‘Gunsmoke’ Star Dennis Weaver Explained Why He Left Show: ‘A Little Naive’

by Joe Rutland
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Dennis Weaver decided to leave his role as Chester Goode on “Gunsmoke” after nine seasons. Why would he leave a successful TV show?

Weaver, who died on Feb. 24, 2006, at 81 years old, told The Toronto Star about his reasoning in a 1987 interview. A portion of that interview appeared in an article on Weaver’s death in The Los Angeles Times.

“The reason I got away from ‘Gunsmoke’ was that I wanted to leave the second banana role,” Weaver said to the Toronto newspaper. “It was a very important — and frightening — step for me career-wise. I was a little naive. ‘Gunsmoke’ was the only series that I had done up to that point and I thought, well, I’d just get another series and I’d get a successful one. But that’s not the way things happened.”

‘Gunsmoke’ Star’s Next Series Didn’t Hit But He Found His Groove In Following One

He’s right because Weaver’s next series just lasted two seasons on CBS. Weaver acted in “Gentle Ben” along with Clint Howard, who previously appeared in “The Andy Griffith Show,” which his brother, Ron, starred in.

But all hope was not lost. Just as fast as you can say “There you go,” Weaver started playing Deputy Marshal Sam McCloud. “McCloud” made its debut on NBC in 1970 and would be on the network for seven seasons, keeping Weaver in business as a policeman from the west. He would join the New York Police Department and handle cases in his own unique style.

The western theme for Weaver also fit his off-screen life as he lived in Colorado for many years. There was no real connection between “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud” other than Weaver.

Weaver Happened To Win Emmy Award For Role On Classic TV Western

One more interesting thing about Weaver acting on the James Arness-starring CBS show is that he won an Emmy Award. Yes, Weaver won an Emmy in 1959 for “Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series.”

But Weaver wanted to get out of the shadow and stop playing Chester. So, he left “Gunsmoke” and went on to other things. Weaver finds himself with a pretty sweet movie deal, playing in the TV movie “Duel.” It’s notable because “Duel” is the first movie by director Stephen Spielberg back in 1971.

Arness, though, was quite happy to keep playing Dillon in Dodge City.

“Gee, as far as playing him, it was wonderful,” Arness said in an interview with True West Magazine. “It took me a little while to get into the groove. When we first started, I had played a number of different parts in pictures and everything but never had to carry that much responsibility.”

“Gunsmoke” gave Arness, whose brother was actor Peter Graves of “Mission: Impossible” fame, steady work for 20 seasons. It also made him a household name across the United States and around the world.

Outsider.com