American television actor Dennis Weaver best known for his roles as sidekick "Chester Goode" on TV's first "adult Western" Gunsmoke and as Marshal Sam McCloud on the NBC police drama McCloud, died Friday, age 81.
Weaver passed away from complications of cancer at his home in Ridgway, in southwestern Colorado, it was reported Monday by his publicist, Julian Myers.
Burt Reynolds, Weaver's co-star in "Gunsmoke" stated: "He was a wonderful man and a fine actor, and we will all miss him."
Weaver was born in Joplin, Missouri to Walter Weaver and Lena Prather. His first role on Broadway came as understudy to Chapman as Turk Fisher in Come Back, Little Sheba.
He eventually took over the role from Chapman in the national touring company. Solidifying his choice to become an actor, Weaver enrolled in The Actors Studio, where he met Shelley Winters.
During this time--the start of his acting career--he supported his family by doing a number of odd jobs, including selling vacuum cleaners, tricycles and women's hosiery.
In 1952, Winters aided him in getting a contract from Universal Studios. He made his film debut that same year in the movie The Redhead from Wyoming. Over the next three years, he played roles in a series of movies, but still had to work odd jobs to support his family.
It was while delivering flowers for one of these jobs that he heard he had landed his biggest break — the role of "Chester" on the new television series Gunsmoke — the highest-rated and longest-running series in TV history (1955 to 1975). He received an Emmy Award in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series.
From 1967 to 1969, he appeared on the television show Gentle Ben as Tom Wedloe.
He began appearing on the series McCloud in 1970, for which he received two Emmy Award nominations: in 1974, he was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series and in 1975, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series. His frequent use of the affirming Southernism, "There you go", became a catchphrase for the show.
From 1973 to 1975, he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
In 1978, he played the trail boss R.J. Poteet in the television miniseries Centennial on the episode titled "The Longhorns". Dennis Weaver also appeared in many acclaimed television films.
In 1980, he played Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was unjustly imprisoned for the Lincoln assassination, in The Ordeal Of Doctor Mudd. In 1983, he played a real estate agent addicted to cocaine in Cocaine: One Man's Seduction. Weaver received probably the best reviews of his career when he starred in the 1987 film Bluffing It, in which he played a man who is illiterate.
In February 2002, he appeared on the animated series The Simpsons (episode DABF07, "The Lastest Gun in the West") as the voice of aging Hollywood cowboy legend Buck McCoy.
For his contribution to the television industry, Dennis Weaver was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6822 Hollywood Blvd, and on the Dodge City Trail of Fame. In 1981, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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