James Arness was an American actor, best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years in the CBS television series Gunsmoke. He began his long and illustrious career as a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.
Education, Early Life
Arness went to John Burroughs Grade School, Washburn High School, and West High School in Minneapolis. He graduated from West High School in June 1942. Arness worked as a courier for a jewelry wholesaler during his time in high school, he used to load and unload railway boxcars at the Burlington freight yards in Minneapolis, and logging in Pierce, Idaho.
How Old Is James Arness? – James Arness Age
James was born on May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota and died on June 3, 2011, at the age of 88 at his Brentwood home in Los Angeles.
James Arness Death
Arness died of natural causes at his Brentwood home in Los Angeles on June 3, 2011, at the age of 88.
James Arness Grave
He is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
James Arness Family, Parents and Siblings
His parents were Rolf Cirkler Aurness, a businessman and Ruth Duesler, a journalist. His father’s ancestry was Norwegian; his mother was German. The family name had been Aursnes, but when Rolf’s father, Peter Aursnes, emigrated from Norway in 1887, he changed it to Aurness. Arness and his family were Methodists.
Who Is James Arness’s Brother?
Arness’s younger brother was actor Peter Graves. Peter used the stage name “Graves”, a maternal family name.
James Arness Wife
Arness was married twice, first to Virginia Chapman from 1948 until their divorce in 1960. She died of a drug overdose in 1976. Arness was married to Janet Surtees from 1978 until his death.
James Arness Children
He adopted his first wife’s son Craig. With his second wife, Janet Surtees, he had two sons, Rolf born on February 18, 1952, and Craig born in 1946 and died on December 14, 2004, and one daughter, Jenny Lee Arness who was born on May 23, 1950, and committed suicide by overdose on May 12, 1975.
James Arness Measurements and Facts
Here are some interesting facts and body measurements you should know about Arness.
• Full Name: James Arness
• Death Age: 88 years (May 26, 1923-June 3, 2011)
• Date of Birth: May 26, 1923
• Place of Birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota
• Date of Death: June 3, 2011
• Place of Death: Brentwood, Los Angeles
• Buried: Forest Lawn, California, United States
• Nationality: American
• Education: John Burroughs Grade School, Washburn High School, West High School, and Beloit College
• Father’s Name: Rolf Cirkler Aurness(Businessman)
• Mother’s Name: Ruth Duesler (Journalist)
• Siblings: Peter Graves
• Spouse: Virginia Chapman (m. 1948; div. 1960), Janet Surtees (m. 1978)
• Children: Rolf Arness, Craig Arness, Jenny Lee Arness
• Height: 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
• Weight: 235 lbs
• Profession: Actor
• Years active: 1947–1994
• Known For: Gunsmoke, How the West Was Won
• Net worth: $8 million (2011)
James Arness Gunsmoke
After relocating to Los Angeles, he got a job as an actor. He became popular in 1947 when he landed a prime role opposite Loretta Young in “The Farmers Daughter”. The same year he also took parts in numerous westerns. Jim appeared in the classic science fiction movie “The Thing”. His career was now taking a positive turn.
He signed a contract with John Wayne’s production company ‘Bat Jack’ in the early 1950s. During his three years in Wayne’s production company, he made four films with him. It was John Wayne who was helpful in landing Jim his biggest career break ever in a new TV series called Gunsmoke in 1955 as Marshal Matt Dillon.
As the story goes, CBS required Wayne for the role when the series was changed from radio to television. Wayne declined the role but suggested his good friend for the role. CBS accepted to audition the 6-foot-7-inch actor. (The network also auditioned 25 other actors, including Raymond Burr.)
After being chosen to play the character of Dillon, Arness had doubts about doing television but decided to give it a shot. He did it and eventually stayed with Gunsmoke for 2 decades. Jim received three Emmy nominations until the show was discontinued in 1975, holding the record as the longest-running scripted US primetime TV series, but will soon be outdone by “The Simpsons.” which began in 1989.
In addition to the series, Jim did four Gunsmoke movies for TV the last of which was produced in 1992 “Gunsmoke IV: The Long Ride” After the success of its predecessor Gunsmoke, Jim stayed with the television western.
How The West Was Won James Arness
From 1976 through 1979, Jim was a cast member in “How the West Was Won,” which was later rated as the fifth all-time mini-series. His latest television series was the police drama “Big Jim McLain” in the early 1980s.
James Arness Net Worth
Arness had an estimated net worth of $8 million at the time of his death.
James Arness Movies and TV Shows
- The Farmer’s Daughter (1947)
- Man From Texas (1947)
- Roses Are Red (1947)
- Battleground (1949)
- Wagon Master (1950)
- Sierra (1950)
- Two Lost Worlds (1950)
- Double Crossbones (1950)
- Stars In My Crown (1950)
- Wyoming Mail (1950)
- Cavalry Scout (1951)
- Belle le Grand (1951)
- Iron Man (1951)
- The Thing from Another World (1951)
- The People Against O’Hara (1951)
- Carbine Williams (1952)
- Hellgate (1952)
- The Girl in White (1952)
- Big Jim McLain (1952)
- Horizons West (1952)
- The Lone Hand (1953)
- Island in the Sky (1953)
- Veils of Bagdad (1953)
- Hondo (1953)
- Them! (1954)
- Her Twelve Men (1954)
- Flame of the Islands (1955)
- Many Rivers to Cross (1955)
- The Sea Chase (1955)
- Gun the Man Down (1956)
- The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)
- The Lone Ranger (1950)
- Lux Video Theatre, “The Chase” (1954)
- Gunsmoke – 635 episodes – Marshal Matt Dillon (1955–1975)
- Front Row Center (1956)
- The Red Skelton Chevy Special (1959)
- The Chevrolet Golden Anniversary Show (1961)
- A Salute to Television’s 25th Anniversary (1972)
- The Macahans (1976)
- How The West Was Won (1977-1979)
- McClain’s Law (1981-1982)
- John Wayne Standing Tall (1989)
- Pioneers of Television (2011)
James Arness Awards and Philanthropy
During his career, he won numerous awards and honors for his exemplary work and dedication to law enforcement. He has been made an Honorary United States Marshal twice in recognition of his numerous contributions to their charitable projects over the years. Jim was also inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and got many Western Heritage Awards.
Throughout World War II, Jim served his country at Anzio where he was injured and was bestowed the Purple Heart.
Jim gave his time and personal donations to various non-profit organizations. He gave a donation of his 1,400-acre ranch in Northern Los Angeles County to the Brandis Institute in 1968. He additionally donated his 60 ft. catamaran ‘Sea Smoke’, that was uniquely built for him, to the Sea Scouts.
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