Dennis Weaver explained how he came up with Chester's trademark limp in ''Gunsmoke''
And why so many viewers loved Chester.
As Marshal Matt Dillon's sidekick, Chester Goode is perhaps best known for his candor, his accent, and his limp. While much of Chester Goode was dreamed up by the Gunsmoke creators, Dennis Weaver, Goode's actor, was instrumental in bringing Chester to life.
Moreover, Weaver may be a bit more responsible for Chester's limp than you might have originally assumed. According to his autobiography, All The World's a Stage, Weaver recalled Bill Warren approaching him during the early stages of the Gunsmoke rehearsal process. Warren stated, "You see, in the past, historically if you have a sidekick in a film, he's usually too old or too fat or too young or too something, to really get involved in the action. Usually, he's considered to be rather helpless."
Weaver explained that because he was a large, able-bodied man, Warren was worried that viewers may be confused as to why he wasn't more involved in the fights. Weaver stated, "We want to make him a nonviolent character that doesn't wear a gun - which also goes against tradition." Warren proposed giving the character a handicap, a character development that Weaver found to be an interesting challenge for him to figure out as an actor.
Weaver wrote, "The challenge of creating a physical control for Chester stimulated my creative juices. So I said to Bill, 'Let me go home and think about it and do some experimenting, and I'll get back to you."
Weaver was careful and efficient about deciding which direction to shift Chester's character in. He wrote, "I knew that I had to select something that I could easily control and make consistent, something I wouldn't have to worry about. I decided a stiff leg would do it. So, for a few days, I practiced running and jumping over things in the backyard stiff-legged, and it seemed to work well. I went and showed it to Bill, and he quickly agreed."
While it was the right choice for the character, Chester's limp is not only one of his most well-known characteristics, but it was also something that Weaver found viewers were drawn to. He wrote, "I think that was part of the reason why Chester was received with such love by so many people — they sympathized with him."