James Arness was one of the most well-known television personalities in the United States from the 1950s until the 1990s. Because of his imposing build and captivating manner, he was a famous Western drama actor in Hollywood at the time.
The character of Marshal Matt Dillon, which he played for 20 years in the CBS television series «Gunsmoke,» is notable since it greatly aided James’s recognition. Because James has been recognized for the role throughout his career, it is linked to future projects in which he appears.
He starred in the weekly series «Gunsmoke» from 1955 to 1975. In 1987, he played the same character in the television film «Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge.» He also reprised the character in the subsequent films, «Gunsmoke: The Last Apache» in 1990, «Gunsmoke: To the Last Man» in 1992, «Gunsmoke: The Long Ride» in 1993, and «Gunsmoke: One Man’s Justice» in 1994.
In addition to the «Gunsmoke» series, James rose to prominence in the 1950s by participating in other films. Examples include «Wyoming Mail,» «Two Lost Worlds,» «The People Against O’Hara,» «Iron Man,» «The Lone Hand,» and «Island in the Sky.»
His role as Zeb Macahan in «How the West Was Won» solidified his fame as a television star in the United States and Europe. James co-starred in a television classic alongside Eva Marie Saint, Fionnula Flanagan, Bruce Boxleitner, and Richard Kiley. The show was so popular that one of its early episodes was novelized as a 400-page paperback «epic-length» novel.
Despite living a dazzling life in the spotlight, James had a rough background prior to marrying his second wife, who became his lifelong partner and died before him.
James King Aurness, the son of businessmen Rolf Cirkler Aurness and writer Ruth Duesler, enjoyed a very prosperous life as a Norwegian of German origin. When he was younger, James dabbled in theater acting, but he was uninterested in making a career out of it and instead chose to follow the call of the sea.
Peter Graves, the actor who starred in «Airplane!» and «Mission: Impossible,» is his older brother. Their mother instilled in them a love of the arts when they were little. Peter went after it right away, but James took considerably longer to realize it was his fate.
In 1943, James enrolled in the Navy. He fought alongside Peter during WWII, but he was not wholly uninjured. During the Battle of Anzio, his right leg was severely injured. He had many surgeries before being medically released.
Years later, when he was an experienced veteran at the pinnacle of his talents, James explored his passion for acting. While acting at a Los Angeles theater, a Hollywood agent noticed him and introduced him to Dore Schary, who cast him in a few roles in 1947.
A year later, he married Virginia Chapman, his first wife. James took Craig in as his own. Jenny and Rolf, the latter of whom won the world surfing championship in 1970, are James and Virginia’s two children. Craig, on the other hand, pursued photography and worked as an official photographer for National Geographic.
However, after 15 years of marriage, James and Virginia divorced, and James was granted legal custody of their children. Virginia finally fled to San Bernardino, California, and vanished shortly after the divorce was finalized. She died of a heroin overdose in 1977, two years after her daughter died of the same cause.
Janet was first hesitant about meeting James, a television personality, but since her son was a fan, she gave it a shot and trusted fate.
“I’m tensely waiting there when I hear a knock at the door. Oh my my, I thought, as this gigantic man entered through the entrance. He is a large man and was really nice, “She remembers having met James.
“We sat down after being introduced to one another, and Jim was so amiable and down to earth that my anxiety vanished. He was a skier, and I was interested in skiing when we first started conversing.”
Janet didn’t call James after their initial encounter until three months had passed. They scheduled a second dinner date, which marked the beginning of their everlasting relationship.
James and Janet exchanged vows in 1978 in a ceremony in Brentwood, Los Angeles. Even after James’ role as Marshal Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke” and his films, he and Janet continued to enjoy one other’s company.
The Los Angeles Times reports that James died on March 16, 2014, at the age of 88, from natural causes. Janet was at his side until he took his last breath. He left behind Janet, his Virginia-born son Rolf, and Janet’s stepson James.
Despite the separation, James continued to concentrate on his profession. Arness met Janet Surtees, his second wife, during the later seasons of «Gunsmoke.» He met Janet through the wife of his makeup artist Glen Alden. Janet and Alden’s wife shared a fashion business at the time.
Janet was first apprehensive to meet James, a television star, but because her son was a fan, she took a chance and trusted fate.
«I’m standing there tensely waiting when I hear a knock at the door.» Oh my goodness, I thought as this massive man walked through the door. «He is a big man who was really nice,» she recalls meeting James.
«We sat down after being introduced, and Jim was so friendly and down-to-earth that my nerves vanished. He was a skier, and I was interested in skiing when we first met.»
Janet didn’t call James again for three months following their first meeting. They planned a second dinner date, and that was the start of their lifelong relationship.
James and Janet married at a ceremony in Brentwood, Los Angeles, in 1978. Even after James’ role as Marshal Matt Dillon in «Gunsmoke» and his subsequent films, he and Janet remained close.
According to the Los Angeles Times, James died on March 16, 2014, at the age of 88, of natural causes. Janet was by his side until he breathed his last. He left Janet, his Virginia-born son Rolf, and Janet’s stepson James in his wake.