"Gunsmoke" star James Arness passes away at 88

By Ken Tucker
June 10, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Over the course of 20 seasons on Gunsmoke, James Arness embodied the best virtues of both the Old West and Western TV shows. The star, who died June 3 at age 88, was 6 foot 7 inches of rawboned decency. His Marshal Matt Dillon presided over Dodge City with a sense of justice that didn’t rule out violence: If you challenged Matt Dillon to a shoot-out, you’d eat dust pretty quickly. Arness also had a film career — he starred in The Thing From Another World and Them! — and a famous TV-star brother, Peter Graves (Mission: Impossible). But he will forever be best known for helping to bring a new, bracing realism to the TV Western with Gunsmoke, and doing it with a quiet modesty few stars will ever match.