‘Gunsmoke’: Glenn Strange, Who Played Sam the Bartender, Had Some Wild Roles Before the Show
Known for his role as Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke, Glenn Strange passed away nearly 50 years ago. What you may not know about the late actor are some of the positions he had prior, and some may surprise you.
The Long Branch barkeep was also known as Frankenstein’s monster in a few Hollywood movies, the Dodge City Daily Globe reports. Beginning his career in the 1930s, he both sang and played as extras in “B” western movies. His massive 6-foot 5-inch stature led Universal to hire him to play monsters in Frankenstein movies. While doing this, he continued appearing in westerns.
Besides that, he greatly resembled Boris Karloff, best known for his Frankenstein’s monster role, which led to him landing monster movie parts. The resemblance was so strong, a photo of Strange’s Frankenstein’s monster appeared in Karloff’s obituary. When western movie demand grew scarce in the 1950s, Strange began acting in western television shows. This led to being Miss Kitty’s bartender in Gunsmoke.
You could almost say he was born to play western roles. Growing up in Cross Cut, Texas, his father was a rancher. Strange dropped out of school at the end of 8th grade and taught himself the guitar and fiddle. Shortly afterward, he began performing as a teenager. He and his cousin Taylor McPeters toured throughout the country during the 1920s.
Interestingly, his father also served as a bartender while in Cross Cut. Gunsmoke even had Strange act as a fiddle player in one episode. He held his notable bartending role for 12 years before passing away from lung cancer on September 20, 1973.
James Arness Really Looked Out for His Stuntman on ‘Gunsmoke’
James Arness played the heroic Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, serving as a paragon of law and order for the west. However, it seems Arness harnessed some of that persona in real life, especially with how much he looked out for his stuntman.
Ben Bates served as Dillon’s stuntman for more than 25 years, something Arness appreciated. To show his gratitude, he insisted his double got a pay raise every single year they worked together. Considering Arness stood at a giant 6-feet 7-inches tall, he likely realized how valuable a great stuntman of that size was.
These raises weren’t the best part though. After Gunsmoke wrapped up, Dillon gifted Bates his signature .45 sidearm. Bates wrote about the event in James Arness: An Autobiography. “You mean more to me than putting this into a museum somewhere.’ You can imagine how that made me feel,” Bates wrote.
Bates isn’t the only one singing the Gunsmoke actor’s praises. Amanda Blake, or Miss Kitty on the show, told MeTV he was “delightful, charming, one of the funniest men I’ve ever known.” Ken Curtis played Festus on the show and said his charisma is one of the reasons the show lasted so long.