Dennis Weaver life and biography

Dennis Weaver picture, image, poster

Dennis Weaver biography

Date of birth : 1924-06-04
Date of death : 2006-02-24
Birthplace : Jopli, Missouri, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-05-24
Credited as : Drama Western actor, Gunsmoke, McCloud

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William Dennis Weaver (June 4, 1924 – February 24, 2006) better known as Dennis Weaver was an American actor, best known for his work in television, including roles on Gunsmoke, as Marshal Sam McCloud on the NBC police drama McCloud, and the 1971 TV movie Duel.

This lanky, laconic actor possessed an Everyman quality that rendered him perfect for the small screen. Dennis Weaver became a television mainstay for more than 40 years, appearing in everything from movies-of-the-week, to commercials, to his real bread-and-butter – series television – with such classics as "Gunsmoke" and "McCloud."


Born June 4, 1924 in Joplin, MO, Weaver excelled in high school drama and athletics. After serving in the Navy during WWII, the young actor earned a degree at the University of Oklahoma and qualified for the Olympic decathlon. After college, Weaver headed to New York City where he studied at the famed Actors Studio. He appeared in "A Streetcar Named Desire" opposite Shelley Winters, and on Broadway in 1950 as college suitor, Turk, in "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shirley Booth. After signing a contract with Universal Studios in 1952, Weaver migrated to Hollywood and made his screen debut in "The Raiders" (1952). He had supporting roles in three 1955 films – "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," "Ten Wanted Men" and "Seven Angry Men," before playing a twitchy motel clerk in Orson Welles' 1958 classic, "Touch of Evil." Weaver was also one of the moon dwellers Jerry Lewis would replace in the silly "Way, Way Out" (1960) and the wealthy westerner who courts Debbie Reynolds in the thriller "What's the Matter with Helen?" (1971).

On the small screen, his good looks and stalwart abilities translated far better and audiences responded to his take-charge personality. After appearing in small roles on several 1950s drama series, including episodes of "Dragnet" and "Schlitz Playhouse,” Weaver hit the big time in 1955. Cast as the limping, comic-relief deputy, Chester Goode, on "Gunsmoke," the part made him a major star and won him a 1957 Emmy for Best Supporting Actor. His trademark twang made Weaver one of the more popular Dodge City residents until he departed the series in 1964 to star in his own show, the short-lived "Kentucky Jones" (NBC), where he portrayed a veterinarian who adopts a nine-year-old Chinese orphan. Weaver also starred in the feature "Gentle Giant" (1967), about a bear captured in the Everglades and saved by a ranger and his son, which CBS turned into "Gentle Ben" (1967-69).

Weaver abandoned sweet family dramas to play his most beloved role, "McCloud" (NBC, 1970-77), a deputy from New Mexico who fights crime in the big city (Manhattan), but keeps the horse. The series, which premiered as part of NBC's "Mystery Wheel," alternating with the likes of "Columbo" and "McMillan and Wife" on the Sunday night schedule, solidified Weaver's popularity.

After the heady “McCloud” days, he was cop/celebrity best-selling author, "Stone" (ABC, 1979-80), before heading the cast of the CBS primetime serial, "Emerald Point, N.A.S" (1983-84), as a commanding officer of a naval air post. Weaver later played a dedicated trauma surgeon in "Buck James" (ABC, 1987-88) and also hosted the syndicated "Backstage at the Zoo" in 1991.

Between Weaver's many successful series, he also made a memorable impact in TV movies and miniseries. The best known of these was Steven Spielberg's minor masterpiece of terror, "Duel" (ABC, 1971), in which Weaver portrayed a man confronting an evil runaway truck. After Spielberg's later big screen success, the TV movie was released as a feature film in 1983, offering fans of both men a new appreciation of the unique film. After “Duel,” he was cast as Abraham Lincoln in "The Great Man's Whiskers" (NBC, 1973), a lighter look at the great president's life and times, and as Benjamin Fuller, the professor studying natives, in "Ishi: The Last of His Tribe" (NBC, 1978). Weaver offered a fine performance as the doctor who treats John Wilkes Booth, not knowing he has just assassinated Lincoln, in "The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd" (CBS, 1980). Weaver's common-Joe qualities played well in "Cocaine: One Man's Seduction" (NBC, 1983), in which he was a real estate agent whose life takes a new path after his addiction. In 1986, he was a factory foreman who gives up his job rather than admit he cannot read in "Bluffing It" (ABC). Weaver was also one of the producers of "The Return of Sam McCloud" (CBS, 1989).

An accomplished singer and songwriter, Weaver released an LP in 1977 titled simply, Dennis Weaver, as well as made the occasional appearance on variety TV specials, and hosted The Nashville Network special "A Tribute to Singing Cowboys" in 1993.

Apart from his acting career, Weaver was a dedicated environmentalist and human rights activist. He served as president of Love is Feeding Everyone (LIFE), which fed 150,000 needy people a week in Los Angeles County. He founded the Institute of Economics, which sought solutions to economic and environmental solutions, as well as spoke at the United Nations on causes he believed in, including fighting hunger and pollution. Weaver also built "Earthship," a solar-powered house constructed from recycled tires and cans that that he and his wife lived in, unashamedly.

Despite his ambitious activism, Weaver still found time to act, appearing as a ranch owner on ABC Family's "Wildfire" (2005- ) and as the on-air host of Encore's western channel. He lost his fight against cancer on Feb. 24, 2006, leaving behind a loving family and an enduring television legacy.

Filmography

* The Lawless Breed (1953)
* War Arrow (1953)
* Dangerous Mission (1954)
* Dragnet (1954)
* Ten Wanted Men (1955)
* Seven Angry Men (1955)
* Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
* Navy Wife (1956)
* Touch of Evil (1958)
* The Gallant Hours (1960)
* Duel at Diablo (1966)
* Gentle Giant (1967)
* Mission Batangas (1968)
* McCloud:Who Killed Miss U.S.A? (1970) (TV)
* A Man Called Sledge (1970)
* Duel (1971)
* Cry For Justice (1977)
* Cocaine: One Man's Poison (1983)
* Two Bits & Pepper (1995)
* Escape from Wildcat Canyon (1998)
* Submerged (2000) with Coolio, Maxwell Caulfield, Brent Huff and Nicole Eggert

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