James Arness was the star of "Gunsmoke," one of the longest-running prime time shows in the history of American television. Arness played the lead role of Marshall Matt Dillon from 1955 to 1975.
John Wayne recommended Arness for the role of Dillon. Arness appeared in each of the show's 635 episodes. "Gunsmoke" was a popular show, rating among the top 10 most-watched shows during 13 of its 20 seasons. Following the show's end, Arness reprised the role of Dillon in five made-for-television movies in the 1980s and 1990s.
Prior to his role on "Gunsmoke," Arness served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He had wanted to be a pilot, but was too tall. Instead, he became a infantryman. He received the Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. Following the war, he attended Benoit College in Wisconsin before becoming an actor. He made his film debut in 1947 in "The Farmer's Daughter."
Arness received three Emmy nominations for his role as Matt Dillon. In 1996 TV Guide placed him at number 20 on its list of "50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time."
Arness was born in Minneapolis in 1923 and died in Los Angeles in 2011. His brother was Peter Graves, an actor who starred in the television show "Mission: Impossible."