Gunsmoke actor James Arness dead in LA celebrity home?
Immortalized in Toby Keith’s song, Should’ve Been a Cowboy, legendary actor James Arness, passed away quietly Friday, June 3, in his Los Angeles celebrity home. Known most for his role as Marshal Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955 to 1975, he was the epitome of a Hollywood cowboy, and also starred in dozens of movies, some as recent as 1994. James Arness (brother of late Mission Impossible actor, Peter Graves), died of natural causes at age 88. During Arness’s career, he shared screen time with numerous famous actors, including Alec Baldwin, John Wayne, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Weaver, and Charles Bronson. The Minnesota-born actor fit the ideal stereotype for a cowboy, with his quiet demeanor and massive (for the time) 6-foot, 6-inch stature. The cultural icon has a star on the walk of fame, three Emmy Award nominations, a TVLand Nomination and is a 1967 Western Heritage and 1986 Golden Boot award recipient.
Arness landed the Gunsmoke role when John Wayne turned it down and recommended him for the slot. The longest-running television drama, focused on 1873 Dodge City, Kansas, and its lawmen and criminals. At one time during production, there were 30 competitive ‘cowboy’ television shows, and Gunsmoke outlasted them all, with episodes still playing on TVLand. The show was set during a timeframe in which our nation thrived on a green lifestyle, with very little industry and renewable energy coming from the efforts of humans and animals. It was a time in which vegetable gardens and organic methods were the norm for families on the forntier, and virtually every tool and resource was renewed or recycled. The show itself included horses as a staple in its scenes. There are no records of any negative treatment of animals on the show, and the stars seemed to treat them similar to true pioneers of the Old West: as reliable sidekicks.
A decorated World War II veteran, James Arness was awarded the Bronze Star; the Purple Heart (wounded at Anzio); the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze campaign stars; the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. After the war, he started his career as a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945. Then in the 1950’s, he signed a contract with John Wayne’s production company.
The family has asked that fans honor his memory with donations to United Cerebral Palsy in his name, a cause for which he was passionate. Read more about James Arness in life and death from Entertainment News writer Liz Barrett.
GREEN CELEBRITY STATS: JAMES ARNESS
James Arness is a green celebrity. This humanitarian was an avid supporter of UNITED CEREBRAL PALSY, and donated hundreds of acres to the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which develops “fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide”.
R.I.P. James Arness