Dennis Weaver couldn't stop limping on set after he left Gunsmoke

Weaver was taking his character home with him.

Sometimes an actor plays a character for so long, it can feel like it becomes a part of them, for better or for worse. It seems that if a role is played with enough tenacity and dedication, there is a piece of it that an actor carries with them long after the cameras stop rolling. For an actor like Dennis Weaver, there was one part of Chester Goode on Gunsmoke that he simply couldn't seem to shake: his limp.

Weaver left the series after about nine years of playing Marshal Matt Dillon's second-in-command. But although Weaver was done with Chester Goode, Chester Goode wasn't done with Dennis Weaver.

According to James Arness: An Autobiography, Weaver confessed something to Arness after his time on the show was over. "Dennis later told me he had a heck of a time losing his limp after he left the show. On other shows when a director yelled 'action,' he'd automatically start to limp. It took him several months to walk normal when on camera."

In an interview with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Weaver confessed that he had decided to leave the series because he felt that the character had run its course. Specifically, he said, "After almost ten years, I want to walk without a limp." 

Arness also commented on Weaver's departure in his book, noting that it was bittersweet. He wrote, "I was particularly sorry to see Dennis leave us since he'd become such an integral part of our seamless theatrical family... I clearly understood his desire to move on, though, and it turned out to be a wise choice on his part."

Still, Arness was grateful for the time that he had spent with Weaver, and as the lead of Gunsmoke, he even confessed that Chester Goode was a star in his own way. He wrote, "His [Weaver's] portrayal of Matt's sidekick, deputy Chester Goode, was superb. I often found myself playing second fiddle to him when he would appear limping along beside me or enacting his famous twangy call, 'Mr. Dillon.'"

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9 Comments

jmworacle 3 months ago
When one does something for so long the muscle memory kicks in.
jmworacle 3 months ago
When you do something for so long the muscle memory kicks in.
GTStang08 3 months ago
I enjoyed both Chester and Festus as marshal Dillon's assistant and deputy respectfully (Chester was never deputized believe it or not). They both had something going on with them...Festus, that sleepy eye and slight speech impediment, and Chester, that stiff right leg and how he articulated "marshal Dillon"...lol I was more afraid for Chester that he would get his leg caught in the thicket while horse riding. He managed to get around though!
GOOSEYGOOSE9 3 months ago
Danny Thomas,Sheldon Leonard as well as Louis f.Edelman produce Kentucky jones Earle Hagen did the theme
WGH 3 months ago
Dennis Weaver was exceptional in some of the post Gunsmoke things he did. The movie DUEL, although made for tv, was directed by Steven Spielberg and is exceptional... mostly because of Dennis weaver.
justjeff 3 months ago
Trivia: On radio, Chester's surname was originally Proudfoot... Yes! There was o pun intended. I presume Chester had some Native American blood in him...

From Radio Archives:

"Though never directly implied in the radio series, there are some hints that Chester Wesley Proudfoot was of Native American Indian heritage. When Gunsmoke made the transition to television, Chester's surname was changed from Proudfoot to Goode, indicating Chester, in his radio incarnation, was indeed a “half-breed”..."
cperrynaples justjeff 3 months ago
They did use the Proudfoot name several times on the TV series!
justjeff cperrynaples 3 months ago
That's Goode! LOL!
Runeshaper 3 months ago
Now that sounds like a real challenge!
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