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Dennis Weaver of McCloud fame died

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    Dennis Weaver, famed for TV roles, dead at 81

    Mon Feb 27, 2006 4:12 PM ET

    By Steve Gorman

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Dennis Weaver, best known for playing the loyal, limping deputy to Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's "Gunsmoke" and as the urban lawman with a cowboy hat on "McCloud," has died at age 81, his publicist said on Monday.

    Weaver, a onetime president of the Screen Actors Guild who earned an Emmy Award in 1959 for playing the lame sidekick Chester Goode on "Gunsmoke," died on February 24 at his home in Ridgway, Colorado, due to complications from cancer, said spokesman Julian Myers.

    At the time of his death, Weaver was co-starring as the weathered but wise horse rancher and family patriarch Henry Bergson on "Wildfire," a drama on cable TV's ABC Family channel.

    Born in Joplin, Missouri, Weaver studied at the famed Actors Studio in New York after serving in World War Two and co-starred as Turk in the 1950 Broadway production of "Come Back, Little Sheba."

    He made his Hollywood film debut two years later in "The Raiders," and played supporting parts in several other movies, including the nervous motel clerk in Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil."

    But Weaver, a tall, lanky actor with chiseled features and a laconic but determined screen presence, made his biggest mark in television.

    After an early appearance in an episode of the classic TV cop series "Dragnet," he landed the "Gunsmoke" role of the marshal's devoted deputy Chester, who walked with a limp, spoke with a pronounced western twang and brewed a strong pot of coffee. James Arness played his boss, Marshal Matt Dillon, whom Chester always addressed as "Mister Dillon," which became a signature phrase on the western classic.

    One of the longest-running shows on U.S. television ever, and one of the first adult westerns to appear in prime time, "Gunsmoke" aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975. Weaver started with the show and stayed until 1964.

    He left "Gunsmoke" to star in his own short-lived NBC series, "Kentucky Jones," playing a veterinarian widower and adoptive father to a 9-year-old Chinese orphan.


    After starring in the 1967 feature film "Gentle Giant," about a bear captured in the Everglades by a wildlife ranger and his son, Weaver went on to star for two seasons in the CBS television adaptation of the film, "Gentle Ben." Continued ...

    © Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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