February 27, 2006

Dennis Weaver, famed for TV roles, dead at 81

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Dennis Weaver, best known for
playing the loyal, limping deputy to Marshal Matt Dillon on
"Gunsmoke" and as the urban lawman with a cowboy hat on
"McCloud," has died at age 81, his publicist said on Monday.

Weaver, a onetime president of the Screen Actors Guild who
earned an Emmy Award in 1959 for playing the lame sidekick
Chester Goode on "Gunsmoke," died on February 24 at his home in
Ridgway, Colorado, due to complications from cancer, said
spokesman Julian Myers.

Born in Joplin, Missouri, Weaver studied at the famed
Actors Studio in New York after serving in World War Two and
co-starred as Turk in the 1950 Broadway production of "Come
Back, Little Sheba."

He made his Hollywood film debut two years later in "The
Raiders," and played supporting parts in several other movies,
including the nervous motel clerk in Orson Welles' "Touch of

But Weaver, a tall, chiseled man with a laconic but
determined screen presence, made his biggest mark in

After an early appearance in an episode of the classic TV
cop series "Dragnet," he landed the "Gunsmoke" role of devoted
deputy Chester Goode, who walked with a limp, spoke with a
pronounced western twang and brewed a strong pot of coffee.
James Arness played the sheriff Matt Dillon.

One of the longest-running shows on U.S. television, and
one of the first adult westerns to appear in prime time,
"Gunsmoke" aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975. Weaver started with
the show, and stayed until 1964.

He left "Gunsmoke" to star in his own short-lived NBC
series, "Kentucky Jones," playing a veterinarian widower and
adoptive father to a 9-year-old Chinese orphan.

After starring in the 1967 feature film "Gentle Giant,"
about a bear captured in the Everglades by a wildlife ranger
and his son, Weaver went on to star for two seasons in the CBS
television adaptation of the film, "Gentle Ben."


In 1970, he returned to NBC in "McCloud," playing a lawman
from New Mexico who tracks an escaped prisoner to New York City
and ends up assigned to a Manhattan precinct, where his
maverick approach to law enforcement puts him at odds with the
chief of police.

He further distinguished himself from the rest of New
York's finest with his folksy delivery of the catch phrase,
"There you go," and by running around town wearing a cowboy hat
and sheepskin coat.

The show ran until 1977 in rotation with "Columbo" and
"McMillan and Wife" as one of the three original programs
comprising NBC's weekly "Mystery Movie" series.

Weaver served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from
1973 to 1975.

More recently, he appeared in 2000 in a cable television
remake of the western series "The Virginian" on TNT and had a
recurring role the following year on the ABC summer series "The