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James Arness Biography

Birth Name:
James Aurness
Birth Place:
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

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)


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


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