Fast Facts

  • Was wounded and received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his actions at Anzio during World War II.
  • Was a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.
  • Signed to play Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke in 1955 after John Wayne turned down the part.
  • Made four films in three years with the Duke: Big Jim McClain (1952), Hondo (1953), Island in the Sky (1953) and The Sea Chase (1955).
  • Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
  • Coauthored the memoir James Arness: An Autobiography (2001).


  • 1959, Emmy — Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series: Nominee
  • 1957, Emmy — Best Continuing Performance by an Actor: Nominee
  • 1958, Emmy — Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic or Comedy Series: Nominee


  • Virginia Chapman — Ex-wife
  • Craig Arness — Son
  • Jim Surtees — Stepson
  • Janet Surtees — Wife
  • Rolf Cirkler Aurness — Father
  • Rolf Arness — Son
  • Jenny Lee Arness — Daughter
  • Peter Graves — Brother
  • Ruth Duesler Aurness — Mother


  • Attended Beloit College, Beloit, WI

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  • Birth Name: James Aurness
  • Birth Place: Minneapolis, MN
  • Died: June 3, 2011
  • Profession: Actor

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