Actor Dennis Weaver left an enormous impression on audiences across the country thanks to his performance as Chester on Gunsmoke. He had his reasons for taking his talent and creativity elsewhere. Even so, he remained grateful for the opportunity to star on the Western television show. Therefore, Weaver smartly brought an element of his Gunsmoke character into Steven Spielberg‘s Duel.
Dennis Weaver excelled as Chester on ‘Gunsmoke’
Weaver was the first actor cast in the television adaptation of the Gunsmoke radio show. He played Chester, who was Marshal Matt Dillon’s (James Arness) loyal assistant. He helped Matt through all of the difficulties in Dodge City. However, Weaver and the production decided to give him a limp to communicate that he wasn’t as agile as the marshal himself. Gunsmoke was the big break that the actor was looking for, which remains one of the longest-running live-action television shows to ever hit the air.
The actor was comfortable on the Western television show for quite some time. Weaver played Chester on Gunsmoke through season 9 out of its 20-season run. However, the cast knew that he stepped away from the project a few times for his own reasons. They initially thought that all of the going away parties became a bit “monotonous.” Nevertheless, Weaver knew that he needed to flex his creative muscles more, and he couldn’t do so on Gunsmoke any longer. He got exactly what he wanted – a greater variety of new roles in other projects.
‘Gunsmoke’ actor Dennis Weaver’s Chester was incorporated into ‘Duel’
After leaving Gunsmoke, Weaver would take his career to other areas of television, including working with Spielberg on the 1971’s action-thriller, Duel. The story follows an electronics salesman named David Mann (Weaver), as he drives across the desert in California. He intends to meet with a client, but nothing turns out as expected. A mysterious semi-truck driver chases and terrorizes him, which sends him into an immediate fight for survival. He’s going to have to get creative if he hopes to turn the tables in this cat-and-mouse game.
There’s a scene where Weaver incorporates an Easter egg of sorts into Duel from his time on Gunsmoke. When he drives away from a filling station, the gas attendant can be seen walking away. However, he has a bit of a limp that instantly recalls the one that Chester has in the Western television show.
‘Duel’ is widely celebrated as a great made-for-TV movie
Duel was made as a part of the ABC Movie of the Week, but it later received a theatrical release internationally that featured more footage than the original cut. Spielberg’s made-for-TV movie earned positive reviews and it gained a loyal cult following over the years. Many consider it one of the best made-for-TV movies ever made.
Weaver would become known for more than just Gunsmoke and the Spielberg film, as he expanded his footprint with other projects. He starred in the leading role of the NBC police drama called McCloud, as well as a motel attendant in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.