James Arness, Star of ‘Gunsmoke,’ Dead at 88
Actor James Arness, who played the legendary Marshal Matt Dillon on the popular Western series ‘Gunsmoke,’ died Friday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, a family spokesperson has confirmed. He was 88.
The larger-than-life actor, who stood at a towering 6’7,” played the indelible Marshal for 20 seasons and over 600 episodes, helping to make ‘Gunsmoke’ one of the longest-running primetime series in TV history.
According to his obit in the LA Times, Arness, who prior to ‘Gunsmoke’ had appeared in a number of movies, was reluctant to take the part of Dillon, fearing it would hinder his big-screen career. Luckily, friend John Wayne convinced him otherwise, and later told TV viewers, “I predict he’ll be a big star. So you might as well get used to him, like you’ve had to get used to me.”
Born in Minneapolis in 1923, Arness fought in World War II prior to acting, for which he won the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Arness’ leg was also shattered by machine-gun fire, which left him hospitalized for nearly a year.
After moving to Hollywood, Arness landed a number of successful roles in such movies as ‘The Thing From Another World’ (1951), ‘The People Against O’Hara’ (1951) and ‘Hondo’ (1953), which starred Wayne.
But it was ‘Gunsmoke’ that made Arness a household name. The role earned him three Emmy nominations, and led to a number of made-for-TV movie sequels after the show ended in 1975.
Below, check out a few memorable clips of Arness in action.