Acting Career: Stage, Movies, Television, Directing
Actor Dennis Weaver is perhaps best known for his television roles in “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud.” However, his acting career began on the stage. In his twenties, as a member of the famed Actors Studio, Dennis made his Broadway acting debut in “Out West of 8th,” directed by Burgess Meredith. He went on to tour nationally with Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer in William Inge’s prizewinning play, “Come Back Little Sheba,” and also appeared on on state in several other plays including Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “All My sons.” During this time, Gerry helped support the family working for American Tobacco as a billing operator.
Discovered at the Actors Studio in New York by Shelley Winters, he was soon signed by Universal Studios and moved to Hollywood. In 1952 made his film debut in the movie “The Redhead from Wyoming.” Over the next three years, he played roles in a series of movies. He was delivering flowers for a family shop when he heard he had landed first big break — the role of Chester Goode on the new television series “Gunsmoke.” The series went on to become the highest-rated and longest-running series in US television history (1955 to 1975). He received an Emmy Award in 1959 for his role in “Gunsmoke.”
A gifted actor, Dennis starred in nine television series, including “Gunsmoke,” “Gentle Ben,” and “McCloud,” for which he earned two Emmy nominations. He also played leading roles in 40 motion pictures, including Orson Welles’ 1958 masterpiece “Touch of Evil” and the 1971 TV classic “Duel,” directed by the young Steven Spielberg.
Weaver’s illustrious career included a term as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood and on the Dodge City (KS) Trail of Fame.
Throughout his acting and directing career, he was known for humor and innovation. “It was Dennis’s idea to ride his horse down the street for the opening of McCloud,” said Gerry. “He also did a lot of his own stunts, and was once left dangling from a helicopter above a NY rooftop.”