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Marshal Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke

James Arness, better known as Marshal Dillon, died today at 88 years of age.
Great show, one of the better westerns. Loved Miss Kitty, Doc, Festus.
They just don't make them like that anymore.

Born James Aurness in Minneapolis (he dropped the "u" for show business reasons), he and younger brother Peter enjoyed a "real Huckleberry Finn existence," Arness once recalled.

Peter, who changed his last name to Graves, went on to star in the TV series "Mission Impossible." (He died in 2010.)

A self-described drifter, Arness left home at age 18, hopping freight trains and Caribbean-bound freighters. He entered Beloit College in Wisconsin, but was drafted into the Army in his 1942-43 freshman year. Wounded in the leg during the 1944 invasion at Anzio, Italy, Arness was hospitalized for a year and left with a slight limp. He returned to Minneapolis to work as a radio announcer and in small theater roles.

He moved to Hollywood in 1946 at a friend's suggestion. After a slow start in which he took jobs as a carpenter and salesman, a role in MGM's "Battleground" (1949) was a career turning point.

Parts in more than 20 films followed, including "The Thing," "Hellgate" and "Hondo" with Wayne. Then came "Gunsmoke," which proved a durable hit and a multimillion-dollar boon for Arness, who owned part of the series.

His longtime co-stars were Blake as saloon keeper Miss Kitty, Milburn Stone as Doc Adams, Dennis Weaver as the deputy, Chester Goode, and his replacement, Ken Curtis, as Deputy Festus Haggen.

The cancellation of "Gunsmoke" didn't keep Arness away from TV for long: He returned a few months later, in January 1976, in the TV movie "The Macahans," which led to the 1978-79 ABC series "How the West Was Won."

Arness took on a contemporary role as a police officer in the series "McClain's Law," which aired on NBC from 1981-82.
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1955 to 1975 primetime in "Gunsmoke!"  One of the few shows I really tried to make time for the last five years (I rarely had access to TV prior to 1970), and I still watch re-runs.

The role was offered to John Wayne, who was making so many big screen movies he turned it down, and convinced Arness (over his objections of being type cast) to accept it. Wayne' argument was that Arness was too big (6'6") for movies because he towered over all the male stars of the day! Forum Index -> Don't touch my Junk Drawer
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