TV Cowboy: James Arness is recognized as one of America's most beloved western actors, best known for playing Marshal Matt Dillon on one of television's longest running series, "Gunsmoke".
He was born on May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and he began his career as a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.
After moving to Los Angeles, his big break in the movies came in 1947, when he landed a lead role opposite Loretta Young in "The Farmers Daughter". That same year he also received parts in a number of westerns. In 1951, the 6-foot-7-inch actor appeared in the classic science fiction movie "The Thing".
It was also in the early 1950s, that Arness signed a contract with John Wayne's production company. He made four films with Wayne during his three years at the company . It was John Wayne, in fact, who was instrumental in helping Arness get his biggest break ever in 1955 as Marshal Matt Dillon for the new television series called Gunsmoke which had been adapted from a radio show. Although CBS wanted Wayne for the part, he declined, and instead, suggested his good friend Jim Arness for the role. CBS agreed to audition Arness, along with 25 other actors, including Raymond Burr.
Arness stayed with Gunsmoke for 20 years, receiving three Emmy nominations, until the show was cancelled in 1975. Up until that time, it had been the longest running dramatic series ever produced on television. Along with the series, Arness made four Gunsmoke movies for TV. The last was produced in 1992, called "Gunsmoke IV: The Long Ride"
After Gunsmoke, Arness went on to star in "How the West Was Won" from 1976 through 1979. His last television series was the police drama "Big Jim McLain" in the early 1980s.
James Arness has received numerous Western Heritage Awards and honors throughout his career, many for his work and dedication to law enforcement. He has twice been made an Honorary United States Marshal and has been inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. During World War II, Arness served his country at Anzio where he was wounded and was awarded the Purple Heart. His star can be found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Arness' brother is Peter Graves, best known for the "Mission Impossible" TV series and the humorous "Airport" movies.