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
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:*
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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.