As Arness recalled, “When the ‘Gunsmoke’ offer came in, [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


One of the most successful dramatic shows in television history was “Gunsmoke.” The Western, which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975, is one of the longest-running live action shows to air in primetime, holding the record for a number of years before recently being overtaken, even beating cancellation thanks to political pressure.

The show, which was adapted from a radio drama of the same name, followed the exploits of U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, portrayed by James Arness, as he worked in and around Dodge City, Kansas, helping uphold the law and solve disputes, while forming relationships with the town’s characters.

Arness, however, was not the first choice for the role; it was offered to screen legend John Wayne, who in turn helped secure the role for Arness. In an interview, Arness spoke about how the big screen star helped him secure the most important role of his long career.

n an interview with SCV (via, James Arness spoke about how John Wayne opened the door for what would become the defining role of Arness’ career. Arness was under contract with Wayne’s production company at the time and had done a few movies with him. When Wayne was approached for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon, the lead character of “Gunsmoke,” he turned it down, then suggested Arness for the role instead.

As Arness recalled, “When the ‘Gunsmoke’ offer came in, [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.'” Besides recommending Arness, Wayne also stepped up in a hands-on way — “he very graciously offered to introduce the first episode. … It was a wonderful thing. He was a one-of-a-kind guy. There just was never anybody else like him,” said Arness.

Prior to “Gunsmoke,” the four movies Arness worked on with Wayne were “Big Jim McLain,” “Island in the Sky,” “Hondo,” and “The Sea Chase.” Arness also reprised the role of Matt Dillon for a number of TV movies in the ’90s, culminating in “Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice” in 1994

For some, the idea of making your living as an actor is the ultimate, impossible dream. As wonderful as it would be to have millions of people flocking to theaters to see your face flickering on the big screen, getting to that point usually takes years of hard work and sacrifice beyond the capacity of most people. However, there are those who find this success incredibly early in life, turning into stars before they’ve even made it to high school.

Imagine starring in some of the biggest movies and TV shows in pop culture without years of study and seemingly endless rejection, perhaps becoming the breadwinner in your family before most kids your age get a regular job. Could you give up that kind of fame and walk away to live the life of an average grownup?

While many would see that decision as lunacy, that’s just what happened to the former actors on this list. All of them left show business to pursue frighteningly normal careers. For various reasons, instead of living out the fantasy that they’re still relevant child superstars, they’ve elected to accept the fact that they’ve grown up and taken on very grownup jobs.



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