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Actor Larry Hagman, AKA JR Ewing, Dead At 81

HagmanLarry Hagman, the actor made famous playing Major Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie and then made even more famous playing scheming JR Ewing on Dallas, has died.

[Hagman] had a long history of health problems and died Friday due to complications from his battle with cancer, his family said.

"Larry was back in his beloved hometown of Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved the most. Larry’s family and closest friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday," the family said in a statement that was provided to The Associated Press by Warner Bros., producer of the show.

The 81-year-old actor was surrounded by friends and family before he passed peacefully, "just as he’d wished for," the statement said.

Linda Gray, the actress who played Hagman's fictional Dallas wife Sue Ellen Ewing, said Hagman "brought joy to everyone he knew."

"He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented, and I will miss him enormously. He was an original and lived life to the fullest," she said.

AFTER THE JUMP, footage of Hagman's turn as JR Ewing, a character whose shooting riveted the world and changed television forever. And, as Emily Nussbaum recently wrote in The New Yorker, that famous cliffhanger may not have been as suspenseful had it not been for Hagman's off-stage drama.

Initially, "Dallas" was a slow-moving nighttime soap opera about a family of Texan oil and cattle tycoons. The series had risen to become a top drama on CBS, when, on March 21, 1980, an episode called "A House Divided" aired. Larry Hagman’s J. R. Ewing—a villainous minor character who became, through Hagman’s magnetism, the smirking star of the series—was plugged in the gut. The nation had a new catchphrase: "Who shot J.R.?"

The real culprit behind the shooting was a network brainstorm. "We had done, I think twenty-two shows, and CBS was making so much money they wanted to extend it for four," Hagman recalled, in 2010. "And our producers said, 'Let’s just shoot the S.O.B. and figure it out later.'" J.R. was featured on the covers of Time and People. CNN, which had just been launched, devoted a series of segments to hyping the show, hoping for some pop heat during that grim year (hostages in Iran, the economy in the dumps). But the cliffhanger might have been less effective if Hagman hadn’t walked off the set. He flew to Europe and demanded a raise, which triggered rumors that the producers would resort to a plastic-surgery twist to replace him with Robert Culp.

AFTER THE JUMP, a Dallas compilation that proves only Hagman could play Ewing and, via JMG, the first episode of I Dream of Jeannie.

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  1. I think you might have a typo. Linda GRAY played SUE ELLEN Ewing, JR's wife. Linda Evans was on Dynasty. Pamela Ewing was JR's sister-in-law.

    Posted by: Steve | Nov 24, 2012 8:40:02 AM

  2. Limda Gray played Sue Ellen Ewing

    Posted by: filgee | Nov 24, 2012 8:42:12 AM

  3. Linda GRAY played Sue Ellen Ewing, not Linda Evans.

    RIP, Larry.

    Posted by: LincolnLounger | Nov 24, 2012 8:44:31 AM

  4. RIP, Larry. You made JR an icon.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Nov 24, 2012 9:06:02 AM

  5. Wow... I never realized how fabulous she was in that role. The wife is something else, too.

    Posted by: denizo | Nov 24, 2012 9:47:00 AM

  6. Also: He played Captain (later Major) Nelson on "Jeannie,' not "Captain Major."

    Posted by: Mort | Nov 24, 2012 9:47:33 AM

  7. "AKA JR Ewing" in the headline is rather disrespectful. u could do better!

    Posted by: Iban4yesu | Nov 24, 2012 9:54:06 AM

  8. I could hardly ever watch him as JR because my dearest remembrances are of him as the ungodly adorable (and uniformed) Major Nelson. Such fond memories of alone time with my Jeannie reruns. Sans pants. Sad now.

    Posted by: Bollux | Nov 24, 2012 10:43:43 AM

  9. He'll always be Major Nelson to me. RIP

    Posted by: Dearcomrade | Nov 24, 2012 10:54:53 AM

  10. Dallas like Dynasty was a dreadful show to me which I never watched after glimpsing what a platform it was for all the mephitic bait of American society: the utter and empty worship of money, ghastly glitz, snarky putdowns, hard-to-watch social mortifications and endless scheming. It amounted to bad company and bad TV.

    Hagman was just an actor, but of course, RIP, which we all do eventually.

    Posted by: GODAWFUL | Nov 24, 2012 12:32:38 PM

  11. Linda Gray was a far more talented actress than her stint on Dallas would have led anyone to believe. It's a shame her career stalled after the show. In fact, when you look back, hardly anyone came out better after the show, particularly among the leads.

    Posted by: anon | Nov 24, 2012 1:55:31 PM

  12. His death reminded me of his Mother, Mary Martin, TV’s original Peter Pan, and Broadway’s original female star of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music”—allegedly a card carrying member of show biz’s “sewing circle.” Actor Robert Cummings was quoted as saying: "Janet Gaynor's husband was Adrian, the MGM fashion designer. But her wife was Mary Martin.

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Nov 24, 2012 2:24:47 PM

  13. my buddy's mother-in-law makes $71 hourly on the laptop. She has been out of work for ten months but last month her paycheck was $21846 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here's the site to read more

    Posted by: uldons | Nov 24, 2012 3:21:53 PM

  14. Your buddy's mother-in-law, huh? You must be close! I know that given all the time that I spend with mothers-in-laws of my pals, one of the first things they tell me is their incomes. Please tell me more about this fascinating opportunity, because clearly a blog's comments section is the best place to find steady, high-paying jobs.

    One thing: How does one earn $71 an hour but nearly $22K a month for a couple hours of work? Unless you consider 300 hours a month (75 a week) to be just a couple.

    Posted by: Buzz | Nov 25, 2012 12:38:30 PM

  15. Godawful, you are aptly named.

    Posted by: Gabe R L | Nov 25, 2012 10:01:54 PM

  16. First introduced to Larry as Major Nelson in "I Dream of Jeannie". I think the demographic for that show was little gay boys, ages 9 to 12. I wanted to live in that amazing bottle.

    R.I.P., Major Nelson. :-)

    Posted by: Johnny | Nov 25, 2012 10:49:27 PM

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