Best known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the radio and TV Western drama series Gunsmoke, James Arness is a voice we could recognise any time and anywhere. The American actor who was popular for his twenty years-long roles in the CBS television series was also known for his service as a rifleman during World War II for which he was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Even after his demise, James Arness’s name cannot be deleted from the list of most influential people of his time. Here are some information about the veteran actor that would interest you.
Who is James Arness?
Born on May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Jame Arness whose birth name is James King Aurness is the son of a journalist Ruth Duesler and a businessman Rolf Cirkler Aurness. With Norwegian and German ancestry, Arness was a Methodist. He was one of the many people who walked their way to success through hard work. While attending school at John Burroughs Grade School, Washburn High School, and West High School, all in Minneapolis, Arness was working as a courier for a jewellery wholesaler, despite skipping classes, he was able to scale through with good grades in June 1942.
Arness began his career as an entertainer in 1945, after a short service in the army as a rifleman. He was honourably discharged from his duties on the 29th of January, 1945, after being severely wounded during the Battle of Anzio. Arness joined WLOL radio station in 1945, as its a radio announcer but decided to join the acting world shortly after he moved to Los Angeles. There he joined the RKO, a film production company which immediately changed his name from ‘Aurness’ to ‘Arness’. He then debuted as Peter Holstrom, Loretta Young’s brother, in the 1947 film The Farmer’s Daughter.
James received more acting roles in the film industry. He took minor roles in films like Battleground, Wagon Master, Sierra and more until he gained a major role in the science fiction movie The Thing from Another World. Other films he took part in include Double Crossbones, Iron Man, The People Against O’Hara, Her Twelve Men and Flame of the Islands, to mention just a few.
From 1952-1955 he joined John Wayne’s Company “Bat Jack” and with them, he appeared in four films after which he was introduced on the first episode of the CBS series Gunsmoke which turned out as the longest-running dramatic series in television history. After Gunsmoke ended its twenty seasons which aired from 1955 to 1975. Aside from his role in Gunsmoke, Arness appeared in more TV series like How the West Was Won, McClain’s Law and Pioneers of Television. He, however, retired from acting in 2011, citing that his body and age could not allow him to shoulder the rigours of the acting work. On June 3, 2011, Arness passed away in his sleep at his home in Brentwood. He died at the age of 88.
James Arness Net Worth
Aside from being famous in films and TV series, James Arness was wealthy enough to take care of himself and his family. As one of the most enduring actors of his time, his role in the CBS series earned him quite a fortune. The American actor had a net worth of about $10 million, much of which he earned from his roles as an actor. He also received two out of three Emmy awards for Best Continuing Performance by an Actor (1958); and Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Meet His Brother – Peter Graves
James had a younger brother whose name was Peter Graves. He was an actor best known as Jim Phelps in the 1967 to 1973 CBS series Mission: Impossible. Graves who was born as Peter Duesler Aurness on the 18th of March 1926, chose to adopt his maternal family name Graves in honour of his mother’s family.
Peter began his acting career in 1951 after serving in the U.S. Air Force for two years. He debuted as Pete Dandridge in the film Rogue River. The same year, he appeared in three other films – Up Front, Angels in the Outfield and Fort Defiance. There was no doubt that Graves had an enormously successful career as an actor with over 70 films, movies and TV shows. Some of his film credits include Number One with a Gun, Survival Run, Airplane II: The Sequel, Spree and Black Tuesday. He was honoured on October 30, 2009, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6667 Hollywood Blvd and on March 14, 2010, the actor died. According to reports, Graves died a natural death after having breakfast with his family. He was survived by Joan Endress, his wife for many years and three daughters. He also had several grandchildren.
His Wife and Children
James was married twice with his first wife being Virginia Chapman whom he married in 1948 and they lived together until 1963 when Virginia died of drug abuse. He then married Janet Surtees in 1978 and had three children Rolf, Craig, and Jenny Lee. His daughter Lee died of suicide in 1975.