James Arness

James ArnessJames Arness (born May 26, 1923) is an Emmy-nominated American actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke for 20 years. Arness has the distinction of having played the role of Marshal Matt Dillon in five separate decades: 1955 to 1975 in the weekly series, then in the decade of the 1980s (1987) Return to Dodge, and four more made-for-TV Gunsmoke movies in the 1990s.
Arness was born as James Aurness in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents were Rolf Cirkler Aurness and Ruth Duesler, descendants of Norwegian and German immigrants. Arness attended Washburn High School, Minneapolis, (Class of 1941). Arness is the elder brother of actor Peter Graves. He was the tallest actor ever to play a lead role, standing 6 feet 7 inches.
Though primarily identified with Westerns, he also is remembered for appearing in two science fiction films, The Thing from Another World (in which he portrayed a title character) and James ArnessThem!. He was a close friend of John Wayne and co-starred with him in Big Jim McLain, Hondo, Island in the Sky and The Sea Chase. Arness’ principal Gunsmoke co-stars were Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver, Burt Reynolds, Ken Curtis, Roger Ewing and Buck Taylor.
After Gunsmoke ended, Arness performed primarily in western-themed movies and television series, including How the West Was Won, and five made-for-television Gunsmoke reunion movies between 1987 and 1994. A notable exception was a brief turn as a big city police officer in the short-lived 1981 series, McClain’s Law. Arness did the narration for Harry Carey Jr.’s western, Comanche Stallion (directed by Clyde Lucas).