‘Gunsmoke’: Why Dennis Weaver Came Up With the Idea to Write Chester Out of the Show

by Taylor Cunningham
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For nearly a decade, Dennis Weaver played Chester Goode, Matt Dillion’s best friend on Gunsmoke. But long before the series aired its final episode, the classic TV character left Dodge City. And apparently, the decision was all Weaver’s idea.

While Weaver was enjoying an incredibly successful career playing Dillion’s right-hand man, the part began to wear thin on the actor. He worked on the show from 1955 to 1964, and he wanted to try other roles.

“I’d done the show for nine years,” Weaver shared, “And … I’d pretty much exhausted all creative possibilities with the character, and I just wanted to do something else.” 

Dennis Weaver knew that leaving Chester and Gunsmoke behind was a huge gamble. The job very well would have been his last because casting directors could have rightfully worried that audiences wouldn’t be able to see past his long-running persona.

In 2002, the actor even admitted to the Television Academy Foundation that ” a lot of actors did the same thing and really disappeared.” However, after considering his options, Weaver thought it was definitely “time to move on.”

Weaver’s final episode titled Bently aired on April 11, 1964. The story follows a man who confesses to a murder while on his death bed. But years before, that same man was acquitted of the crime. And Chester believes he’s lying. So he leaves Dodge City to find the truth.

Despite exiting 11 years before the series ended, Weaver managed to rack up 290 episodes with the show, which makes him the fifth most seen actor on Gunsmoke. He also won an Emmy for portraying the lawman and was nominated for three more.

After Leaving ‘Gunsmoke,’ Dennis Weaver Worked on a Steven Speilberg Film

In the end, the decision to leave didn’t end up being career suicide, either. His first project following the departure did end up being a flop though. Weaver scored the lead in a series called Kentucky Jones, which followed a war veteran, who unwittingly becomes a father after learning that his late wife adopted a son. But it never made it past the first season.

However, the actor went on to land long-running gigs on shows like Gentle Ben and Centennial. And he even worked in one of Steven Spielberg’s first movies called Duel.

But aside from his Gunsmoke run, his time on McCloud is Dennis Weaver’s most well-known work. Originally, NBC only intended the story to air as a made-for-TV movie. But Weaver did so well playing the lead that it turned into a series that ran for seven years.

The show even ended up getting several Emmy nominations. And Dennis Weaver earned one of those for his acting skills.

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