James Arness dies at 88; TV’s Marshal Dillon on landmark ‘Gunsmoke’ series

James Arness is best known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in ‘Gunsmoke,’ one of the longest-running prime-time series in network TV history. He was a towering symbol of frontier justice in the series that broke the mold for TV westerns.

Actor James Arness portrays Marshal Matt Dillon in a scene from "Gunsmoke" in 1967. (CBS)

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times

James Arness, the towering actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon, the strong and commanding symbol of frontier justice on the landmark TV western series “Gunsmoke,” died Friday. He was 88.

Arness died of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, said family spokeswoman Ginny Fazer.

“Gunsmoke” debuted Sept. 10, 1955, on CBS and, with the start of “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” on ABC four days earlier, a new era in television horse operas was launched: the adult western…

…After being drafted into the Army during his freshman year at Beloit College in Wisconsin, in early 1943, Arness was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division and took part in the landing at Anzio, Italy, in 1944. (Because of his height, he was chosen to be the first off his landing craft to test the depth of the water.)

Later, while walking point on a night patrol through a vineyard, Arness walked into a German machine-gun nest, and rounds severely splintered the bones in his lower right leg. The wound resulted in his leg being shortened by about 5/8 of an inch, and he thereafter wore a lift in his shoe.

After undergoing months of rehabilitation in a stateside hospital, Arness was honorably discharged from the Army in January 1945 with a $56-a-month disability pension…

The entire article is at the LA Times

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