Friday, June 3, 2011

James Arness: R.I.P.

James Arness, a bigger-than-life actor who kept the peace as Marshal Matt Dillon on 'Gunsmoke' for its 20-year run, died Friday of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, Calif. He was 88.

I watched Gunsmoke every week with my Dad. It was one of his favorite shows because it combined crime fighting with Westerns, his favorite genres. That was a time when you actually had to watch the show when it was on.. no DVR, no VCR, no TIVO.  James Arness was Matt Dillon, and he solved crimes, enforced justice and so much more.

'Gunsmoke' debuted on CBS in 1955 and ran until 1975, in the process making Arness one of the more enduring stars on television and the Matt Dillon character one of its most beloved and trusted.

The 6 foot 7 Arness towered over the cast, including Dillon's deputy, Chester, played by Dennis Weaver. Other supporting stars included Amanda Blake as Kitty and Milburn Stone as Doc Adams.
By the time Arness got the part of Dillon, he had been a WWII combat veteran and appeared in several films, most notably the science-fiction classics 'Them!' and 'The Thing From Another World,' in which he played an alien.

I didn't watch after I moved away to college and then out West itself, but when 'Gunsmoke' ended in 1975, Arness appeared in a string of TV shows including the miniseries 'How The West Was Won' and in the early 1980s, turned leading man again in cop drama 'McClain's Law.'
Read more HERE.


Larry Moniz said...

Sigh, memories of my youth. Of course, the Matt Dillon character and series were already famous before 1955. William Conrad’s longest-running role was that of U.S. marshal Matt Dillon on the groundbreaking radio western Gunsmoke, which aired on CBS radio from 1952 to 1961. Thus giving Marshal Matt Dillon a following several years before the TV role.

Nancy Lauzon said...

So sorry to hear this. I watched Gunsmoke, too, before the days of VCRs, when you actually had to arrange your schedule to sit in front of the TV. The world has changed a lot since then ... sigh.

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