WWII,US Army, Wounded at Anzio. Purple Heart and Bronze Star
Brother of actor Peter Graves.
An infantry soldier during World War II, Arness took part in the landings at Anzio, Italy. It was during this battle that he was shot in the foot and wound up losing part of it, an injury that made it difficult for him to walk for extended stretches. When shooting movies or TV shows, any scenes that required extensive walking would be shot early in the morning, before his feet and knees started giving out.
His status as a Republican disappointed Lady Bird Johnson, who was a fan of "Gunsmoke" (1955).
Was rightly touted as the tallest leading man in Hollywood, although this title has since been taken by other stars, mainly basketball players turned "actors."
According to an article on TV westerns in Time Magazine (March 30, 1959), Arness stood 6' 7", weighed 235 lbs, and had chest-waist-hips measurements of 48-36-36
On June 20, 2003, Arness was honored at Los Angeles City Hall by the mayor, the 15 City Council members and the City Attorney with a resolution honoring his life's work as an actor and 60-year resident of Los Angeles. The colorful resolution included a depiction of a U.S. Marshal's badge and a salute to his work as Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" (1955) and its over-20-year duration as TV's longest-running drama series. It also recalled his heroism during World War II and thanked him for "leaving us with one of the most telling and realistic portraits ever created of the brave, tall man in the saddle who tames a western town as he searches for justice and peace." Arness called it "the most wonderful day in his life" and says the resolution is now framed and in a prominent place in his home. By the way, he received a standing ovation that morning.
His daughter, Jenny Lee Arness, committed suicide on May 12, 1975.
Made four movies with John Wayne during the 1950s. He was also originally cast in Rock Hudson's role opposite Wayne in The Undefeated (1969).
Held the record for the longest continuous role portrayed by a single actor (20 years) on prime-time television (for Marshal Matt Dillon on the CBS western "Gunsmoke" (1955)), until Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" (1982) and "Frasier" (1993)) tied the record in 2004 (at 20 years).
Attended Beloit College.
Became U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" (1955) after John Wayne, originally offered the role, turned it down and suggested Arness to play it.
Did not attend the premiere of The Thing from Another World (1951) because he found his role as the Thing embarrassing. He often remarked that he felt his make up as "The Thing" made him look like a giant carrot.
He was the tallest actor ever to play a lead role until Brad Garrett (6' 8 1/2") in "Til Death".
Has two sons: Craig Aurness and Rolf Aurness.
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