Recently we lost an icon of TV westerns - James Arness, better known as Matt Dillon of the longest-running TV western ever – GUNSMOKE.
I was very saddened to hear this, partly because Matt Dillon was my hero in my teens, and also because there are so few TV heroes left – actually, none that I can think of. TV sets no good examples of a strong line between "good" and "bad" any more. The old westerns did that. Cheesy sometimes, but kids understood that if you did something "bad" you had to pay for it. Respect, honor, manners – very little of any of that on TV any more.
GUNSMOKE survived as long as it did because it had several characters with whom one could identify and empathize – like Doc Adams, Chester Good, Festus, and Matt Dillon's long-time "girlfriend" Kitty. The only western hero left as far as I can see is Clint Eastwood. When he is gone it will be a HUGE loss for quality movies as well as another icon of western movies and also TV (remember Rowdy Yates of RAWHIDE?).
I always wanted to be able to meet James Arness, but now that will never happen. But he remains "alive" to me through continued re-runs of GUNSMOKE, which I watch every evening.
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Publishers Weekly Review
"This Western historical is chock-full of danger, with families set on a vendetta, the threat of Emma’s stepfather, and the daily demands of Mitch’s job, but Emma is no wilting lily, proving she is a match for Mitch in every way."
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