James Arness

Born May 26, 1923

James King Arness was an American actor, best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon in the television series Gunsmoke for 20 years. Arness has the distinction of having played the role of Dillon in five separate decades: 1955 to 1975 in the weekly series, then in Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987) and four more made-for-TV Gunsmoke movies in the 1990s. In Europe Arness reached cult status for his role as Zeb Macahan in the western series How the West Was Won.… Read More

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News + Updates

Browse recent news and stories about James Arness.

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    LATimes - Jul 19, 2014
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    Huffington Post - Aug 12, 2013
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    Huffington Post - Jul 22, 2013
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    Google News - Aug 26, 2011


Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of James Arness.


1923 Birth James Arness was born James King Aurness in Minneapolis, Minnesota; on May 26, 1923; he dropped the "u" when he started acting. … Read More


1942 19 Years Old Despite "being a poor student and skipping many classes", he graduated from high school in June 1942. … Read More


1943 20 Years Old Instead, he was called up for the Army and reported to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, in March 1943. … Read More
1944 21 Years Old According to James Arness – An Autobiography, he landed on Anzio Beachhead on January 22, 1944 as a rifleman with 2nd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. … Read More
1945 22 Years Old 1 More Event
On January 29, 1945, having undergone surgery several times, Arness was honorably discharged. … Read More
1948 25 Years Old Arness was married twice, first to Virginia Chapman from 1948 until their divorce in 1960. … Read More


1955 32 Years Old Wayne introduced Arness in a prologue to the first episode of Gunsmoke, in 1955. … Read More


1970 47 Years Old …  Rolf Arness became World Surfing Champion in 1970. … Read More


1975 52 Years Old Gunsmoke made Arness and his co-stars, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Dennis Weaver, Ken Curtis, and Buck Taylor, world-famous and would run for two decades, becoming the longest-running prime-time drama series in US television history by the end of its run in 1975. … Read More
1978 55 Years Old Arness was married to Janet Surtees from 1978 until his death.
1981 58 Years Old 1 More Event
An exception was as a big-city police officer in a short-lived 1981-1982 series, McClain's Law, co-starring with Marshall Colt. … Read More


2006 83 Years Old Arness was inducted into the Santa Clarita Walk of Western Stars in 2006, and gave a related TV interview. … Read More
2011 88 Years Old Arness died of natural causes at his Brentwood home in Los Angeles on June 3, 2011.
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