Given the breadth of Dennis Weaver's resume--Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, McCloud--there wasn't a range, or a metropolis, that the actor didn't ride.
Weaver, a quintessential TV cowboy who enjoyed his greatest fame as Sam McCloud, the New York City detective with a twang, on the 1970s crime show McCloud, died of cancer Friday in Colorado, it was reported Monday. He was 81.
It was said Weaver passed away at his Ridgway, Colorado, home, presumably the environmentally friendly structure he called an Earthship. Per Weaver's official Website, the house is "an independent sustainable living space, built from used automobile tires and cans."
As an actor, Weaver's credits spanned the history of television, from the early 1950s, when he participated in shoot-'em-ups such as The Lone Ranger, to the 2000s when he dispensed homilies on family dramas such as last year's ABC Family series Wildfire.
In between, Weaver did a little bit of everything, which added up to a lot of work.
Weaver pulled a nine-year stint as Sheriff Matt Dillon's lame Deputy Chester B. Goode on Gunsmoke (1955-64), winning one Emmy; he did two years as the young Clint Howard's father on the bear-boasting family show Gentle Ben (1967-69); and, he earned two Emmy nominations for McCloud (1970-77), with the show holding his own against Columbo and McMillan and Wife as one of the spokes in the NBC Mystery Movie wheel.
In 1971, Weaver starred in the young Steven Spielberg's Duel, a made for TV thriller about a motorist under the gun from a deranged truck driver. Owing to its popularity and Spielberg's subsequent brand-name status, Duel was released theatrically in the United States in 1983.
In all, Weaver was the star or costar of at least eight series, including 1987's Buck James, his last regular gig for a broadcast network. It is a testament to Weaver's employability that he overcame what in a later age would be viewed as a David Caruso misstep, leaving the hit show that was Gunsmoke to star in the one-season flop that was 1964's Kentucky Jones.
Weaver was nominated four times for an Emmy, two of the nods for Gunsmoke, two of the nods for McCloud. He won his one and only in 1959.
Weaver stayed busy in the business in recent years thanks, in part, to TNT's abiding interest in the Western. In 2000, Weaver appeared in two made for cable remakes for the network, High Noon and The Virginian. In the 1990s, he played Old West showman Buffalo Bill Cody on several episodes of the syndicated series version of Lonesome Dove.
In his spare time that wasn't so spare, Weaver pitched the now-defunct Great Western Savings & Loan in commercials in the 1980s. Fittingly, Weaver inherited the gig from the greatest screen cowboy of them all, John Wayne.
Born June 4, 1924, in Joplin, Missouri, Weaver trained at New York's Actors Studio, making his Broadway debut in a play directed by Burgess Meredith, his official biography said. The film credits, as well as the TV credits, began piling up in the 1950s. His big-screen credits included Westerns such as 1953's The Nebraskan, but also the 1958 noir classic A Touch of Evil.
A dedicated environmentalist, Weaver promoted the Earthship concept worldwide, and lent his voice to the 1990 green-friendly cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
With Mary Tyler Moore Show alum Valerie Harper, Weaver founded Love Is Feeding Everyone (L.I.F.E.), dedicated to providing food to the needy in Los Angeles County.
Weaver was married to his wife, the former Gerry Stowell, since 1945.