Gunsmoke Star James Arness Dies at 88

Entertainment Jun. 3, 2011 AT 3:23PM
Gunsmoke Star James Arness Dies at 88 Credit: CBS/Landov

TV icon James Arness -- a.k.a. Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke -- passed away at his home in L.A.'s Brentwood neighborhood on Friday, a family spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. The 6 foot 7 actor was 88 years old.

Debuting on CBS in 1955 and running until 1975, the groundbreaking western Gunsmoke was one of the most popular and longest-running shows in TV history.

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Arness reprised his role in several Gunsmoke TV films in the late 1980s and early 1990s and appeared in several other TV westerns as well.

"Matt is very human and has all the failings and drives common to anyone who is trying to do a difficult job the best he knows how," Arness once said of his iconic Dodge City ruler. He earned three Emmy nominations for the legendary, John Wayne-like role.

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Before Gunsmoke, Arness, a Minnesota-born WWII combat vet, had starred in several sci-film film classics like The Thing from Another World (1951) and Them! (1954). He starred alongside fellow cowboy legend John Wayne in such Westerns as Big Jim McLain and The Sea Chase.

Of his famous stature, he has said: "I was the tallest guy in the school, and I was very conscious of being larger than anybody -- classmates and teachers."

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Arness -- who was also an avid surfer in the 1960s -- is survived by his wife Janet, two sons and six grandchildren. His brother, famous actor Peter Graves, died in March of last year.

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