James Arness, Gunsmoke‘s Matt Dillon, has died at age 88. Arness (family name Aurness which he never legally changed) and his actor older brother, Peter Graves (who died in March 2010), came to Hollywood after WWII where James ended up in the performing group that surrounded John Wayne. Wayne became Arness’ mentor and when the Matt Dillon part came up he convinced him to take it. He kept the role for 19 years … plus came back a decade later to do a few made for television Gunsmoke movies.
Arness was also a private pilot whose exploits buzzing the Gunsmoke set were legendary.
Hollywood actor Peter Graves, best known as Jim Phelps in TV’s Mission Impossible, died yesterday at age 83 of a suspected heart attack.
Graves, the younger brother of another big TV actor, James Arness, made movies for 30 years as well… especially noted as the Nazi placed spy among the prisoners in Stalag 17 and the pilot in the 1980 disaster spoof Airplane.
Here’s a scene from that movie: