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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 09:00 GMT
Gunsmoke actor Weaver dies at 81
Dennis Weaver, in 2003
Weaver gave a memorable turn as a car driver in Spielberg's Duel
Actor Dennis Weaver, best known for his roles in US TV series Gunsmoke and McCloud, has died at the age of 81.

"He was a wonderful man and a fine actor, and we will all miss him," said former Gunsmoke co-star Burt Reynolds.

Born in Missouri in 1924, Weaver's 50-year career included roles in Spielberg's Duel and, more recently, TV cartoon hit The Simpsons.

The Emmy-winning actor died in Colorado from complications of cancer. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Weaver, who served in World War II before training to become an actor in New York, made his debut on Broadway in Come Back, Little Sheba.

He made his film debut two years later in The Raiders, and played supporting parts in several other movies, including the nervous motel clerk in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil.

Dennis Weaver (l) and James Arness in Gunsmoke
Weaver (l) starred alongside James Arness in the TV western Gunsmoke

After an early appearance in an episode of the classic TV series Dragnet, he landed the Gunsmoke role, playing the lame sidekick Chester Goode.

Weaver played Goode with a pronounced limp and Western drawl for nearly 10 years, from 1955 to 1964, winning an Emmy in 1959.

President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1973 to 1975, he landed the title role in McCloud in 1975, a long-running TV series inspired by the Clint Eastwood film Coogan's Bluff.

But it was his memorable turn as David Mann, the car driver at the centre of Steven Spielberg's TV movie Duel in 1971, that brought him to the attention of later generations.

Environmental activist

A vegetarian and activist for environmental and charitable causes, in 1989 Weaver moved to Colorado to construct his Earthship, a solar-powered home built primarily from recycled materials.

At the time of his death, Weaver was appearing as family patriarch Henry Bergson on family drama Wildfire.

"His performance never ceased to dazzle us," a statement from the ABC network, which broadcasts Wildfire, said.

"He was an American legend not only for his contribution to the acting community but for his extensive and inspirational environmental work."

Obituary: Dennis Weaver
28 Feb 06 |  Entertainment


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