November 24, 2012

'Dallas' star Larry Hagman dead at 81

The actor earned his greatest acclaim for playing ruthless oil baron J.R. Ewing.

The Associated Press

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Actor Larry Hagman listens to a reporter's question in 2008 while visiting the Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, made famous in the television show "Dallas." Hagman, who for more than a decade played villainous patriarch JR Ewing in the TV soap Dallas, has died at the age of 81, his family said Saturday.

The Associated Press

This 1981 file photo provided by CBS shows Larry Hagman in character as J.R. Ewing in the television series "Dallas." Actor Larry Hagman, who for more than a decade played villainous patriarch JR Ewing in the TV soap Dallas, has died at the age of 81, his family said Saturday.

The Associated Press

"I know what I want on J.R.'s tombstone," Hagman said in 1988. "It should say: 'Here lies upright citizen J.R. Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.'"

On Friday night, Victoria Principal, who co-starred in the original series, recalled Hagman as "bigger than life, on-screen and off. He is unforgettable, and irreplaceable, to millions of fans around the world, and in the hearts of each of us, who was lucky enough to know and love him."

Ten episodes of the new edition of "Dallas" aired this past summer and proved a hit for TNT. Filming was in progress on the sixth episode of season two, which is set to begin airing Jan. 28, the network said.

There was no immediate comment from Warner or TNT on how the series would deal with Hagman's loss.

In 2006, he did a guest shot on FX's drama series "Nip/Tuck," playing a macho business mogul. He also got new exposure in recent years with the DVD releases of "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Dallas."

The Fort Worth, Texas, native was the son of singer-actress Mary Martin, who starred in such classics as "South Pacific" and "Peter Pan." Martin was still in her teens when he was born in 1931 during her marriage to attorney Ben Hagman.

As a youngster, Hagman gained a reputation for mischief-making as he was bumped from one private school to another. He made a stab at New York theater in the early 1950s, then served in the Air Force from 1952-56 in England.

While there, he met and married young Swedish designer Maj Axelsson. The couple had two children, Preston and Heidi, and were longtime residents of the Malibu beach colony that is home to many celebrities.

Hagman returned to acting and found work in the theater and in such TV series as "The U.S. Steel Hour," ''The Defenders" and "Sea Hunt." His first continuing role was as lawyer Ed Gibson on the daytime serial "The Edge of Night" (1961-63).

He called his 2001 memoir "Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales about My Life."

"I didn't put anything in that I thought was going to hurt someone or compromise them in any way," he told The Associated Press at the time.

Hagman was diagnosed in 1992 with cirrhosis of the liver and acknowledged that he had drank heavily for years. In 1995, a malignant tumor was discovered on his liver and he underwent a transplant.

After his transplant, he became an advocate for organ donation and volunteered at a hospital to help frightened patients.

"I counsel, encourage, meet them when they come in for their operations, and after," he said in 1996. "I try to offer some solace, like 'Don't be afraid, it will be a little uncomfortable for a brief time, but you'll be OK.' "

He also was an anti-smoking activist who took part in "Great American Smoke-Out" campaigns.

Funeral plans were not immediately announced.

"I can honestly say that we've lost not just a great actor, not just a television icon, but an element of pure Americana," Eden said in her statement Friday night. "Goodbye, Larry. There was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."

 

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