Dennis Weaver, best known for his roles on TV classics Gunsmoke and McCloud, died Feb. 24 at his home in Ridgway, Colo., his publicist said Monday. He was 81.
Weaver was one of television’s original sidekicks, playing obtuse deputy Chester Goode (whose twangy "Miiister Dillon!" when addressing James Arness' Matt Dillon became a trademark), in the CBS Western Gunsmoke from 1955-64. He won an Emmy for the role in 1959.
From 1970-77, Weaver portrayed the more quick-witted deputy Sam McCloud, the sheriff from rural America who joins the NYPD. The series ran on NBC. Weaver reprised the role in a 1989 TV movie, The Return of Sam McCloud.
Weaver made appearances in several other television series, including Dragnet, Magnum P.I., and CBS’ Lonesome Dove: The Series.
He also notably starred in Steven Spielberg’s first movie-directing effort, the TV movie Duel, which premiered in 1971. Weaver played a man on a business road trip terrorized by a fuel tanker. Spielberg directed it right before helming Jaws.
Weaver’s most recent TV role was that of Henry Ritter on the ABC Family series Wildfire.