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|July 20, 1963 Dennis Weaver (left) and James
Arness of Gunsmoke
In 1955, when the director of Gunsmoke called Dennis Weaver to tell him he had landed the plum role of Dodge City deputy marshal Chester B. Goode, the actor was out delivering flowers. Back then the acting jobs were few and far between, and Weaver supplemented his income selling vacuum cleaners and working for a florist. Now, eight years later, Weaver lives in a sumptuous home on a hilltop in California's San Fernando Valley -- and, unlike star James Arness (who will play marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years) -- he wants out of the Western. "I don't think any less seriously about Chester than I did about King Lear in college," Weaver says -- then adds he would prefer to play Lear or almost anyone else. In 1964, Weaver will leave to make a pilot called Kentucky's Kid, which won't make it on the air, but he'll return to television and the cowboy hat in 1970 in the long-running McCloud.