Alfred Hichcock Presents (1960). During his role
as Chester on Gunsmoke, Weaver appeared on The
Twilight Zone and
in Orson Welles' Touch
of Evil with Charlten Heston. |
wife of 60+ years, Gerry, at CBS's 75 year celebration
in 2003 (AP).
Gentle Ben. Clint Howard (left) is Ron Howard's brother.
Weaver introduced thie parents. "Because of
Dennis, Ron and I exist. … Dennis was a great
guy," said Clint Howard after Weaver's death.
Testimonials to Dennis Weaver ]
Weaver who played
stiff-legged Chester on "Gunsmoke" and
the cowboy cop hero in "McCloud," has died.
He was 81.
Publicist Julian Myers said Weaver died of complications from cancer
on Feb. 24, 2006 at his home in Ridgway, in southwestern Colorado,
A struggling actor in Hollywood in 1955, Weaver was
earning $60 a week delivering flowers when he was
offered $300 a week for a role in a new CBS television
series, "Gunsmoke." He learned that another actor had turned down
the same role at $400 a week. Weaver summoned his courage and asked for and
got $400. By the end of his nine years with "Gunsmoke," he
was earning $9,000 a week.
working with Jack Webb in his Dragnet film (and
later in the first incarnation of the TV series),
Weaver was called by Charles Marquis Warren (director
of Seven Angry Men and television's Gunsmoke director)
to audition for the role of Chester Goode, assistant
Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke. When he learned that his
co-star was 6' 7" James Arness, Weaver knew
he had to come up with something to help him stand
out. He devised an awkward limp and unusual way of
speaking for the character. Chester's popularity
helped to propel Gunsmoke into the ratings stratosphere,
and as the series ran for some 20 years, during which
time, Weaver would won an Emmy (1959). He also participated
as part of a singing trio with cast-mates Milburn
Stone (Doc Adams) and Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty).
Weaver first auditioned for the series, he found
the character of Chester "inane." He
wrote in his 2001 autobiography, "All
the World's a Stage," that he said to himself: "With
all my Actors Studio training, I'll correct this character by using
my own experiences
and drawing from myself."
The result was a well-rounded character that
appealed to audiences, especially with his
drawling, "Mis-ter Dil-lon." The
role brought him an Emmy in the 1958-59 season. In
the 1950s, Weaver also toured in a singing
trio with the series' Miss Kitty (Amanda
Blake) and Doc (Milburn Stone).
was a wonderful man and a fine actor, and we will
all miss him," said Burt Reynolds, who appeared
with Weaver in "Gunsmoke" in the early
went right up to the top and stayed there for the
first six years when Dennis was on,'' Arness said
in an interview. "Those were our highest-rated
years. Dennis and I became over the years fast
friends and stayed friends through the last 50
began airing as a 30-minute segment, Arness said,
so the actors only worked for three days. The remainder
of the week, he and Weaver traveled across the
country making personal appearances.
Gunsmoke cast - Matt, Chester, Kitty (Amanda
Doc (Milburn Stone) - became "a family people
came to love,'' said Arness, who is retired and
watches reruns of his show on TV Land. "On
Saturday nights, we'd get complaints from the ladies
who wanted to have a dinner party and at 10 at
night all the guys would leave to turn on the TV
and watch 'Gunsmoke.'''
last time the two worked together was in September
2005 when they taped a documentary marking the
50th anniversary of "Gunsmoke'' for distribution
was "a very, very skilled actor. He played the
country character Chester but he was trained on
the New York stage,'' Arness said.
In 1966, CBS starred Weaver and a 600-pound American
black bear in "Gentle
Ben," about a family that adopts a bear as a pet. The series was well-received,
but after two seasons the network decided it needed more adult entertainment,
and "Gentle Ben" was canceled.
Next came the character Sam McCloud, which Weaver
called "the most satisfying
role of my career." The "McCloud" series juxtaposed
a no-nonsense lawman from Taos, N.M., onto the crime-ridden streets
of New York City. His
wild-west tactics, such as riding his horse through Manhattan traffic,
drove local policemen crazy, but he always solved the case.
Rotating on Sunday nights with "Columbo" and "McMillan and
Wife," "McCloud" lasted from 1970 to 1977.
A vegetarian for most of his adult life, Weaver became an activist for protecting
the environment and combating world hunger. He served as president of Love
Is Feeding Everyone (LIFE), which fed 150,000 needy people a week in Los
Angeles County. He founded the Institute of Ecolonomics, which sought solutions
to economic and environmental problems. He spoke at the United Nations, U.S.
Congress, to college students and school children about fighting pollution
"Earthship" was the most visible of Weaver's crusades. He and his
wife Gerry built a solar-powered Colorado home out of recycled tires and
cans. The three-foot-thick walls helped keep the inside temperature even year
the garbage man comes," quipped Jay Leno, "how does he know where
the garbage begins and the house ends?"
10,000 square-foot home was put up for sale for $3.8
million before Weaver died, according to the actor's
Web site. A spokesman for Alpine Lodging & Real
Estate of Telluride, confirmed Monday it was still
countered: "If we get into the mindset
of saving rather than wasting and utilizing other
materials, we can save the Earth."
2003, he starred in a documentary of his ``Drive
to Survive,'' a caravan of alternative-fueled
that traveled from Santa Monica, California, to Washington,
D.C. The trip was to promote his nonprofit Institute
of Ecolonomics, a word Weaver made up by combining
and economics. He and his wife Gerry founded the organization
in 1993 to save the planet from pollution.
He also joined singer Willie Nelson to promote farmer-grown
biodiesel as an alternative fuel.
The tall, slender Weaver came by his
Midwestern twang naturally. He was
born June 4, 1924, in Joplin, Mo.,
where he excelled in high school drama
athletics. After Navy service in World War II, he enrolled at the University
of Oklahoma, and he qualified for the Olympic decathlon. He studied at
the Actors Studio in New York and appeared
in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite
Shelley Winters and toured in "Come Back, Little Sheba" with
Universal Studio signed Weaver to a contract in 1952
but found little work for him. He freelanced in features
and television until he landed "Gunsmoke." Among
his movies: "Touch of Evil," "Ten Wanted Men," "Gentle
Giant," "Seven Angry Men," "Dragnet," "Way
... Way Out" and "The Bridges at Toko-Ri."
Weaver appeared in dozens of TV movies, the most notable
being the 1971 "Duel." It
was a bravura performance for both fledgling director Steven Spielberg
and Weaver, who played a driver menaced by a large
truck that followed him down
a mountain road. The film was released in theaters in 1983, after Spielberg
had become director of huge moneymakers.
Weaver's other TV series: "Kentucky Jones," "Emerald Point
N.A.S.," "Stone" and "Buck James." Weaver starred
in 2005 in ABC Family's "Wildfire" as the eccentric owner
of a thoroughbred racing ranch. From 1973
to 1975, he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
He succeeded the late actor John Wayne as spokesman
for Great Western Bank for 14 years and hosted Starz
Entertainment's ``Westerns'' channel for the past nine
his career, Weaver, who was given a star on Hollywood
Boulevard's Wall of Fame in 1986, received
the Screen Actors Guild Award, Publicists Guild Award,
2002 Cowboy Spirit Award, Festival of the West Award,
Western Heritage Award and Hollywood Women's Press
Club Humanitarian Award, among others.
also has a star on
the Dodge City (KS) Trail of Fame. In 1981, he
was inducted into the
Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National
Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma
Attending Weaver's memorial service were James Arness, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, and Glenn Strange’s niece, Julie. Dennis’s wife, Gerry Weaver gave a tribute to her husband.
is survived by his wife of 60 years, Gerry Stowell;
three sons, Rick,
who was the producer of Magnum P.I.; Robby, who
acted in "The Greatest American Hero;'' and Rusty
who was a musician with the Rockodiles; and three