James Arness

Actor / Film Producer / Television Producer | * 05/26/1923 († 88, 06/03/2011) | Minneapolis, Minnesota (United States of America (USA))
James Arness (born James King Aurness, May 26, 1923 – June 3, 2011) was an American actor, best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years in the CBS television series Gunsmoke. Arness has the distinction of having played the role of Dillon in five decades: 1955 to 1975 in the weekly series, then in Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987) and four more made-for-television Gunsmoke films in the 1990s. In Europe, Arness reached cult status for his role as Zeb Macahan in the Western series How the West Was Won. He was the older brother of actor Peter Graves. ()
Photo of James Arness

The star of one of the longest-running shows in U.S. television history, Gunsmoke (1955). Born of Norwegian heritage (the family name, Aurness (formerly had been Aursness) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Rolf and Ruth Duesler Aurness. His father was a traveling salesman of medical supplies and his mother later became a newspaper columnist. James attended West High School in Minneapolis. Although he appeared in school plays, he had no interest in performing, and dreamed instead of going to sea. After high school, he attended one semester at Beloit College before receiving his draft notice in 1943. He entered the army and trained at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, before shipping out for North Africa. After landing at Casablanca, Arness joined the 3rd Infantry Division in time for the invasion of Anzio. Ten days after the invasion, Arness was severely wounded in the leg and foot by German machine-gun fire. His wounds, which plagued him the rest of his life, resulted in his medical discharge from the army. While recuperating in a Clinton, Iowa hospital, he was visited by his younger brother Peter (later to gain fame as actor Peter Graves), who suggested he take a radio course at the University of Minnesota. James did so, and a teacher recommended him for a job as an announcer at a Minneapolis radio station. Though seemingly headed for success in radio, he followed a boyhood friend's suggestion and went with the friend to Hollywood in hopes of getting work as film extras. He studied at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre School under actor Harry Hayden, and while appearing in a play there was spotted by agent Leon Lance. Lance got the actor a role as Loretta Young's brother in The Farmer's Daughter (1947). The director of that film, H.C. Potter, recommended that he drop the "u" from his last name and soon thereafter the actor was officially known as James Arness. Little work followed this break, He appeared in a production of "Candida", and married his leading lady, Virginia Chapman. He began to get small roles with frequency, often, due to his size, villainous characters. Most notable among these was that of the space alien in The Thing From Another World (1951). While playing a Greek warrior in a play, Arness was spotted by agent Charles K. Feldman, who represented John Wayne. Feldman introduced Arness to Wayne, who put the self-described 6' 6" actor under personal contract. Arness played several roles over the next few years for and with Wayne, whom he considered a mentor. In 1955, Wayne recommended Arness for the lead role of Matt Dillon in the TV series Gunsmoke (1955). (Contrary to urban legend, Wayne himself was never offered the role.) Arness at first declined, thinking a TV series could derail his growing film career, but Wayne argued for the show, and Arness accepted. After the cancellation of "Gunsmoke" in 1975, Arness took on another successful Western project, "How The West Was Won." A brief modern police drama, McClain's Law (1981), followed, and Arness played his mentor John Wayne's role in Red River (1988), a remake of the Wayne classic.

Most frequent genres for this person: Western | Drama | Action

Known for these Movies & Shows

Awards & Nominations for James Arness

Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart Star On Hollywood Walk of Fame

Watch Movies & Series on Amazon Prime Video Today!

Enjoy thousands of movies and TV shows/series, over two million songs ad free, free shipping, exclusive deals and more with Amazon Prime. Start your 30-day free trial today. After that, only $12.99/month or $119 annually; Prime Video standalone is available for just $8.99/month.

Movies with James Arness as Actor(39)

as Matt Dillon1993 Gunsmoke: The Long Ride
as Matt Dillon1992 Gunsmoke: To the Last Man
as Matt Dillon1990 Gunsmoke: The Last Apache
as Thomas Dunson1988 Red River
as Matt Dillon1987 Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge
as Zeb1976 The Macahan's
as Marshal Matt Dillon (uncredited)1959 Alias Jesse James
as Joel Kingdom1956 The First Traveling Saleslady
as Rem Anderson1956 Gun the Man Down
as Esau Hamilton1955 Many Rivers to Cross
as Schlieter1955 The Sea Chase
as Kelly Rand1955 Flame of the Islands
as FBI Agent Robert Graham1954 Them!
as Ralph Munsey1954 Her Twelve Men
as Lennie1953 Hondo
as Targut1953 The Veils of Bagdad
as Mac McMullen1953 Island in the Sky
as Gus Varden1953 The Lone Hand
as Mal Baxter1952 Big Jim McLain
as Leon Williams1952 Carbine Williams
as George Redfield1952 Hellgate
as Tiny McGilligan1952 Horizons West
as Matt1952 The Girl in White
as Kirk Hamilton1951 Two Lost Worlds
as Barth1951 Cavalry Scout
as 'The Thing'1951 The Thing From Another World
as Alex Mallick (as Jim Arness)1951 Iron Man
as John Fordman 'Johnny' O'Hara1951 The People Against O'Hara
as Young Detective1950 In a Lonely Place
as Rolfe Isbell1950 Stars in My Crown
as Little Sam1950 Sierra
as Floyd Clegg1950 Wagon Master
as Russell1950 Wyoming Mail
as Garby1949 Battleground
as (uncredited)1948 Man from Texas
as Ray (as James Aurness)1947 Roses Are Red
as Peter Holstrom (as James Aurness)1947 The Farmer's Daughter

TV Shows/Series with James Arness as Actor(6)

as Det. Jim McClain1981 McClain's Law
as Marshal Matt Dillon1955 Gunsmoke

TV Shows/Series with James Arness as Crew(1)

Production/Producer1955 Gunsmoke

Full Name: James Arness
Born: Saturday, 05/26 1923 (May) in Minneapolis, Minnesota (United States of America (USA))
Died: Friday, 06/03 2011 (June) in Brentwood (aged: 88)
Zodiac sign: Gemini (Chinese zodiac sign: Pig)
Languages: English (EN, native language)
Educated at: Beloit College, West High School, Washburn High School
Siblings: Peter Graves
Other names for James Arness (nicknames, foreign languages etc.):
"James King Aurness"
"Джеймс Арнесс"
James Arness frequently works together with these people:
John Wayne (6x, Actor)
Cedric Gibbons (6x, Crew)
Douglas Shearer (5x, Crew)
Sid Haig (4x, Actor)
Ward Bond (4x, Actor)
Edwin B. Willis (4x, Crew)
Edith Head (4x, Crew)
Dennis Weaver (3x, Actor)
William Hopper (3x, Actor)
Richard Kiley (3x, Actor)
Mercedes McCambridge (3x, Actress)
Jack Cassidy (3x, Actor)
WatchPlayStream ID: PEOPLE:1820, Added: 03/23/2018, Last updated: 11/30/2021