‘Gunsmoke’: Dennis Weaver’s Character Was Written Off Show. Why?

by Joe Rutland
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(Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

For a number of seasons, Gunsmoke had one of the best characters on the show played by Dennis Weaver. Do you remember his? Weaver played Chester Goode, who was a deputy to Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness. The Gunsmoke episodes featuring Chester were some of the best on the classic TV Western. Most of the time, though, Chester was Matt’s partner in keeping Dodge City safe from ruffians. Why did Weaver get written off the show?

‘Gunsmoke’ Actor Dennis Weaver Got Tired Of Show

Weaver said he made the call. He talked about it in a Television Academy Foundation interview back in 2002. “I’d done the show for nine years, and … I’d pretty much exhausted all creative possibilities with the character, and I just wanted to do something else,” he said.

Did he know the risks involved? You bet he did. Still, he held fast to his decision. “I felt it was time to move on,” Weaver said. “I know it was risky doing that because a lot of actors did the same thing and really disappeared.”

Good thing he had some stuff that lined up really sweet for the Gunsmoke star. His first series post-Chester was titled Kentucky Jones. It was a comedy that simply lasted one season on NBC. But he was not done with NBC just yet.

In 1970, Dennis Weaver started playing Marshal Sam McCloud on the police drama McCloud. That ran until 1977 and made a whole new generation connected with him in that role. People still see him riding on a horse into the big city as part of the show’s opening. Originally, McCloud was part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie rotation.

Once that ended, then McCloud would go on in its own time slot. Dennis Weaver ended up having two memorable TV roles and that’s because he took a risk and it paid off. We get more from Looper.

TV Western Hit CBS Airwaves Back In 1955

What about a little Gunsmoke history lesson? The show arrived on CBS back in 1955 and had a bit of a great kickoff. Imagine having one of the greatest Western movie stars of all time introducing the show.

That did happen. John Wayne, who was a good friend of James Arness, appears in the first couple of minutes in the show’s debut episode. He’s looking into the camera and asking the viewers to stay tuned and watch the show.

Wayne also gives a heads-up about watching Arness in the role. There’s something so interesting and wonderful about seeing him invite people to give Gunsmoke a chance. It ran for 20 seasons on CBS, giving the network great ratings in a Western drama.

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