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James Arness: An Autobiography Paperback – 30 May 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc; Reprint edition (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786475889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786475889
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 18.4 x 26 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 712,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"one of the better autobiographies out there...a must read" - 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcella Carmen on 21 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy the series, Gunsmoke, on TV which was started in the late fifties in America; this book is an interesting look into the life of its main protagonist, the Dodge City Marshall, Matt Dillion. I enjoyed the book very much and recommend you buy the TV DVDs also for good clean entertainment where the baddies always lose and the good always win. The show lasted for 20 years and is a record for its type of series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Junie on 26 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a major fan of 'Gunsmoke' and its entire cast, this is a joy to read. I learned a lot of things about this lovely man and think he was more like, Matt Dillon, than he realized. Rest in Peace, Mr. Arness
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By happy reader on 4 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Didn't he just!! However he thinks it was well worth it. Keeps dipping in and out and telling me bits of information.
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By C Howell on 18 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been a huge fan of James Arness and Gunsmoke for many years. Easy to download the kindle copy. My personal thoughts on the content relate to the eating.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 82 reviews
90 of 95 people found the following review helpful
James Arness: The Greta Garbo of Dodge City Speaks 24 Nov. 2001
By Robert J. Marks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Arness, best known as Matt Dillon on television's longest running primetime drama, Gunsmoke (...), is described in TV Guide as a "recluse on a horseback" [1] and "the Greta Garbo of Dodge City" [2]. He is a man who wants to be left alone. After Gunsmoke soared in the ratings in the late 1950's and early 1960's, Arness walked of the set if a publicist or journalist appeared. At one point, he called the CBS brass together and said "I'll pay you to keep me out of the papers" [1]. Arness' history of secrecy and seclusion is what makes this a juicy book. What prompted him to come into the sunshine? Arness, who wrote his autobiography in his late seventies, says "[If] I was going to write a book about my life, I better do it now . `cause I'm not getting any younger" [3].
James Arness' account of his life is jam packed with fascinating facts and anecdotes but is largely devoid of personal insight, introspection, core belief assessment, and passion. Arness' privacy shell seems manifest in his writing. The book’s pros are correspondingly wooden. Beginning a biography summary of a fascinating personality with “James Arness was born May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis” would, at best, get a C in college. This, the first sentence of the paragraph used to summarize Arness’ book, is largely commensurate with the rest. There are, however, many interesting tidbits diehard Arness fans can glean from the plodding pros.
Some have opined that James Arness is Matt Dillon and Matt Dillon is James Arness. Comparison, however, is complicated. Matt Dillon is the type of man who would walk point on a patrol into World War II enemy territory and courageously take out a Nazi machine nest with a hand grenade. James Arness won a bronze star in WWII for doing this. Arness' limp which became more and more pronounced over the years is the result of a bullet from a Nazi machine gun splintering his leg bones during the Allied liberation of Anzio in 1944. For this, he received a purple heart. Unlike much of the rest of the book, Arness' account of his WWII experiences is riveting.
We learn Arness, as a lad, did many things we would expect from a Matt Dillon. He hopped trains in search of adventure, spent hours in athletic pursuits and, due largely to restlessness and lack of interest, performed marginally in school. A spirited Arness, at the age of 22, hitchhiked west to California to seek his fame and fortune. These are the actions of a Matt Dillon.
On the other hand, Matt Dillon would not join and enjoy a Glee Club and rank "Smoke Gets in You Eyes" as a favorite tune; Matt Dillon would not disruptively buzz his work place in his private plane just for fun; Matt Dillon would not become a beach bum infatuated with surfing; and Matt Dillon would not get a case of the giggles severe enough to halt a Gunsmoke work day. Giggles accompanied Arness everywhere. They got him fired from an early career announcing job. Ben Bates, James Arness' double on Gunsmoke and “How the West Was Won”, says James Arness laughs "from his toes to the top of his head when something strikes him as funny". Sometimes, "he just couldn't stop laughing". Giggling and uncontrollability are not characteristics of Matt Dillon.
Arness credits his career success to Providence. "I've been one of the luckiest men among the many who came to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune... [A] divine hand was guiding me along the way." His gifts of good looks, six and a half foot height, and natural acting skill resonated nicely with TV and movie producers.
After putting in long days perfecting cowboy skills in the early Gunsmokes [5], Arness became the preverbal 800 pound gorilla who, due to being indispensable to one of television's top rated shows, could do anything he wanted. Maybe James Arness was not Matt Dillon - but he became Gunsmoke. TV Guide reported "Early in the game, … [Arness] demanded and got a large chunk of the [Gunsmoke] production company, later the whole production company." When Arness tired of his ranch and couldn't sell it, CBS took it off his hands [6]. On the set, if Arness didn't like the way things were going, he did not hesitate to "direct the director" [1]. When Buck Taylor wanted a raise, he asked Arness' business agent who said "Let me talk to Jim about it". Arness threatened he didn't want to interrupt his Hawaii vacation plans and return early just to "raise Hell" with CBS". Buck Taylor got the raise. Despite - or maybe because of - Arness' domination of Gunsmoke, guest actors ranked Gunsmoke as one of the most professional and friendly sets in the industry, and, although he could be confrontational with the brass, James Arness as one of the most courteous and friendly stars in the industry [7].
Arness' autobiography frames Gunsmoke as the peak of his career. There were the John Wayne films before and "How the West Was Won" after, but neither had the impact of television's longest running primetime drama - a jaw dropping 20 years. James Arness is Gunsmoke and Gunsmoke is an icon. Dick Wolf of CBS's "Law and Order" television series admitted his driving motivation in television: "I want to beat Gunsmoke" [9]. Chances are he won't.
0. (...)
1. TV-Guide, April 6, 1968.
2. TV-Guide, December 10, 1966.
3. The National Enquirer, August 7, 2001.
4. TV-Guide, June 12, 1965.
5. Parade Magazine, April 3, 1960.
6. Australian TV-Guide, September 22, 1962.
7. SuzAnne, Gabor Barabas, Gunsmoke: A Completer History, McFarland & Co. (1990).
8. Robert Metz, CBS-Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye, (Playboy Press, Chicago, 1975).
9. Gail Shister, ’Law & Order' Chases 'Gunsmoke', Knight Ridder Newspapers, July 2001.
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Meet James Arness and Matt Dillon 18 Dec. 2003
By R. C. NELSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was stunned at how this book described the details of James Arness in great detail -- yet it sounded like Matt Dillon himself. I certainly got the impression that, other than all the fights and gun-fights, James Arness and the role he played, Matt Dillon, are nearly identical people.
Jim does not blow a lot of wind or brag a bit. This book is addressed directly to you, as if you were sitting in a rocking chair in the same room as Jim and were conversing. He approaches self-deprecation in many areas, but this still-alive actor invites you into his life, and the lives of the co-stars, like Miss Kitty, Newly, Doc, and last but certainly not least -- Festus (a name from the Bible, I learned from the book).
The book is not too long or short and is filled with pictures of his activities on and off stage. You also get a glimpse into some of the other actors.
How many war heroes do you know who never mention it. Right -- very few! Because of his height (6'7"), he was ordered off the landing craft first in the landing at battle of Anzio during World War II. All too often, a soldier would step into weighted-down oblivion and drown. Due to Jim's height, he was selected to go first. Later in the campaign, he received a rifle wound to his leg that is beginning to act up as Marshal Dillon matures.;-)
This is a book that you want to read, and, if you have children, have them read, or read it to them if they are young.His series remains on a twice-daily broadcast on TV LAND.
Jim and his brother lied a charmed life, and anyone can take something from this wonderful autobiography. I also strongly recommend his web site -- [...] .
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A must read for any Arness fan! 10 Oct. 2001
By Jeff Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For years, I watched James Arness on Gunsmoke, respecting and admiring what he stood for both on the show and in real life. He endured great pain from his war wound in the later years of Gunsmoke, but he gutted it out, continuing to preserve law and order.
Arness did an excellent job of summarizing a crowded career in a minimal amount of pages. The book could just as easily have been 400 pages on Gunsmoke alone.
Even though he is a very private man, the book reveals a good deal of his personal side - his love for surfing, flying and practical jokes. As serious as his character of Matt Dillon was, I found it astounding that Arness was constantly cracking everybody up with his joking, laughing and buzzing the Gunsmoke set in his airplanes. Yet, at the same time, we see, through comments of those who knew him and the fans who have written to him, the commanding presence he had as a role model, being an icon second only to John Wayne.
As is Marshall Dillon, James Arness is a man of few words, but when he talked, people listened. But it wasn't to stroke his own ego. He did it to help the new generation along, passing on this gift because he had been so blessed with fame and fortune in his life.
We see Arness go from a rambling childhood where he hitchhiked on trains across country and didn't care about school to a man who was known worldwide and respected for his character both on and off screen. He was Matt Dillon through and through, upholding the law and doing it without a bunch of fanfare and bravado. He simply was doing his job and moving on.
What was really impressive was the superstars of today who got early starts as guests on Gunsmoke. The list was incredible. The show was definitely a launching pad for many people with Morgan Woodward leading the way with 19 appearances.
With this book, James Arness has left his legacy, answering a lot of questions people have about him, yet doing it while maintaining a lot of privacy. A true masterpiece from a man who is indeed an American icon.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
I love James Arness 24 Nov. 2002
By Robertta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I bought my book from the Autry Museum and it came with a dedication to me and James Arness' autograph. I grew up, like many others, watching him on Gunsmoke and loved the four characters and their interaction to each other. It is a show which will not be duplicated again. The interesting thing is that, because Matt Dillon was so straightforward and a 'man of a few words', critics said that James Arness was not that good an actor, it seemed like a simple role for him. Reading his book and watching him on Biography says different, because James Arness is not even remotely like Matt Dillon. He played the character with a great deal of talent. Gunsmoke, again, was a great show and I'm glad I grew up with it. Wish we could get some Gunsmoke shows in Canada, but I never was able to get memorabilia as a kid and nowadays, it is no different. Oh well!
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
JAMES ARNESS, is perhaps the finest example of what can happen when a person of quality is allowed to create and shape his acting with the best values that have made America. This book gives us insight into one of the most important personalities of media history. It is a must for any one who wants to understand a generation, who wants to be successful, and who cares about what is important in life.
Perhaps, more than ever, in this time of crisis we need to re-look at our heros of which James Arness is one of the best examples. He has imbedded himself in our vision of what is right, what is good. Gunsmoke was not just a show of good writers, but it was an example of good people. People of values who came into focus, story by story around Matt Dillon, the essence of rightness and justice.
The present, we Americans owe James Arness a debt of gratitude. For anyone who wants to put IT in perspective, this is a must read book....
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