James Arness Biography: Children, Net Worth, Height, Age, Cause Of Death, Wife, IMDb

November 15, 2023 0 Posted By Abigail Anderson


James Arness (born May 26, 1923) was a well-known American actor best remembered for his 20-year starring as Marshal Matt Dillon in the famous CBS television series Gunsmoke

James Arness exhibited his outstanding talent in a range of films during his illustrious career, including The Thing (1951), in which he left a lasting impression on viewers, as well as How the West Was Won (1976) and The Macahans (1976), in which he further cemented his image as a versatile actor.

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James Arness: History ‧ Bio ‧ Photo
Wiki Facts & About Data
Full Name: James King Aurness
Stage Name: James Arness
Born: 26 May 1923 (age 88 years old)
Place of Birth: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Died: 3 June 2011, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Nationality: American
Education: Beloit College
Height: 2.01 m
Parents: Rolf Cirkler Aurness, Ruth Duesler Aurness
Siblings: Peter Graves
Spouse: Janet Surtees (m. 1978–2011), Virginia Chapman (m. 1948–1960)
Girlfriend • Partner: Thordis Brandt (1970-1972), Tura Satana
Children: Jenny Lee Aurness, Rolf Aurness, Craig Aurness
Occupation: Actor • TV Personality
Net Worth: $8 million

Early Life & Education

James Arness, the iconic actor, was born James King Aurness on May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the older of two sons born to Rolf Cirkler Aurness, a traveling salesman, and Ruth Duesler Aurness, a newspaper columnist. 

Arness‘ father was of Norwegian descent, and his mother was of German descent. He has a younger brother named Peter Graves

James Arness attended John Burroughs Grade SchoolWashburn High School, and West High School in Minneapolis. He could have been a better student, and he often skipped classes. 

After graduating from high school in 1942, Arness enrolled at Beloit College in Wisconsin. He studied drama and joined the campus choir and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.


James Arness‘ career started in the 1940s, during which he appeared in a handful of films, such as The Farmer’s Daughter (1947) and Wagon Master (1950). Nevertheless, it was only when he secured the role of Matt Dillon that he reached the heights of stardom.

GunsmokeArness remained active in the entertainment industry, taking on various roles in both television and film. One notable project he was involved in was the Western series How the West Was Won, which aired from 1977 to 1978. Additionally, he appeared in made-for-television movies such as Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987) and The Tracker (1993).

James Arness achieved success in the field of voice acting as well. He was responsible for lending his voice to the main character in the animated series Mighty Mouse (1967-1973). He also contributed his vocal talents to various Rankin/Bass Christmas specials characters. Notably, Arness portrayed Santa Claus in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).

Awards & Nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 1957: Nominated Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series, Gunsmoke

Western Heritage Awards

  • 1967: Won Bronze Wrangler, Fictional Television Drama, Gunsmoke, for the episode “Death Watch.”
  • 1972: Won Bronze Wrangler, Fictional Television Drama, Gunsmoke, for the episode “Pike.”
  • 1976: Won Bronze Wrangler, Fictional Television Drama, The Macahans

Social Media

James Arness, the American actor best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, had no social media accounts.

Personal Life

James Arness, the famous actor, was married twice in his lifetime. He first tied the knot with Virginia Chapman in 1948. Together, they had three children named Jenny Lee AurnessRolf Aurness, and Craig Aurness

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Jenny died from a drug overdose in 1975. Virginia also succumbed to a drug in 1977. 

However, James Arness found love for the second time when he married Janet Surtees in 1978. Their marriage lasted until he died in 2011.

James Arness was in a committed relationship with Thordis Brandt from 1970 to 1972. Additionally, James Arness had a notable encounter with Tura Satana.

Net Worth

James Arness, a highly renowned actor, amassed a substantial net worth valued at approximately $8 million before his unfortunate passing in 2011. Throughout his extensive 50-year acting journey, he accumulated this wealth through his remarkable performances on screen. 

Arness‘ talent and dedication allowed him to flourish in the entertainment industry, leaving behind an impressive legacy that continues to inspire aspiring actors today.

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