This M*A*S*H general picked the most famous fight in Gunsmoke history

John Anderson played "the craziest, nuttiest guys in the world."

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The roughest fight in Gunsmoke history as seen in ’’Buffalo Man’’
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"To every man's son," General Addison Collins says to Hawkeye, raising a glass in a toast to lost soldiers.

On M*A*S*H, General Collins appeared in "Say No More" an episode that builds up to this loaded toast. Throughout the episode, we watched as Collins loses his son in Hawkeye's O.R. and after this toast, the general's tragic experience changes how he views the pins he pushes into his maps marking soldier camps.

The character actor tapped to play General Collins was John Anderson, whose stern features added grit to movies and TV shows for decades.

And he says it all kicked off when he got his butt kicked by Marshall Matt Dillon in what many might say is the most famous fight in Gunsmoke history.

For the 1958 Gunsmoke episode "Buffalo Man," Anderson played a vicious bully named Ben Siple, known for never losing a fight and always picking one.

When he got cast in the role, Anderson had some bit TV roles under his belt, but he had yet to do anything that really turned any heads. That is, not until he agreed to take a few punches in Dodge City.

"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."

When you watch the Gunsmoke fight scene, it's even more intense than M*A*S*H's somber yanking of emotions that we watched in "Say No More." In fact, on Gunsmoke, there wouldn't be quite another fight scene in which Matt Dillon gets so heated for another two seasons, when "Big Tom" pushes the marshal to fill in and compete in a prizefight.

As Ben Siple, Anderson antagonizes James Arness by laying hands on a woman who the marshal promised to protect. The ensuing scrape found Anderson overcoming Arness, and Arness overcoming Anderson, with both towering men flailing and flung about a circle of wide-eyed onlookers.

The way the fight scene is edited is such a master class in creating a stunning audience experience that film classes have studied the sequence pretty much since the day it aired. The American Cinema Editors saw the fight and turned it into an educational film, and if you look on YouTube today, you'll see it's still common for a film student's first editing assignment to be to reimagine this famous scene.

When it first aired, the eyes in the audience were just as wide as any film editor's. Anderson said he's pretty sure nobody forgot that performance.

"It really opened doors," Anderson said. "I just ran from one show to another."

After taking a beating from Matt Dillon, Anderson appeared on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Bonanza, Perry Mason, and many other shows, including just about every Western. He also appeared in memorable movie roles, like playing "California Charlie" in Psycho.

Gunsmoke welcomed Anderson back 11 times after "Buffalo Man," and he appeared nearly just as many times on The Rifleman.

"Johnny Crawford was almost like a son to him because he played in so many Rifleman episodes," said Anderson's longtime friend, actor Marsha Hunt. "When Johnny was a little boy, they really formed quite a bond of friendship."

You can say that Crawford definitely looked up to the character actor, and not just because Anderson was six-foot-two.

"When I was shooting Rifleman, I enjoyed working with him," Crawford said. "He seemed like a very serious actor, and I always admired him. I thought he was so unique … very professional, prepared. He was an inspiration to work with."

Hunt called Anderson a bright, caring person, which resonates with his character arc toward the end of his emotional M*A*S*H episode.

His final scene on M*A*S*H sees him clinking glasses with Hawkeye, then picking up the phone to bark orders that represent a change of heart for the shrewd general. In his career, Anderson was drawn to playing the types of characters where you just didn't know what to expect them to do next, for better or for worse.

"I did the craziest, nuttiest guys in the world and I had a ball doing it," Anderson said.

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42 Comments

Spaceseed 10 months ago
Is there anything this great character actor didn’t play in? I put him right up there with Royal Dano and Morgan Woodward.
DethBiz 10 months ago
Always remember him from Psycho. Great character actor. He was an actor that was around for so long that I was surprised that he wasn't older than what he really was.
DethBiz 10 months ago
Matt Dillon had some pretty rough fights with Buddy Baer in Never Pester Chester, Don Megowan in Big Tom and Jim Davis in Railroad!
wanderer2575 10 months ago
John Anderson was a fantastic character actor who could believably portray anyone from an Old West outlaw to a modern-day individual to a futuristic space traveler. Jack Klugman and James Best are in the same class.
DethBiz wanderer2575 10 months ago
Always mark out for James Best and Ken Curtis when I see the low budget movie the Killer Shrews. Two of my favorites.
BenSobeleone 10 months ago
"Pierce, will you drink with me?"
LmerFudd 10 months ago
He was so so good in several episodes of the Twilight Zone, especially as Angel Gabriel alongside trumpet player Jack Klugman. He had a long career, saw him in an episode Star Trek: The Next Generation circa 1990.
den2be 10 months ago
Why can't we watch anything. No program can be watched her.@?
JHP den2be 10 months ago
well - Have ATT and its me-tv not getting their sheet straight
Rob den2be 10 months ago
???????
tootsieg 10 months ago
What a story!! Thanks MeTV! John Anderson was one heck of a character actor. He was in everything. He was in yesterday’s episode of Rifleman playing Mark’s grandfather.
BenSobeleone tootsieg 10 months ago
Yep, I've seen that one a few days ago. Good episode!
Matsui 10 months ago
John Anderson was cast as Station 51 Batallion Chief in the season 1 of TV show Emergency, but replaced with a younger actor back in the mid 70´s.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
John Anderson was AWESOME! Always like seeing him in TV shows.
CoreyC 10 months ago
I remember his final role in Star Trek TNG as an all powerful alien who wipeout an entire civilization.
Pacificsun 10 months ago
That's a really, really neat story. A lot of layers to it. Referring to the other actors with whom he worked and getting their quotes. I just saw that MASH episode, and didn't like the character at all (obvious a win for the actor). But no idea of his incredible depth. He's a kind of chameleon actor (blending himself into the role) unless you're looking for him, and identifying his style.

Thank you for all the work you put into the research, and how well-written it is.
Andybandit 10 months ago
That episode of MASH was just on a couple of days ago. It was sad that the General lost his son.
Tresix 36 months ago
The scariest role I saw Anderson play on “Gunsmoke” wasn’t an outlaw. In the episode “Mirage”, Festus, drastically dehydrated, kills a man shooting at him in a ghost town. He buries him and marks his grave with a shovel. A man shows up in Dodge claiming to be the man’s father (Anderson) with his daughter and other son. They force Festus to take them back to the ghost town to find the dead son. In the course of the episode, Anderson’s character hits Festus in the face with a shovel and threatens to shoot him even at the risk of being killed by Matt. There’s a scene where Anderson goes after Festus. Festus is running while Anderson walks, it’s like a scene in a horror movie. The reason why Anderson’s character was so scary to me was because, though he had the wrong man, he DID have a right to be angry over the fate of his missing son.
ECO473 36 months ago
Anderson was also quite good as the police captain in "Cotton Comes to Harlem."
Deleted 36 months ago
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Pacificsun 10 months ago
This made me laugh out loud. After 25 months, you're probably not around anymore. But how you phrased it, says it all. Those personality types, have nothing better to do in life!
madvincent 10 months ago
He's still with us lol,he posted 10 days ago...............
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
It would be funny to watch a few pedantic types have an argument over grammar ,punctuation,and the like. It would look something like this:

Of course the topics would need to be adapted, but the end result or final word would be similar.
Pacificsun 10 months ago
All I can say is, we'd better be careful about no cross-commenting on these threads!!
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
- Wait....What.... Oh no Penelope's watching !
10 months ago
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10 months ago
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MannyOlavarria 36 months ago
John Anderson just might be the greatest character actor of all time. Every time I look at a show I have or haven't seen before, there's John Anderson. When I saw him on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I seriously thought he was immortal.
Spaceseed MannyOlavarria 10 months ago
My favorite was Morgan Woodward. He killed Cool Hand Luke and gave Captain Kirk the fight of the series.
F5Twitster 36 months ago
"In fact, on Gunsmoke, there wouldn't be quite another fight scene in which Matt Dillon gets so heated for another two seasons, when 'Big Tom' pushes the marshal to fill in and compete in a prizefight."

Because it refers specifically to the office Matt Dillon holds, "Marshal" should be capitalized. Full marks for spelling it with only one "l," though.
AndreaZ F5Twitster 13 months ago
That's incorrect. Marshal Dillon is capitalized. Governor Kemp is capitalized. President Washington is capitalized. All because they are titles. But referring to the position is not capitalized. I.E., The U.S. Senate is composed of 100 senators.
Pacificsun AndreaZ 10 months ago
Love it! Made me laugh out loud (too).
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