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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 11:28 GMT
Obituary: Dennis Weaver
Dennis Weaver and James Arness in Gunsmoke
Weaver (l) rose to fame as Deputy Chester Goode n Gunsmoke
Actor Dennis Weaver, best known for playing the loyal deputy to Marshall Matt Dillon on US TV's Gunsmoke, has died at the age of 81 after a long and varied career.

Weaver, who was born in Missouri on 4 June 1924, served with American forces in World War II before becoming an actor whose career would span 50 years.

After studying at the University of Oklahoma - where he narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Olympic decathlon - Weaver went to the Actors Studio in New York, landing roles in a number of stage plays.

He appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite Shelley Winters, and toured in Come Back, Little Sheba with Shirley Booth.

In 1952 he switched his attention to film after signing a deal with Universal Studios.

But apart from roles in a handful of films, such as The Raiders and Law and Order, Universal found Weaver little work.

Presence

In 1955, when Weaver was working as a flower deliveryman to supplement his TV freelance work, his big break arrived.

He was offered the part of Deputy Chester Goode in Gunsmoke, opposite James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, and Burt Reynolds.

At first Weaver considered his role "inane", but his slow-drawling character with a limp gave him a memorable on-screen presence.

Dennis Weaver in 1977
Weaver's most satisfying role was as cowboy cop McCloud

The role, which he played until 1964, earned him an Emmy award in the late 1950s.

More TV series followed Gunsmoke, including Gentle Ben in the mid-1960s, Kentucky Jones, Emerald Point NAS, Stone and Buck James.

He also starred in Steven Spielberg's 1971 film Duel as a car driver terrorised by a psychopathic truck driver.

Weaver's most personally satisfying role came in 1977 when he was cast as Sam McCloud - a New Mexico policeman on the streets of New York with a horse, a cowboy hat and a sheepskin coat.

More recently, he appeared in an episode of The Simpsons and last year starred as the eccentric owner of a thoroughbred racing ranch in Wildfire.

Environment

Off-screen, Weaver served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and was a committed vegetarian and environmentalist, working actively for charitable causes.

He was president of Love Is Feeding Everyone - a food scheme that fed 150,000 needy people from the Los Angeles area every week.

Dennis Weaver
The actor continued working until 2005

And in 1993, he founded Institute of Ecolonomics, which sought solutions to economic and environmental problems.

Weaver believed passionately in promoting the economic growth of all cultures while using sustainable natural resources.

He spoke at the United Nations, the US government, university students and school children about fighting pollution.

Even his own home was testament to his beliefs.

He and his wife Gerry built a solar-powered home in Colorado - nicknamed Earthship - out of recycled tyres and cans where they lived since 1989.

Weaver died in Colorado from complications of cancer. He is survived by his wife and three sons.




SEE ALSO
Gunsmoke actor Weaver dies at 81
28 Feb 06 |  Entertainment

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