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James Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s Family

Date March 18, 2020 11:50

James Arness, the beloved actor, was a great talent. Despite being a rather shy and sensitive man, he achieved a lot of success in the TV industry. But what do we know about his personal life?

James Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyGetty Images / Ideal Image

James Arness’ movies and net worth

Born in Minnesota in 1923, Arness was dreaming about becoming a naval fighter pilot. However, he was afraid that his problems with sight might make his dream impossible to come true. Yet, it was his height - 6 ft. 7 inch., which is over 2 meters - that put an end to the flying career.

During World War II, he was sent to Italy as a rifleman where he was seriously injured in the right leg. Arness returned to the US and had several surgeries that finished his time in the Army. He had suffered from a chronic leg pain for the rest of his life, which created difficulties for him during his acting days.

James Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyGetty Images / Ideal Image

James Arness is mainly known for Western movies and TV series but he tried himself in other genres as well. He is mostly known for playing Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke for five separate decades. His other famous works include:

  • How the West Was Won;
  • McClain's Law;
  • The Thing from Another World;
  • Big Jim McLain;
  • Hondo.

How much money did he earn throughout his career? According to Celebrity Net Worth, James Arness’ net worth was $8 million.

James Arness’ wife and kids

The legendary actor had 3 serious relationships in his life. He was married twice: to Virginia Chapman and to Janet Surtees. With Virginia, he had 2 children: a daughter Jenny Lee and a son Rolf. James also adopted Chapman’s son Craig.

Jenny was an actress and played alongside her dad in Gunsmoke. She took her own life when she was 25 years old. Virginia followed her 2 years later.

Rolf became a keen surfer after suffering a skull fracture following a nasty fall from a tree. His father taught him how to surf in the hope to speed up his recovery. In 1970, Rolf became World Surfing Champion. He left surfing after losing his wife, mother, and sister.

Craig Arness chose a career in photography. He worked for National Geographic and became a founder of a stock photography agency.

It isn’t much known about James Arness’ second wife, Janet. The couple didn’t have any children together but Janet survived her famous husband. James passed away in 2011 at 88 years old from a natural cause.

James Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyJames Arness’ Wife And Kids: What Happened To “Gunsmoke” Actor’s FamilyGetty Images / Ideal Image

Before his passing, the actor wrote a letter that he wanted to be shared after he was gone. In it, he called Janet “the best part” of his life. Even though James Arness is no longer with us, his work still inspires many people and his name has become an eternal part of the cinema industry.

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