James Arness Dead At 88

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Hulton Archive

On Saturday, September 10, 1955 a new show made it's debut on CBS. The premier was such a big event that it was decided that John Wayne ( who was asked to play the lead role but declined) should introduce it.


Every Saturday night for many years to follow, families gathered in the silver-grey glow of their sets and watched as Marshall Dillon fought bad guys and dealt with life in Dodge City.

Arness, much like Roy Rogers before him, became not just a star..but a role model for millions of kids who would grow up and reject such role models.

For modern TV viewers it is hard to realize that in those early days, TV was sort of like the dinner table. there was not as much conversation..but it was a new place for families to share time together.  No family problems were solved but there was a very real sense of togetherness.

We gathered as a family and watched characters who believed in always doing the right thing no matter what. Gunsmoke was not the greatest thing that was ever on TV..In fact, it doesn't stand up particularly well after all these years. But for a few years there, before the insanity of the 60's..it was a great place for a family to spend time together..and we could, in those innocent days, all agree on just who was the good guy.