Larry Hagman, known for his roles as Tony Nelson on I Dream Of Jeannie and J.R. Ewing on Dallas died Friday night in a Dallas hospital of complications from cancer, which he had been battling for the past year. He was 81.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas and raised in nearby Weatherford, Hagman’s acting career started after he left the Air Force, appearing in several Off-Broadway and On-Broadway plays. He appeared in several live TV productions and joined the cast of daytime soap The Edge Of Night in 1961.
His big break came in 1965 when he was cast opposite Barbara Eden in I Dream Of Jeannie, an NBC sitcom that would run for five seasons. After Hagman’s and Eden’s characters were married during the show’s fifth season (1969-70), ratings crashed and was canceled shortly thereafter. Jeannie entered off-network syndication in 1971 and became a mega smash hit, drawing just as many viewers in local markets (such as New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. ) as several prime-time shows.
After cast in short-lived sitcoms Here We Go Again and The Good Life, Hagman was offered two roles in upcoming TV shows: one for The Waverly Wonders (with Joe Namath) and one as J.R. Ewing for Dallas. His wife told him to choose Dallas (it always pays to listen to your wife – while Wonders was canceled by NBC five weeks into the 1978-79 season, Dallas made Larry Hagman an international star.) In the role of J.R., Hagman completely shattered the usual villain stereotype portrayed in television and movies (the mustache twirling, tying-up-the-woman-on-the-railroad-tracks kind or the goofy kind found on the Batman TV series.)
In fact, J.R. Ewing’s character influence loomed very large in pop culture lore. If it weren’t for him, we would not have Montgomery Burns (who was shot in a Simpsons parody of Who Shot J.R.), South Park’s Eric Cartman, or Amanda from Melrose Place. Unfortunately, Hagman was never awarded for the effort – just two Emmy Awards and four Golden Globe nominations for the role.
Hagman agreed to appear (along with Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy) in the revival of Dallas for TNT, which premiered June 13. For more information on the new version, the original TV show, and on the J.R. Ewing character, click here.
Hagman is survived by his wife Maj, his daughter Kristina, his son Preston, and five granddaughters.
Rest in peace, J.R.