Photo of James Arness James Arness

Born in Minneapolis on May 26, 1923, James Arness -- the older brother of actor Peter Graves -- began his show business career in 1945 as a radio announcer. Persuaded to try acting, Arness headed to Los Angeles and landed his first film role in 1947's The Farmer's Daughter.

Small parts followed for Arness in Battleground (1949) and Wagon Master (1950). A year later, he played the glowing title character in what would become a cult classic: The Thing from Another World. But his career faltered until mentor John Wayne gave Arness roles in three pictures and recommended him for the lead in the TV series "Gunsmoke," which ran 20 years (1955-75), made Arness a star and turned his small-screen persona into an icon.

After "Gunsmoke" was canceled, Arness was back in the saddle in "How the West Was Won," a 1977 miniseries that briefly became a weekly show. Before retiring in 1994, he reprised the part of Matt Dillon in five made-for-TV movies. Arness died June 3, 2011.

James Arness in Battleground


1949 NR

Director William Wellman dedicated this taut war film to "the battered bastards of Bastogne." The film tells the story of a U.S. Army division that's overrun by the Germans during the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. James Whitmore, who shines as a grizzled sergeant, leads a great cast (James Arness, Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban and John Hodiak). The movie won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

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