Generations have grown up with James Arness as Marshall Matt Dillon on television's longest running series, Gunsmoke.
Born on May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Arness served his country in Italy during World War II. He was wounded during the battle of Anzio and was awarded the Purple Heart. After his tour of duty in Europe, Arness became a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.
After moving to Los Angeles, Arness found work in the movies. His big break came in 1947, when he landed a prime role opposite Loretta Young in The Farmers Daughter. That year he also received parts in numerous westerns. In 1951, Arness appeared in the classic science fiction movie, The Thing.
In the early 1950's, Arness signed a contract with John Wayne's production company, Bat Jack. He made four films with Wayne. His big break came in 1955 when CBS wanted Wayne for the part of Marshal Matt Dillon for a new TV series called Gunsmoke. Wayne declined but suggested his good friend, Arness who stayed with Gunsmoke for 20 years until the show was cancelled in 1975.
After Gunsmoke, Arness starred in the hit television series How the West Was Won from 1977 to 1979 and Big Jim McLain in the early 1980s. He also starred in four Gunsmoke movies that aired on television.
Currently involved with many projects and charities, including the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Arness has received numerous awards and honors. He has twice been made an Honorary United States Marshall. He was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and received numerous Western Heritage Awards. Fans can write to James through his website JamesArness.com where his book James Arness: An Autobiography, with a forward by Burt Reynolds, is also available.
James and his wife Janet live in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles and are actively involved with their family, three sons and three grandchildren.
This 6'7" lawman is the symbol of frontier justice. As the Marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, a small town in the middle of a harsh territory, he brings law and order to a lawless frontier where lynch mobs are the norm. He has a reputation as a fair man and a quick draw. Cattle rustlers, fugitives, stagecoach bandits and gunslingers are among the variety of villains that populate Dodge City and the surrounding territory. He prefers to take these criminals into custody for a fair trial, but those who resist inevitably end up at Percy Crump's, Dodge City's undertaker and furniture maker.
Matt is a bachelor, but he shares a mutual (though platonic) admiration with Kitty Russell, the auburn-haired beauty who owns the Long Branch Saloon.