“Gunsmoke” star Dennis Weaver was just getting tired of portraying Chester Goode on the hit CBS western. Why? Let him tell you.
“If I’d have known I would do that [role] for nine years, I wouldn’t have picked a character with a stiff leg,” he said jokingly in a 1997 interview with the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette. “Try making a campfire with a stiff leg.”
That portion from the 1997 interview was included in an obituary about Weaver, who died in 2006, in The Los Angeles Times.
Weaver, in order to make Goode really stand out as a sidekick to Marshal Matt Dillon, portrayed by James Arness, walked with a stiff leg. His gait and even vocal changes to make Goode into a compelling character brought Weaver an Emmy Award. He won it in 1959 for his work on “Gunsmoke.”
‘Gunsmoke’ Star Would Find Success Later On Playing ‘McCloud’ on NBC
Now he started on the classic TV western when it debuted on CBS in 1955. The show ends up being one that moves from radio to television. Besides Arness and Weaver, other actors in that first season included Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Bert Rumsey, Dabb Greer, and Howard Culver.
Ken Curtis joined the “Gunsmoke” cast in 1964 as Festus. Burt Reynolds played Quint Asper between 1962-65 before leaving for other TV and, obviously, movie success.
The fact that Weaver’s character is still beloved all these years later by faithful “Gunsmoke” viewers is a testament to his acting abilities. Sure, he was tired of playing Chester so he left. It took him a little time to find success again.
Weaver appeared for two seasons on CBS’s “Gentle Ben” in 1967-69. In 1970, he started a seven-year run playing “McCloud” on NBC. “McCloud” was part of the “NBC Mystery Theater” rotating series of shows, most popularly connected with “Columbo” starring Peter Falk and “McMillan & Wife” starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James.
Weaver Was Proud Environmentalist In Life Outside Of Acting
Those are three shows which classic TV fans can probably find somewhere in rerun land. Weaver, though, was more than just an actor. He served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1973-75. The “Gunsmoke” star believed in preserving the environment, too. Weaver established the Institute of Ecolonomics in 1993. The word “ecolonomics,” by the way, is a blending of two words, ecology and economics.
Weaver served his country in World War II in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot. After the war, he turned his attention to acting.
While continuing to play Chester on “Gunsmoke” Weaver also appeared in the Orson Welles film “Touch of Evil” in 1958. Other standout guest appearances were on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in 1960 and “The Twilight Zone” in 1961.