Gunsmoke Star James Arness Dies at 88
06.03.11 by Chris
For 20 years, TV audiences knew him as Marshal Matt Dillon on the long running Gunsmoke. James Arness died Friday at the age of 88. His death came one year after his brother, Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves, died of an heart attack. Arness died in his sleep at his home in Brentwood, Calif., according to his business manager.
The actor's website posted a letter Arness wrote to be published after his death.
I decided to write a letter to you for Janet to post on our website in the event I was no longer here.
I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends. The best part of my life was my family, especially my wife Janet. Many of you met her at Dodge City so you understand what a special person she is.
I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years.
I was honored to have served in the army for my country. I was at Anzio during WWII and it makes you realize how very precious life is.
Thank you again for all the many letters, cards, emails and gifts we received from you over the years. You are and always have been truly appreciated.
Standing 6'7", Arness was hard to miss. He started out as a radio announcer before making his way to Hollywood. While on Gunsmoke, Arness worked with stars like Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, Charles Bronson, and Betty Davis. He also was close friends with John Wayne (Wayne was initially offered the role on Gunsmoke but turned the offer down and suggested Arness). His acting debut was in The Farmer's Daughter. His height made him a perfect fit as the monster in 1951's The Thing.
Gunsmoke went on to becoming the longest-running drama in network history (Law & Order tied Gunsmoke's 20-year run).
Arness is survived by his wife, two sons, and six grand children.