James Arness, Actor Best Known for 'Gunsmoke,' Dies at 88
"Gunsmoke" star James Arness. (Getty Images)
According to a posting on his official website, Arness, a native of Minneapolis, died of natural causes.
The towering 6-foot, 7-inch Arness starred in "Gunsmoke" from 1955 to 1975, a role for which he was recommended by film starJohn Wayne.
When "Gunsmoke" left the CBS airwaves in 1975, Arness had set the record for the longest-running role played by a single actor in prime time. The feat that went unmatched until Kelsey Grammer tied the record after 20 years of playing psychiatrist Frasier Crane on two NBC comedies — "Cheers" and "Frasier."
"Gunsmoke," which originated on CBS radio in 1952 with William Conrad as the voice of Matt Dillon, debuted on TV as one of the first in a wave of "adult westerns" that sought to portray gunslingers and cowboys in a way that appealed to grown-up viewers, rather than youngsters.
Although not an immediate hit, "Gunsmoke" climbed up the ratings chart to No. 8 in its second season and went on to become the top-rated show in all of U.S. television for the next four years, 1957 to 1961.
The show's success helped generate a lot of competition, and at one point the prime-time lineup of network television included more than 30 westerns, but "Gunsmoke" outlasted them all.
The show's cast became one of television's most memorable ensembles of supporting players — crusty old "Doc" Adams, the gullible, deputy with a limp Chester Goode, played by Dennis Weaver, and whiskey-voiced saloon keeper Miss Kitty Russell, played by Amanda Blake.
Arness earned three Emmy nominations for the program over the years.
His acting debut came in the movie "The Farmer’s Daughter" opposite Loretta Young.
Arness' brother was actor Peter Graves.