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James Arness Asks for Custody of Three Children

Mar. 12, 1963 - Exclusive custody of three children was demanded today by television actor James Arness (pictured in 1956) in a suit for divorce which charged that his wife Virginia is not a proper person to rear the girl and two boys. Arness, 39, who has played Marshal Dillon on CBS’s “Gunsmoke” series since 1955, charged cruelty. His petition said that while the children were in the care of Mrs. Arness, 41, she took an overdose of sleeping pills and had to be hospitalized. Arness made no reference to an incident in October 1959 when Honolulu police reported she had cut her wrists in a hotel there. The actor sued under his legal name, James King Aurness. He said he and the former Virginia Chapman were married Feb. 12, 1949, in Santa Barbara. The children are Craig, 16; Jennie, 12, and Rolf, 11. Craig was born to Mrs. Arness of a prior marriage but was adopted by Arness. The suit said the Arness couple parted Aug. 2, 1958.


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