0-7864-7588-9.

About the Author(s)

The late James Arness lived in suburban Los Angeles with his wife Janet, where they were involved in various charity projects.

The late James E. Wise, Jr., a retired Navy captain in Alexandria, Virginia (d. 2013), wrote many books on history and the performing arts. He served as an intelligence officer aboard USS America during the 1967 Six Day War in the eastern Mediterranean and later in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.

Bibliographic Details

James Arness with James E. Wise, Jr.
Foreword by Burt Reynolds
Format: softcover (7 x 10), large print
Pages: 344
Bibliographic Info: 86 photos, appendices, index
Copyright Date: 2008 [2001]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3316-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Burt Reynolds     ix
Introduction by James E. Wise, Jr.     1
Prologue     3

1 The Early Years     5
2 Anzio 1944     37
3 Drifting into Show Business     81
4 John Wayne     124
5 Gunsmoke     141
6 And Beyond     215

A: Others Remember     235
B: Comments by Guest Stars     287
C: Fan Letters     291
D: Films     312
E: Television     313
F: Honors and Awards     313

Index     317

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “gives a full account of his early years, his family, and his World War II military career…well written”—Classic Images
  • “an account that’s clean, free of malice and which tells the story completely…a lot of detail”—Big Reel
  • “a magnum opus”—SPERDVAC Radiogram
  • “fans…will no doubt purr with pleasure…relate[s] many interesting incidents from his active life…recommend[ed]”—Wrangler’s Roost
  • “recommend[ed]…provide[s] insights into both the Gunsmoke western and the tall-in-the-saddle star”—Providence Journal
  • “detailed”—The Yesterday USA Radio Networks
  • “comprehensive”—Western Mail
  • “recommended”—Colorado Libraries