James Arness was a popular TV personality in the 1950s and 1990s. His powerful appearance and charismatic, commanding manner made him a Hollywood Western star. James garnered fame as Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” for 20 years. James’s following ventures are tied to the part he played throughout his career.
“Gunsmoke” starred him from 1955 until 1975. 1987’s “Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge” featured the same character. He repeated his role in “Gunsmoke: The Last Apache” in 1990, “Gunsmoke: To the Last Man” in 1992, and “Gunsmoke: The Long Ride” in 1993.
James also starred in other 50s films besides “Gunsmoke.” These include “Wyoming Mail,” “Two Lost Worlds,” “The People Against O’Hara,” “Iron Man,” and “The Lone Hand.”
His performance as Zeb Macahan in “How The West Was Won” made him an American and European TV celebrity. Eva Marie Saint, Fionnula Flanagan, Bruce Boxleitner, and Richard Kiley co-starred with James. One of the first episodes was turned into a 400-page “epic-length” paperback novel.
James had a tumultuous past leading up to his divorce and marriage to his second wife, who became his lifelong partner.
James King Aurness, of Norwegian and German origin, was born to businessmen Rolf Cirkler Aurness and writer Ruth Duesler. James performed onstage while he was young, but he eventually lost interest and joined the navy.
Peter Graves’ older brother. Their mother fostered a love for the arts in them as children; Peter pursued it immediately, while James took longer.
James enlisted in 1943. He and Peter fought in WWII, but he was in-jured. He was seriously i-njured in his right leg at Anzio. Medically released after many procedures.
After years as a soldier, James pursued his passion for acting. A Hollywood representative noticed him acting in Los Angeles and connected him to Dore Schary, who provided him opportunities in 1947.
Next, he married Virginia Chapman. Craig was James’s son. Rolf, the 1970 World Surfing Champion, and Jenny are James and Virginia’s children. Craig became a National Geographic photographer.
James and Virginia divorced after 15 years of marriage, and James got custody of their kids. Virginia fled to California after the divorce and vanished. Her daughter passeda away of a her-oin ove-rdose two years earlier.
James continued working despite his divorce. Arness met his second wife, Janet Surtees, on “Gunsmoke.” Janet was Glen Alden’s wife. Alden’s wife was Janet’s coworker at the time.
Janet was hesitant to meet TV star James, but her son was a fan, so she took a chance.
“As I wait impatiently, the doorbell rings. Oh my god, a gigantic man walks in. She remembers James as a huge, pleasant man.
“When we met, Jim was so kind and down-to-earth that my nerves disappeared. We started conversing because he skied and I did too.
Janet called James three months after their initial encounter. Since they made another dinner date, it was the beginning of their relationship.
James and Janet married in Brentwood, California, in 1978. James and Janet lived happily after “Gunsmoke” and his movies.
James, 88, passed away of natural causes on March 16, 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times. Janet was at his de-athbed. Janet, Rolf, and James, Janet’s stepson, survived him.
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