James Arness : Biography, Pictures, Photos, Trivia, Address, Filmography (How the West Was Won)

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James Arness

Zebulon "Zeb" Macahan in How the West Was Won

Photos James Arness Birth name: James Aurness
Birth date: 1923/05/26
Date of death : 2011/06/03 (88 years old)
Birth place : Minneapolis
Height: 2.01 m

French Traduire

Biography for James Arness

James Arness (originally Aurness) (born May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke for 20 years, a record length for prime time shows that is shared with Kelsey Grammer’s portrayal of Dr. Frasier Crane. Arness's parents were Rolf Cirkler Aurness and Ruth Duesler, descendants of German and Norwegian immigrants. Arness is the older brother of actor Peter Graves. He was the tallest actor ever to play a lead role, standing 6' 7" (2.01 m).

Though primarily identified with Westerns, he also is remembered for appearing in two science fiction films, The Thing from Another World and Them!

James Arness served in the United States Army during World War II and was severely wounded at the Battle of Anzio. He was a close personal friend of John Wayne's and co-starred with him in Big Jim McLain. In fact, Wayne recommended Arness for the role of Matt Dillon after he turned the part down.

Since Gunsmoke ended, Arness has continued to perform primarily in western-themed movies and television series, including How the West Was Won, and five made-for-television Gunsmoke reunion movies between 1987 and 1994. A notable exception was a brief turn as a big city policeman in the short-lived 1981 series, McClain's Law.

For his contribution to the television industry, James Arness has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1751 Vine Street. In 1981, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15 Photos James Arness n_15


Title Role
Comanche Stallion (2006) Adjutant General
Gunsmoke: One Man's Justice (1994) (TV) Matt Dillon
Gunsmoke: The Long Ride (1993) (TV) Matt Dillon
Gunsmoke: To the Last Man (1992) (TV) Matt Dillon
Gunsmoke: The Last Apache (1990) (TV) Matt Dillon
Red River (1988) (TV) Thomas Dunson
Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987) (TV) Matt Dillon
The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987) (TV) Jim Bowie
McClain's Law (1981) TV Series Det. Jim McClain
How the West Was Won (1979) TV Series Zeb Macahan
How the West Was Won (1978) (mini) TV Series Zeb Macahan
How the West Was Won (1977) (mini) TV Series Zebulon (Zeb) Macahan
The Macahans (1976) (TV) Zeb Macahan
Gunsmoke Marshal Matt Dillon
Alias Jesse James (1959) (uncredited) Marshal Matt Dillon
Gun the Man Down (1956) Rem Anderson
The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) Joel Kingdom
Front Row Center
Flame of the Islands (1956) Kelly Rand
The Sea Chase (1955) Schlieter
Many Rivers to Cross (1955) Esau Hamilton
Lux Video Theatre
Her Twelve Men (1954) Ralph Munsey
Them! (1954) Robert Graham
Hondo (1953) Lennie, Army Indian Scout
The Veils of Bagdad (1953) (as Jim Arness) Targut
Island in the Sky (1953) Mac McMullen, pilot
Lone Hand (1953) Gus Varden
Horizons West (1952) Tiny McGilligan
Hellgate (1952) George Redfield
Big Jim McLain (1952) Mal Baxter
Carbine Williams (1952) Leon Williams
The Girl in White (1952) Matt
The People Against O'Hara (1951) Johnny O'Hara
Iron Man (1951) (as Jim Arness) Alex Mallick
Cavalry Scout (1951) Barth
The Thing from Another World (1951) The Thing
Belle Le Grand (1951) (uncredited) Belle admirer at fire
Two Lost Worlds (1951) (as Jim Aurness) Kirk Hamilton
Wyoming Mail (1950) Russell
Sierra (1950) (as Jim Arness) Little Sam
Stars in My Crown (1950) (uncredited) Rolfe Isbell
The Lone Ranger
Wagon Master (1950) Floyd Clegg
Battleground (1949) (as Jim Arness) Pvt. Garby
Roses Are Red (1947) (as James Aurness) Ray


Honorary United States Marshal, "In recognition of his unique contribution to the Image and Traditions of the U.S. Marshal's Service"

Became "Matt Dillon", the US Marshal on "Gunsmoke" after John Wayne, originally offered the role, turned it down and suggested Arness to play the role.

Wounded in Italy in World War II.

He was the tallest actor to ever play a lead role.

According to an article on TV westerns in Time Magazine (March 30, 1959), Arness stood 6' 7", weighed 235 lbs, and had chest-waist-hips measurements of 48-36-36

Arness was one of the first to hit the beaches at Anzio, Italy during WWII due to his height.

Inducted (as a cast member of "Gunsmoke") into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1981.

On June 20, 2003, James Arness was honored at Los Angeles City Hall by the Mayor, the 15 city council members, and the city attorney with a resolution honoring his life's work as an actor and 60 year resident of Los Angeles. The colorful resolution included a depiction of a U.S. Marshall's badge and a salute to his work as Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" and its over 20 year duration as TV's longest running drama series. It also recalled his heroism during World War Two and thanked him for "leaving us with one of the most telling and realistic portraits ever created of the brave, tall man in the saddle who tames a western town as he searches for justice and peace." Arness called it "the most wonderful day in his life" and says the resolution is now framed and in a prominent place in his home. By the way, he received a standing ovation that morning.

Held the record for the longest continuous role portrayed by a single actor (20 years) on prime-time television (for Marshal Matt Dillon on the CBS western 'Gunsmoke'), until Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" and "Frasier") tied the record in 2004 (at 20 years).

Was rightly touted as the tallest Leading Man in Hollywood, although this title has since been taken by other stars, mainly basketball players turned "actors."

Member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity

Very, very often during his career, this huge actor was surrounded by co-stars standing on apple boxes or had to perform standing in a ditch just so he could be in a shot.

His status as a Republican disappointed Lady Bird Johnson, who was a fan of Gunsmoke.

Attended Beloit College.


Spouse : Janet Surtrees (1978 - present), Virginia Chapman (12 February 1948 - 1960) (divorced) 3 children

Brother of actor Peter Graves.

His daughter, Jenny, committed suicide in 1975.

Has two sons, Craig and Rolf.

Author of the card

  • Creation date: 01/07/2003 by abdest

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