US actor James Arness, best known as Gunsmoke‘s iconic Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 seasons has died, aged 88.
The 6-foot-7 actor, who also starred in the 1950s sci-fi classics Them! and The Thing From Another World, passed away of natural causes at his home on Friday. His death comes 14 months after his brother, Mission: Impossible actor Peter Graves, died of a heart attack at age 83.
Arness’ official website posted a letter from the actor on Friday that he wrote with the intention that it be posted posthumously.
“I had a wonderful life and was blessed with some many loving people and great friends,” he said. “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.”
Gunsmoke aired from September 1955 to March 1975 for a total of 635 episodes. It set a record for the longest-running, live-action primetime series by seasons, since tied by NBC’s Law & Order.
Arness’ 20-year primetime stint is another record, since tied by Kelsey Grammer’s two decades as the character Frasier Crane on two shows, Cheers and then Frasier.
He also starred in the popular miniseries ’70s How the West Was Won, which was based on the 1962 MGM film.
His final TV series, the NBC police drama McClain’s Law, aired from 1981-82.
Source: Hollywood Reporter