Skip to comments.'Gunsmoke' Legend James Arness Dies at 88
Posted on 06/03/2011 3:04:27 PM PDT by STARWISE
The 6-foot-7 actor, who also starred in the 1950s sci-fi classics "Them!" and "The Thing From Another World," thanks fans for their support with a posthumous letter on his website.
James Arness, the tall man who towered over TV screens for 20 seasons as the iconic Marshal Matt Dillon on CBS Gunsmoke, has died. He was 88.
The 6-foot-7 actor, who also starred in the 1950s sci-fi classics Them! and The Thing From Another World, passed away of natural causes Friday in his home in Brentwood, according to his business manager, Ginny Fazer. His death comes 14 months after his brother, Mission: Impossible actor Peter Graves, died of a heart attack at age 83.
Arness official website posted a letter from the actor on Friday that he wrote with the intention that it be posted posthumously.
I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends, he said. I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years.
As the stoic Marshal Dillon, Arness kept the peace in rough and tumble Dodge City, Kan., on Gunsmoke, which aired on CBS from September 1955 to March 1975 for a total of 635 episodes. It set a record for the longest-running, live-action primetime series by seasons, since tied by NBCs Law & Order.
Arness 20-year primetime stint is another record, since tied by Kelsey Grammers two decades years as the character Frasier Crane on two shows, Cheers and then Frasier.
Said a statement from CBS on Friday, Our network headquarters at CBS Studio Center in Studio City looks out at Stage 3, which was home to Gunsmokes Dodge City. All of us here today tip our hat in that direction for everything Mr. Arness contributed to Gunsmoke, to CBS and to the medium we all love.
Arness was born James King Aurness in Minneapolis on May 26, 1923. He served in the army during World War II, was wounded in his right leg and received the Purple Heart.
On the advice of Graves, Arness applied for and earned a job as an announcer for a radio station in the Twin Cities, then moved to Los Angeles and landed a role as Loretta Youngs brother in the 1947 film The Farmer's Daughter.
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Thanks for some great entertainment.
A really good man...
What an amazing run for a true pioneer of series television. May this last ride off into the sunset be his most glorious of them all!
All these years and he never did make Miss Kitty an honest woman.
I loved that show. RIP Mr. Arness........
His brother was Peter Graves, another favorite.
The man was fast on the draw. I had to cheat to beat him. Thanks for everything Marshall Dillon!
Really enjoyed Matt, Miss Kitty, Doc, etal. He was made for the role. Sad, but time passes.
His death comes 14 months after his brother, Mission: Impossible actor Peter Graves, died of a heart attack at age 83.
6’7” - good grief!
Always liked Gunsmoke.
As the article mentions, he was a WWII Army vet. I heard one time that he was one of the first ones off at Anzio because they kind of used him as a water depth guage because of his height. O’Really interviewed him one time, that may have been where I heard it.
A couple of pretty good runs- 20 years as Marshall Dillon and 88 years in life. RIP to Mr. Arness and God’s peace to all who love him!
Agree in full. Arness as the Thing was really the scariest movie I saw as a child; could never get over the murder of the dogs, the hanging of the scientists in the greenhouse and the sounds Arness made, as well as the truly frightening musical score. The movie (Howard Hawks was director, I believe) was made in 1951 and was an allegory for the Soviet menace (”Watch the skies!!”) was the ending phrase; also, the Thing looked a good bit like Lenin, although he was much bigger. I couldn’t help but think of The Thing when I first viewed the old devil’s corpse in his mausoleum in Red Square. But the movie touted American teamwork that defeated The Thing, the limits of science and the foolishness of trusting outerspace aliens until you know their true intent (trust but verify). Plus, Robert Cornthwaite (who just died a couple of years ago) was great. Arness will be missed; one of the few in Hollywood for whom I had great respect; his brother Peter Graves is another.
I did not realize that was him as the THING. That movie scared me as a kid, especially when they tried to shut that door and his hand thrust out. That part would still scare me today.
Yes, House on Haunted Hill was terrifying, although the ultimate plot was really quite well thought out. The weird guy who appears as an appartion at the end of the movie was extremely odd; don’t remember the name of the actor.
I read that John Wayne was the Gunsmoke producer’s first choice but Wayne said he didn’t want to do a TV show and recommended his friend James Arness.
Yes, that was Elisha Cook, who was also noted for playing the short, blustery guy in Shane who gets tricked into a gunfight by Jack Palance and is shot dead by him in the mud street of the local town.
He was the last of the TV western icons.We’ll not see their like again.
Yes, I knew that, Blood. What a nice friend! When Encore Western channel started airing Gunsmoke about five years ago, I became hooked all over again. It was around that time when I found out that his younger brother was Peter Graves! Which made me watch the Gunsmoke reruns in a whole new light, as I was a big Mission Impossible fan. You can probably tell from my tagline that I love Westerns, too!
I just found out yesterday that Peter Graves was his brother, but when I think about it, they do look similar.
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