Who is James Arness Brother: Unveiling the Actor’s Sibling Identity

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By Alexander

James Arness, an iconic figure in American television history, is best known for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the long-running TV western “Gunsmoke.” His towering presence and commanding voice helped to make the show a staple of American entertainment for two decades. However, Arness’s legacy in the world of acting is shared with his brother, an equally esteemed member of the Hollywood pantheon.

Peter Graves, James Arness’s brother, carved out his own distinguished career in the film and television industry. Born Peter Duesler Aurness, Graves opted to use the family’s maternal surname professionally. His most famous role was that of Jim Phelps in the original “Mission: Impossible” television series. Despite the different surnames, the brothers shared a strong familial bond alongside their individual successes.

Both siblings contributed significantly to the arts and left indelible marks on their respective genres. While Arness was the quintessential Western hero, Graves was synonymous with the espionage and action-adventure genre. Their careers ran in parallel to each other, showcasing the range and versatility inherent in their acting lineage. So, who is James Arness Brother? Let’s talk about their sibling connection.

Early Life and Family

James Arness’ early life set the stage for a remarkable career in acting, shaped by his family’s creative roots and his own diverse experiences from education to military service.

Family Background

Born on May 26, 1923, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, James Arness was the son of a businessman and a journalist. His original name was James King Aurness, reflecting his Norwegian heritage. He had a younger brother, Peter Graves (born Peter Duesler Aurness), who would also pursue a career in Hollywood, gaining fame for his role in the TV series “Mission: Impossible.”

Education and Early Interests

Arness attended several schools, including John Burroughs Grade School, Washburn High School, and West High School in Minneapolis. During his high school years, he developed a keen interest in various activities, but nothing pointed yet toward his future acting career.

Military Service

World War II profoundly impacted Arness’ life. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served during the war. He was wounded in battle and was awarded the Purple Heart. His experiences during World War II would not only shape his character but also his acting, giving him the deep sense of gravitas that he was known for in his later roles.

James Arness’s Acting Career

James Arness, an iconic American actor, left an indelible mark on Hollywood through his portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon in the long-running television series “Gunsmoke,” along with a substantial film career that included both Westerns and other genres.

Breakthrough in Hollywood

James Arness’s film career was catalyzed by an introduction from John Wayne, which led to his first significant role in “The Farmer’s Daughter” (1947). His imposing stature and robust presence were well-suited for Westerns and action films, such as his role in the science fiction classic “The Thing from Another World” (1951).

Rise to Stardom with ‘Gunsmoke’

Arness’s major breakthrough came with his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the television Western Gunsmoke. Debuting in 1955, the series ran for a remarkable 20 seasons with Arness at the helm, making it one of the longest-running prime-time shows in American television history. His portrayal as the steadfast, moral leader became a cultural touchstone and significantly defined his career.

Other Significant Roles

Outside of “Gunsmoke,” Arness continued to diversify his repertoire. He starred in the epic Western series “How the West Was Won” and appeared in several television movies. His ability to transition across different genres underscored his versatility as an actor.

Late Career and Legacy

In his later career, James Arness reprised his iconic role in several Gunsmoke television movies during the 1980s and 1990s. His dedication to the character and the enduring popularity of the series solidified his status as a Hollywood legend. For his contributions to the television industry, Arness received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His lasting impact on the genre of Westerns and television at large remains evident to this day.

Peter Graves’s Career

Peter Graves was a notable American actor whose career spanned several decades. He gained widespread recognition for his roles in television and film. This should answer the question who is James Arness brother.

james arness brother

Early Roles and Achievements

Graves began his acting career with minor film roles in the 1950s. He quickly captured the attention of Hollywood and television audiences with his versatile performances. In 1955, he starred in the TV series “Fury,” as Jim Newton, which became a popular children’s show. Graves’s early career was marked by a variety of roles that showcased his breadth as an actor.

Prominence with ‘Mission: Impossible’

It was “Mission Impossible” that catapulted Graves to stardom. He joined the cast in 1967 as Jim Phelps, the pragmatic leader of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). The show ran for seven seasons and earned Graves a Golden Globe Award, solidifying his place as a distinguished actor on television.

Later Roles and Contributions

Beyond “Mission Impossible,” Graves remained active in the entertainment industry. He memorably played airline pilot Captain Clarence Oveur in the 1980 parody film “Airplane!” and reprised his role in the sequel. In his later years, Graves appeared in various TV series and lent his voice to animated shows, continuing his contributions to Hollywood.

Brotherly Bonds

James Arness, most renowned for his role as Marshal Matt Dillon in the television series “Gunsmoke,” shared a special bond with his brother, Peter Graves, a celebrated actor known for his work in “Mission: Impossible.”

james arness with his brother


Though James Arness and Peter Graves pursued separate paths in their acting careers, their brotherly relationship remained strong behind the scenes. They respected each other’s professional space and never appeared together in a television series or a movie, choosing to build their individual legacies without overlapping collaborations.

Public Perception and Private Life

To the public, James Arness and Peter Graves were known for their iconic television characters, but they managed to keep their private life distinct from their Hollywood personas. Despite their fame, they maintained a close-knit relationship, demonstrating that their brotherly bond transcended the glitz of stardom. They supported each other’s careers while ensuring that their familial ties stayed out of the limelight.

Recognition and Awards

James Arness, an iconic figure in television history, received several accolades throughout his career. His performance as Marshal Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke” brought him notable recognition and honors that solidified his legacy in the entertainment industry.

He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service during World War II before his illustrious acting career took off. This decoration, awarded in the name of the President of the United States, is given to those wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.

In recognition of his contributions to the portrayal of law enforcement on television, Arness was made an honorary United States Marshal. This rare honor was a testament to the authenticity and impact of his performance in “Gunsmoke.”

Arness’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 1751 Vine Street, is a permanent public monument to his achievements as an actor. His contributions to the entertainment industry are quite literally cemented into Hollywood history.

Award Recognition
Purple Heart For military service and injury
Honorary U.S. Marshal For his portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon
Hollywood Walk of Fame For his contributions to the film industry

His legacy continues to shine as both a respected actor and a decorated war veteran. These honors stand as a tribute to a man who managed both his military and acting careers with courage and distinction.

Personal Lives

James Arness, an iconic figure in American television history, is known for his portrayal of Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke.” His personal life, away from the camera’s eye, reflected his dedication to family and an interest in contributing positively to society.

Marriages and Family

James Arness was first married to Virginia Chapman, with whom he had his family. Their life together included navigating the intricacies of family and career in Minneapolis before Arness’s rise to fame. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce. Arness’s familial ties extended further than his immediate household, his brother Peter Graves is notable for his role in “Mission: Impossible” and other acting endeavors. Arness’s commitment to family was a central part of his life; he was a father and a husband, balancing his home life with the demands of his successful career.

Philanthropy and Off-Screen Interests

Off the screen, Arness dedicated time to philanthropy. He was known to have a deep interest in various charitable activities, although he was not very public about his endeavors. His actions spoke to his character—a man with a deep sense of responsibility to his community. Additionally, Arness had interests beyond acting, which included fishing and poetry, hobbies that offered him solace and a break from the pressures of his public life. These personal pursuits revealed a man of depth, who, despite his celebrity status, sought the simplicity and joy in life’s quieter moments.

Death and Memorials

In the context of the Arness family, the loss of both James Arness and his brother Peter Graves marked the end of an era in television history. Their passings were commemorated by fans and the entertainment industry alike.

James Arness’s Passing

James Arness, renowned for his iconic role as Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke,” passed away on June 3, 2011. His death was due to natural causes, specifically a heart attack. He was 88 years old at the time of his passing and was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. His memorial at the Forest Lawn is situated in the Great Mausoleum, Jasmine Terrace, Sanctuary of Abiding Hope, Crypt 16174.

Remembering Peter Graves

Peter Graves, best known for his role as Jim Phelps in the television series “Mission: Impossible,” passed away just prior to his 84th birthday on March 14, 2010. He was commemorated for his versatile career in television and film, including a noteworthy performance in the 1980 comedy “Airplane!”. His contributions to the industry were celebrated by colleagues and audiences who appreciated his work and dedication to his craft.