John Anderson may have played a kindly general during an episode of “MAS*H.” But he also appeared on “Gunsmoke” as one of the most vicious characters.
Anderson got down and dirty on the western, starring in one of the best and most brutal fight scenes. Anderson played the villainous Ben Siple that went a couple of rounds with hero Matt Dillon. Siple loved to fight, and he boasted that he never lost a brawl. Well, that was because he never fought against James Arness’ Matt Dillon.
“It was a dream,” Anderson said, according to Western Clippings. “The show was a big hit and the role I was playing was a very showy villain with heavy make-up, just a crazy man.”
Anderson’s character and Dillon wound up trading blows because of the character’s penchant for violence. The character broke a cardinal rule of Dillon’s, which is to never put your hands on a lady, much less one that Dillon swore to protect. Dillon came to the woman’s aid, starting one of the best fight scenes in the 20 years of the western.
Initially, Anderson’s character proved to be too much for Dillon. Were audiences about to watch a rare instance where the villain won? But Dillon wasn’t about to lose a fight, much less to someone so pungent and revolting. The cowboy fought back against Anderson’s character as a circle of people gathered to watch the fight.
It proved to be a high point in a show full of them. In fact, Anderson returned to “Gunsmoke” on 11 different appearances afterward, according to MeTV.
John Anderson on ‘M*A*S*H’
Meanwhile, John Anderson’s guest appearance on “MAS*H” couldn’t have been more different than “Gunsmoke.”
Anderson played General Collins during the episode “Say No More.” The character experienced a pain no parent ever wants to experience. During the emotionally charged episode, Anderson’s general watched his son slowly succumb in the base’s hospital.
The tough and gruff general understood the loss of war and experienced a change of attitude during the episode. Losing his son made him realize that he was in charge of real men with real lives. And whatever actions or orders he made controlled the lives and destinies of his men. The experience changed his entire attitude as a leader during the war.
Anderson often played a number of different characters, finding the humanity underneath them.
“I did the craziest, nuttiest guys in the world and I had a ball doing it,” Anderson said. The episode of the show ended on a somber note with Collins and Hawkeye sharing a toast for all the lost soldiers who died during the war.