'Gunsmoke' star James Arness dies at 88
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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/3/2011 (8 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)
Actor James Arness, known the world over as the righteous Dodge City lawman Matt Dillon in the TV western series "Gunsmoke" has died at the age of 88. Arness, in a letter to be published after his death and posted on his official Web site said that he had "a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends."
As U.S. Marshal Dillon in the 1955-75 CBS Western series, James Arness was justly famous for his portrait of a quiet, heroic man with an unbending dedication to justice and the town he protected.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "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 U.S. Marshal Dillon in the 1955-75 CBS Western series, Arness was justly famous for his portrait of a quiet, heroic man with an unbending dedication to justice and the town he protected. The brother of fellow TV actor Peter Graves, Arness drifted across the world until he was drafter to fight in World War II in 1942. Left with a limp after the Battle of Anzio in 1944, Arness returned stateside and began to dabble in acting. An imposing six-foot-six inch tall, Arness was cast as the menacing alien in the classic "The Thing" in 1951. Arness initially declined the offer of the part in "Gunsmoke" until he received wise counsel from his friend John Wayne. "Go ahead and take it, Jim," Wayne urged him. "You're too big for pictures. Guys like Gregory Peck and I don't want a big lug like you towering over us. Make your mark in television." "Gunsmoke" went on to become the longest-running dramatic series in network history until NBC's "Law & Order" tied in 2010. Arness shunned the Hollywood social scene and was an intensely private man. His personal life was wrought with tragedy when both his wife and daughter died from drug overdoses. He met his future wife Virginia Chapman while both were studying at Southern California's Pasadena Playhouse. They wed in 1948 and had two children, Jenny and Rolf. Chapman's son from her first marriage, Craig, was adopted by Arness. The marriage foundered and in 1963 Arness sought a divorce and custody of the three children, which he was granted. Virginia Arness attempted suicide twice, in 1959 and in 1960. In 1975, Jenny Arness died of an apparently deliberate drug overdose. Two years later, an overdose that police deemed accidental killed her mother.
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