James Arness: I’ll give you $20,000 a year if you can guarantee I get no publicity

James Arness: I’ll give you $20,000 a year if you can guarantee I get no publicity

Gunsmoke actor James Arness had a significant career thanks to the adult Western television show. He understood the power that it had on the lives of many people across the country. However, Arness never felt very comfortable doing any sort of press for Gunsmoke. As a result, he was called the “Greta Garbo of Dodge City” for the way that he conducted himself around the media.

Arness never had classical acting training. He actually only came into the industry after going to the theater to support a friend who had that dream. Nevertheless, Arness intrigued one person after the next, and he ultimately became an actor. As a result, he didn’t quite have the same temperament and perspective that many of his colleagues did.

Gunsmoke would become one of the longest-running television shows in history, with Arness starring in the lead role as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon. He had his own hardships when it came to finding work up until that point as a result of his height. However, the actor would prove to have several other differences when it came to his career.
According to a 1966 TV Guide article, Arness hated doing any sort of publicity for Gunsmoke or any other project. As a result, he earned the comparison to the publicity-shy Greta Garbo, which gave him the name of the “Greta Garbo of Dodge City” due to his character’s location.

In one instance, Arness had a photographer kicked off the Gunsmoke set. “During the rest period, I was perched on a stepladder, looming above the crowd like a mushroom,” the photographer said. “Jim sat there glowering at me, and the next thing I knew, I was ordered off the set.”
The actor refused interview requests and required that any copy that dealt with him had to have his final seal of approval before reaching readers’ eyes. Some may have thought that he was joking, but he was quite serious.

“I’ll give you $20,000 a year if you can guarantee I get no publicity,” Arness told a CBS publicist. He was very particular with the press speaking to his Gunsmoke co-stars, as well.
“I was in the middle of an interview with Milburn Stone, Gunsmoke‘s Doc, when the producer called,” TV Guide wrote. “‘Jim is very upset about this interview,’ he said. The call upset Stone and the interview ended.”

Arness once told the TV Guide, “There is this constant thing of people coming at you. Fans, publicity men, writers, photographers. They usually wind up saying the same thing over and over. I’m sick of the stories about being real tall.”
Those who knew the actor understood that he was uncomfortable in crowds and enjoyed his privacy. As a result, he didn’t have much interest in interacting with the press for interviews. Arness was an actor on the outside, but he didn’t act like many of his colleagues, including Stone, when it came time to perform some of the other job duties away from the set.

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