‘Gunsmoke’: Here’s What James Arness Told Dennis Weaver When He Left for ‘Greener Pastures’

by Joe Rutland
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James Arness offered some thoughts to Dennis Weaver as he was leaving “Gunsmoke” for his own TV show. Turns out Arness was right.

Weaver, who played Chester Goode on the popular CBS western, wanted to go beyond his then-current popular role. Arness, in a 1962 interview with Australia’s TV Times, thought his costar would be back. “Gunsmoke” was entering its seventh season when this interview took place.

“When Dennis left the show this past season to seek out greener pastures I told him he’d be back,” Arness said. “And, he did return. But for a while it was kind of tough trying to figure out what would happen to the show with him gone.”

‘Gunsmoke’ Fans Demanded Chester Return to TV

The outcry for Chester to be on “Gunsmoke” proved too much to ignore. Fans wrote letters into the network, wanting Weaver’s character to be a part of their favorite TV show.

“We were swamped with letters asking for him,” Arness said. “So when his own TV show idea fell through he came back. I was mighty happy to see him.”

Weaver didn’t fully leave the show. It wasn’t a permanent break, according to Arness. There was room for him to come back if he wanted to do so.

Obviously, Weaver did. The next question was going to be how many times Chester would appear on “Gunsmoke” from that point forward.

Arness Believed Weaver Would Be Around For a Bit

“Right now,” Arness said, “Chester (Dennis Weaver) says he’s only going to be around for 15 more episodes. But I’m convinced that he’s convinced it’ll probably wind up being 50.”

Weaver’s stay in Dodge City ran from 1955-64, when he left the series for good. Another generation of TV viewers remember Weaver as playing Marshal McCloud in NBC’s “McCloud,” part of its “NBC Sunday Mystery Movie” rotating series.

Dennis Weaver died from prostate cancer on Feb. 24, 2006. James Arness died on June 3, 2011.

“Gunsmoke” stayed on CBS for 20 seasons. Weaver could proudly, during and after his time on the show, say that he played a role in the show’s success.

Outsider.com