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'Gunsmoke' star James Arness dies at 88

Update: Brian William's Nightly News profile of James Arness added at the bottom of this post.

Men of a certain age remember James Arness as the template of masculinity during their youth. The character of Marshal Matt Dillon became one of those male archetypes that we all measured ourselves against. It’s why I had a cowboy hat, boots and six-shooter cap guns as a small boy.  I even recall Johnny Cash talking about practicing his quick draw skills against TV’s Dodge City lawman. I think about that every time I hear Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town”.

AP file

Actor James Arness, portrays Marshal Matt Dillon in a scene from the CBS-TV series "Gunsmoke" in 1967. CBS spokesman Chris Ender says former "Gunsmoke" star James Arness died June 3, 2011 of natural causes. He was 88.

AP reports

James Arness, the 6-foot-6 actor who towered over the television landscape for two decades as righteous Dodge City lawman Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke," died Friday. He was 88.

The actor died in his sleep at his home in Brentwood, Calif., according to his business manager, Ginny Fazer.

Read the full story.

Practice your quick draw skills against Marshal Matt Dillon with the video below.

See the opening sequence of "Gunsmoke."

James Arness, best known as the star of the long-running TV show "Gunsmoke," has died. NBC's Brian Williams reports.