Dennis Weaver (actor * singer)(TV-Sheriff McCloud):|
William Dennis Weaver (June 4, 1924 – February 24, 2006) was an American actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, best known for his work in television and films from the early 1950s until not long before his death in 2006. Weaver's two most famous roles were as Marshal Matt Dillon's trusty partner Chester Goode/Proudfoot on the CBS western Gunsmoke and as Deputy Marshal Sam McCloud on the NBC police drama McCloud. He starred in the 1971 television film Duel, the first film of director Steven Spielberg. He is also remembered for his role as the twitchy motel attendant in Orson Welles' film Touch of Evil (1958).
Weaver was born June 4, 1924, in Joplin, Missouri, the son of Walter Leon Weaver and his wife Lenna Leora Prather. His father was of English, Irish, Scottish, Cherokee, and Osage ancestry. Weaver wanted to be an actor from childhood. He lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, for several years and for a short time in Manteca, California. He studied at Joplin Junior College, now Missouri Southern State University, then transferred to the University of Oklahoma at Norman, where he studied drama and was a track star, setting records in several events. During World War II he served as a pilot in the United States Navy, flying Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft. After the war, he married Gerry Stowell (his childhood sweetheart), with whom he had three children. Under the name Billy D. Weaver, he tried out for the 1948 U.S. Olympic team in the decathlon, finishing sixth behind 17-year-old high school track star Bob Mathias. However, only the top three finishers were selected. Weaver later commented, "I did so poorly [in the Olympic Trials], I decided to ... stay in New York and try acting."
Weaver's first role on Broadway came as an understudy to Lonny Chapman as Turk Fisher in Come Back, Little Sheba. He eventually took over the role from Chapman in the national touring company. Solidifying his choice to become an actor, Weaver enrolled in The Actors Studio, where he met Shelley Winters. In the beginning of his acting career, he supported his family by doing odd jobs, including selling vacuum cleaners, tricycles, and women's hosiery.
In 1952, Shelley Winters helped him get a contract from Universal Studios. He made his film debut that same year in the movie The Redhead from Wyoming. Over the next three years, he played in a series of movies, but still had to work odd jobs to support his family. It was while delivering flowers that he heard he had landed the role of Chester Goode, the limping, loyal assistant of Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) on the new television series Gunsmoke. It was his big break; the show would go on to become the highest-rated and longest-running live action series in United States television history (1955 to 1975). He received an Emmy Award in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series.
In 1957, Weaver appeared as Commander B.D. Clagett in a single episode of the television series The Silent Service titled "Two Davids and Goliath" (S01 E14). Having become famous as Chester, he was next cast in an offbeat supporting role in the 1958 Orson Welles film Touch of Evil, in which he played a face-twisting, body-contorting eccentric employee of a remote motel who nervously repeated, "I'm the night man."
In 1960, he appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled "Insomnia," in which his character suffers from sleeplessness due to the tragic death of his wife.
He also co-starred in a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone titled "Shadow Play". In that episode Weaver's character is trapped inside his own revolving nightmare, repeatedly being tried, sentenced, and then executed in the electric chair.
Later, from 1964 to 1965, he portrayed a friendly veterinary physician in NBC's comedy-drama Kentucky Jones. He had a significant role in the 1966 western Duel at Diablo, with James Garner and Sidney Poitier. His next substantial role was as Tom Wedloe on the CBS family series Gentle Ben, with co-star Clint Howard, from 1967 to 1969.
In 1970 Weaver landed the title role in the NBC series McCloud, for which he received two Emmy Award nominations. In 1974, he was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series (McCloud) and in 1975, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series. The show, about a modern western lawman who ends up in New York City, was loosely based on the Clint Eastwood film Coogan's Bluff. His frequent use of the affirming Southernism, "There you go," became a catchphrase for the show. During the series, in 1971, Weaver also appeared in Duel, a television movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg selected Weaver based on the intensity of his earlier performance in Touch of Evil.
Weaver was also a recording artist, with most of his tracks being spoken-word recordings with musical accompaniment. He released several singles and albums between 1959 and 1984, most notable of which was his eponymous Im'press Records LP in 1972, the cover of which featured a portrait of Weaver in character as McCloud; it was the first of seven albums he would record.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Weaver as McCloud was used to promote a rock show in New York City. He also hosted segments for the Encore Westerns premium cable network in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Weaver's last work was done on an ABC Family cable television show called Wildfire, where he played Henry Ritter, the father of Jean Ritter and the co-owner of Raintree Ranch. His role on the show was cut short due to his death.
Weaver married Gerry Stowell after World War II and they had three sons: Richard, Robert, and Rustin Weaver. Dennis Weaver was a vegetarian since 1958 and student of yoga and meditation since the 1960s and a devoted follower of Paramahansa Yogananda, the Indian guru who established the Self-Realization Fellowship in the United States. Gerry died April 26, 2016, at 90.
In July 2003, Weaver lost a daughter-in-law, Lynne Ann Weaver, wife of son Robby Weaver, in Santa Monica, California, when a car driven at high speed plowed through shoppers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. She was one of ten people killed in the incident.
Weaver died of complications from cancer in Ridgway, Colorado, on February 24, 2006.