Friday, June 3, 2011

"An intellectual carrot. The mind boggles." R.I.P James Arness

[Updated below.]

James Arness, who died this week at 88 (like his brother Peter, his real surname was Graves, but his agent convinced him it would be a downer), might have been well down the road to being locked in as an actor who only did sci-fi.

In 1951 he played "an intelligent carrot" "some form of super carrot," who didn't get a lot of time in the movie trailer:

Close-up shots of The Thing were filmed, but because the makeup looked a little cheesy in close-up only long shots were used in the final release. But the result (as in "Alien" three decades later) was that the creature was creepier exactly because you couldn’t get a good look at it.

By 1954 Arness had worked his way up to fourth in the credits, as a dapper FBI agent . . . who didn't get a lot of time in the movie trailer:

Luckily, he escaped the Hollywood trap of having to play the same thing for 20 years:*

If you're reading this in FB Notes, you'll need to click View Original Post to see the videos.

Gunsmoke ran for 20 years. Later, Kelsey Grammer would tie the Arness streak for playing the same TV character continuously. There's a widely-circulated story -- maybe apocryphal; at least I haven't been able to confirm it -- that Arness was somewhat less than gracious about Matt Dillon having to share that space in the record-books with Frasier Crane.

*Update: Hm. Come to think of it, he didn't even get that much screen time in the opening credits to his own TV show.

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