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James Arness - Matt Dillon
James Arness - Sheriff Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke
Even today, when I bump into a Gunsmoke re-run, I find myself watching to see how things will turnout in Dodge City or at the Long Branch Saloon. I am still a kid at heart. I grew up on Westerns. In spite of the fighting and shooting, you at least got some type of moral overview. Gunsmoke was great when it came to character studies. There seem to be a story we all could relate to or an outcome that we could at least agree with. If not, occasionally they had something funny from Festus. Today, when I watch, it is fun to see the actors and actresses who, then were very new to the industry, but made it on their own and in some cases stared in their own series.
James Arness seem to really fit the character of Matt Dillon. Six foot seven inches made him an ideal candidate for a western sheriff. After all, would you want to mess with Mr. Dillon? As I think back, he wasn't a man of a lot of words, but his physical stature substituted for the lack of words.
Born May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He started out with a career as a radio announcer in his hometown in 1945. He served his Country during World War II. Wounded at Anzio, Jim was awarded the Purple Heart.
Jim and his lovely wife Janet are very giving people. Over the years Jim has given his time and personal donations to several non-profit organizations, including ranch acerage to the Brandis Institute; a 60 ft. catamaran name "Sea Smoke" to the Sea Scouts; as well as supporting his favorite charity: the United Cerebral Palsy organization.
James Arness played Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955 to 1975. He was encouraged to try out for the part when his friend John Wayne turned down the roll. The two men were friends and shared the same birth date, May 26.
Who was first considered for Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke?
William Conrad was considered as he was playing the part on the radio. But his rotund size was a disqualifier. John Wayne was then offered the part. He did not want to do television and suggested to his friend, Jim, that he consider the part.
Did you know, Wayne and Arness made an anticommunism film "Big Jim McLain"
* Credits; Television Appearances; Series
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke (also known as Marshall Dillon), CBS, 1955- 75.
* Zeb Macahan, How the West Was Won, ABC, 1978-79.
* Detective Jim McClain, McClain's Law, NBC, 1981-82.
* Credits; Television Appearances; Miniseries
* Zeb Macahan, How the West Was Won, ABC, 1977.
* Credits; Television Appearances; Movies
* Zeb Macahan, The Macahans, ABC, 1976.
* Jim Bowie, The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory, NBC, 1987.
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, CBS, 1987.
* Tom Dunson, Red River, CBS, 1988.
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke: The Last Apache, CBS, 1990.
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke: To the Last Man, CBS, 1992.
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke: The Long Ride, CBS, 1993.
* Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke: One Man's Justice, CBS, 1994.
Interviews with James Arness
Not the way most of us remember it!
Did You Know?
During the battle of Anzio, Arness' right leg was peppered with machine gun bullets, and when the bones were set they didn't mend properly, leaving him with a slight but permanent limp.
Link Along With Jim
- Official James Arness Site
Get your facts here.
- James Arness Biography
Part of the Official Web Site.
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Just the facts
Standing 6'7" and casting a shadow every bit as impressive as his mentor John 'Duke' Wayne, James Arness burned himself indelibly into the American psyche as Marshall Matt Dillon, Dodge City's straight-shootin' sheriff on the long-running CBS series "Gunsmoke" (1955-1975). Born James Aurness, this older brother of actor Peter Graves (March 18, 1926 - March 14, 2010) was recovering from WWII wounds suffered during the Anzio invasion when he joined a little-theater group, supporting himself as a real estate agent and advertising man....
Trouble strikes us all some time or another: Divorced from first wife, Virginia, Arness took custody of his children. Virginia Arness, attempted suicide twice, in 1959 and in 1960. In 1975, Jenny Arness (daughter) died of an apparently deliberate drug overdose. Two years later, an overdose that police deemed accidental killed her mother (Virginia).
Image by Corbis - Brothers: Peter Graves and James Arness
Matt and Kitty
James from another world
Arness died of natural causes at his Brentwood home in Los Angeles on June 3, 2011. He is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.