"Gunsmoke" star James Arness has died.
The television icon was 88 and was best known for his role as the straight shooting Marshal Matt Dillon on the long-running Western series. No cause of death was given.
After the weekly drama wrapped its run in 1975, Arness reprised the role in five made-for-TV movies from 1987 to 1994. It was a part that the actor was only able to secure after CBS' first choice for the role, John Wayne, passed.
The Minnesota-born Arness became famous for his portrayal of a lawman who was slow to anger, but occasionally forced to resort to violence to protect Dodge City. In fact, the 6 foot 7 actor seemed to inform his performance as the upstanding Dillon with his personal wartime experiences.
Before entering the entertainment business, he served as a rifleman during World War II. During his military service, Arness was wounded in combat in Italy and received both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Arness broke into Hollywood playing supporting roles in the 1947 drama "The Farmer's Daughter" and the 1951 science-fiction film "The Thing from Another Planet." But those roles were only a warm-up for his "Gunsmoke" turn.
From 1957 to 1961, "Gunsmoke" was television's number 1 rated show. By 1967, however, shifting tastes made the series seem anachronistic and ratings had fallen precipitously. In response, CBS threatened to cancel the show, but a campaign on the part of irate viewers saved the series from the chopping block.
Post-"Gunsmoke," Arness starred in "How the West Was Won," which debuted as a mini-series in 1977 and became a full series that aired in 1978 and 1979. He also appeared as a vengeful cop in the short-lived "McClain's Law" from 1981 to 1982.
Arness' brother, the actor Peter Graves, died last year.
He is survived by his wife, Janet; two sons, Rolf and Jimmy; and six grandchildren.