‘Gunsmoke’: Dennis Weaver Appeared Alongside James Arness Among Other Classic TV Stars in His First Movie

by Joe Rutland
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“Gunsmoke” star Dennis Weaver happened to find himself next to an actor who went on to be a co-star down the road in his first film.

Weaver, who played Chester Goode on the long-running CBS western, appeared in a movie called “Horizons West” in 1952. He happened to be a Universal Pictures contract actor at the time. Weaver found himself sharing screen time with a guy named James Arness.

That name obviously stands out to classic TV fans as Arness played Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke.” There were a number of other future classic TV stars in it, too, according to a MeTV article.

‘Gunsmoke’ Star Was On Show Between 1955-64 Before He Left Role

Raymond Burr starred in “Perry Mason,” another CBS powerhouse, starting in 1957. John McIntire would go on to star in “Wagon Train” and “The Virginian.” By the way, Frances Bavier showed up in the movie, too. Obviously, Bavier went on to play Aunt Bee on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Weaver played Goode on “Gunsmoke” from 1955-64. He did briefly leave the show, but came back and stayed on the hit CBS western until 1964.

His next TV starring role was on another CBS show called “Gentle Ben” as he co-starred with Clint Howard. That name might be familiar, too, as Howard is the brother of Ron Howard.

But the “Gunsmoke” actor found further success as Marshal Sam McCloud on NBC’s drama “McCloud.” Dennis Weaver died on Feb. 24, 2006, at 81 years old.

Weaver Reached A Point Where He Got Tired Of Playing His Character

Weaver admitted he was tired of playing Chester, who was the right-hand man of Matt Dillon on the show.

“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 in a 1997 interview with the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette. “Try making a campfire with a stiff leg.” The interview was part of an obit written about Weaver in The Los Angeles Times.

Weaver did it so Goode stood out next to Dillon. With that gait and changing his voice to enhance that character, the actor ended up winning an Emmy Award in 1959.

“Gunsmoke” became television’s longest-running western series. The action in Dodge City held court on CBS’s primetime lineup for 20 years. Actors would come and go on the show, but Arness always was there to keep criminals in their place. Besides Weaver and Arness, others who graced the TV show’s lineup included Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone, Burt Reynolds, Buck Taylor, and Dabbs Greer.

Originally, the show was a popular radio program. There’s even a classic TV connection here. William Conrad was the radio voice of Dillon. He later starred in the 1970s private-eye show “Cannon” as Frank Cannon on CBS.

Outsider.com