Jenny Arness: Daughter of “Gunsmoke” Star James Arness, Suicide Days Before Her 25th Birthday

PersonalityJenny Arness: Daughter of "Gunsmoke" Star James Arness, Suicide Days Before Her 25th Birthday

Jenny Arness is the daughter of James Arness, a famous television actor best known for starring in Gunsmoke for over 20 years. Although she lived in her father’s shadow for most of her life, Jenny made a name for herself in the entertainment industry. 

She had minor roles in movies such as “Aunt Thede” and “The Glory and the Mud.” On top of that, she appeared in two episodes of Gunsmoke alongside her father. 

Even though Jenny’s career seemed to rise, it would abruptly stop when news of her death started circulating. At just 24 years old, the actress passed away in 1975. 

This led many fans to speculate about the cause of the untimely passing. So, if you’re wondering about the tragic event, I can help. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the life and death of Jenny Arness.

Jenny Lee Arness Profile Summary

James Arness

Image source: Google
Full Name Jenny Lee Arness
Gender Female 
Place of Birth Los Angeles, California, US
Date of Birth 23rd May 1950
Place of Death Malibu, California, US
Date of Death 12th May 1975
Zodiac Sign Gemini
Nationality American
Ethnicity Caucasian
Hair Color  Blonde
Eye Color Brown
Parents James Arness and Virginia Chapman Arness
Siblings Craig Michael Arness and Rolf Arness

Jenny Lee Arness’Parents

Jenny Lee Arness’Parents

Image source: Google

Jenny is the daughter of one of the most influential actors of the Golden Age of Television. Her dad, James Arness, has starred in countless hit TV shows throughout his career. 

These include:

  • How the West Was Won
  • Gunsmoke
  • Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge
  • Front Row Center
  • McClain’s Law

Besides that, Arness was enrolled in the US military during World War II. Yet James wasn’t the only famous member of the family. 

Jenny’s mother, Virginia Chapman Arness, was also an actress in her own right. She appeared in many projects during her long time in the spotlight. 

Some of her most notable roles are in movies like:

  • Highway Patrol
  • Official Detective
  • Whirlybirds

The couple met back when they enrolled at Southern California’s Pasadena Playhouse. Virginia and James immediately hit it off and began dating. 

However, their relationship was put on hold when Arness left to join the army. It was an arduous journey, and he suffered a few injuries, but James returned home safely. 

This meant that he could finally be with Virginia. So, in 1948, the couple tied the knot and began their happy adventure together. 

James even adopted Craig–Virginia’s son from her first marriage. A couple of years later, they welcomed their first child, Jenny. 

Jenny Lee Arness’Early Life

Jenny Lee Arness’Early Life

Image source: Google

Jenny was born on 23rd May 1950 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California. James and Virginia were over the moon with their daughter’s birth, which brought the couple closer together. 

On top of that, when Jenny was around two years old, her brother Rolf was born. From the outside, it seemed like the family was living out their happily ever after. 

Yet, all good things must come to an end. By the early 1960s, rumors were circulating about the rocky status of Virginia and James’ marriage. 

Arness was busy building his career, so he didn’t ltle time for his family. This put a significant strain on Virginia. 

Sadly, in 1963, the couple called it quits and decided to go their separate ways. While both parents wanted to raise their kids, James was ultimately granted sole custody. 

That means Jenny had to spend the majority of her childhood without her mother. However, the future actress overcame that hurdle. 

Jenny was a happy-go-lucky child with a flare for the Performing Arts. So, she followed in her parent’s footsteps. 

She would join her father on set and managed to snag a few minor roles while she was young. Yet James and Virginia wanted Jenny to focus on her education. 

Jenny Lee Arness’Education

Even though Jenny started acting young, her parents wanted to ensure she had a proper education. So, they sent her to the prestigious Beverly Hills Secondary School.

After she graduated, Arness went off to Switzerland to pursue further studies. When she came back, the young actress focused all of her energy on launching her career. 

Jenny Lee Arness’Career

James Arness

Jenny had wowed producers and directors alike with her acting skills as a young starlet. This meant she had no trouble securing roles when she began performing. 

Soon after her debut, Jenny joined the cast of Gunsmoke alongside her father. The actress appeared in two show episodes and had a minor speaking role

At this point, it seemed like Jenny had her whole life ahead of her and a promising career. Unfortunately, her journey ended far too soon. 

Arness died on 12th May 1975. 

Jenny Lee Arness’Cause of Death


Jenny’s Ex-boy Gregg     Image source: Google

The news about Jenny’s death spread wide and fast. Not only was the actress beloved by many, but she was also so young. 

According to reports, the young actress chose to take her own life 11 days before her birthday. Her toxicology records showed a high dose of heroin in her system. 

This came as a massive shock to most fans, and they began speculating about the cause of her suicide. 

The public doesn’t know the exact reason behind the tragic event, but there are a few theories. Some people say that Jenny’s affection for Gregg was unreturned, resulting in profound heartache for her.

Other sources report that Arness was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a mental disorder that led to hallucinations. 

Regardless of the cause, the world still mourned the loss of Jenny Arness. 

Wrapping Up

Jenny Arness is the daughter of actors James Arness and Virginia Chapman Arness. She was born on 23rd May 1950 and led an exciting life. 

After completing her education in Switzerland, Arness came back to California to launch her acting career. She garnered a lot of attention after appearing on Gunsmoke alongside her father. 

Yet, this success was short-lived because a few months later, Jenny took her own life with an overdose.

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