LOS ANGELES - Dennis Weaver, the slow-witted deputy Chester Goode in the TV classic western "Gunsmoke" and the New Mexico deputy solving New York crime in "McCloud," has died, his publicist said Monday. The actor was 81.
Weaver died of complications from cancer on Feb. 24 at his home in Ridgway, in southwestern Colorado, publicist Julian Myers said.
A struggling actor in Hollywood in 1955, Weaver was earning $60 a week delivering flowers when he was offered $300 a week for a role in a new CBS television series, "Gunsmoke." He learned that another actor had turned down the same role at $400 a week. Weaver summoned his courage and asked for and got $400. By the end of his nine years with "Gunsmoke," he was earning $9,000 a week.
When Weaver first auditioned for the series, he found the character of Chester "inane." He wrote in his 2001 autobiography, "All the World's a Stage," that he said to himself: "With all my Actors Studio training, I'll correct this character by using my own experiences and drawing from myself."
The result was a well-rounded character that appealed to audiences, especially with his drawling, "Mis-ter Dil-lon."
At the end of seven hit seasons, Weaver sought other horizons. He announced his departure, but the failures of pilots for his own series caused him to return to "Gunsmoke" on a limited basis for two more years. The role brought him an Emmy in the 1958-59 season.