James Arness, the legendary American actor who played 'Dodge City' lawman 'Matt Dillon' for over two decades, has died aged 88. James Arness, known for his towering height of 6-foot 6-inches, passed away at his home in Brentwood, California, reports the Associated Press.
Arness' official website posted a letter from the actor on Friday, which he wrote with the intention that it be circulated posthumously. James said, "I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends". Arness, who starred as U.S. Marshal Dillion in 'Gunsmoke' from 1955-1975, continued, "I wanted to take this time to thank all of you for the many years of being a fan of Gunsmoke, The Thing, How the West Was Won and all the other fun projects I was lucky enough to have been allowed to be a part of. I had the privilege of working with so many great actors over the years". In later life, the actor became an intensely private man, opting to enjoy outdoor life in favour of Hollywood parties. John Wayne famously rejected the leading role in 'Gunsmoke', recommending his friend Arness instead. Despite James' early reservations, Wayne urged him, "Go ahead and take it, Jim. You're too big for pictures. Guys like Gregory Peck and I don't want a big lug like you towering over us. Make your mark in television".
James Arness' two decade prime-time run as the marshal is rivalled only by Kelsey Grammer's 20 years on the hit US show 'Frasier'.