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James Arness Dies At 88, Filmed Legendary TV Show Gunsmoke In Santa Clarita

TV legend, James Arness, passed away today at his home in Brentwood, Calif., from natural causes at the age of 88.

Arness is a native Minnesotan and a World War II vet.

His debut role was opposite Loretta Young in a movie called The Farmer’s Daughter. He also worked closely with friend, John Wayne, and made movies including Islands in the Sky, Hondo, The Sea Chase and Big Jim McLain.

Arness was best known for his roles as U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon in the hit TV show Gunsmoke. Gunsmoke was one of the earliest "adult westerns," centering around the exploits of Marshal Matt Dillon in the town of Dodge City, Kansas in 1873.


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Gunsmoke began filming at Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita with their first episode in 1955. They continued to film there for several years after, until Melody Ranch burned down in 1962. Gunsmoke was cancelled in 1975 but is now known as TV’s longest running dramatic series.

In 2006, Arness was honored with an award and bronze star featured at Santa Clarita’s Walk of Stars.

"We were very honored that he was able to make it out here when his star was placed on the Walk of Western Stars," said Mayor Marsha McLean.

“[It] certainly is a great honor, it’s a great pleasure to be part of all this,” said Arness in an interview done in 2006 with SCVTV's Leone Worden.

In the interview, Arness also mentioned his fond memories of passing through the Santa Clarita Valley.    “It was beautiful then. It was sort of virgin country. We could shoot any direction, up in the hills or down in the — it was great out there then,” said Arness.

“He’s just an amazing man who had such a long and dignified career,” said Santa Clarita city council member, Laurene Weste. “He was an icon in that genre and was always the epitome of an American hero and we are so sorry to have lost him.”

Jim is survived by his wife, two sons, and six grandkids.

James Arness left a good-bye message to his fans, which can be read here.