The acting community lost an inspirational contributor this past weekend with the passing of beloved actor Larry Hagman. Hagman, a Dallas resident and native of Fort Worth, passed away on Friday, November 23rd, at the age of 81.
Hagman gained mainstream fame for his portrayal of astronaut Major Anthony “Tony” Nelson on the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, running from 1965 through 1970. Hagman’s affable Major Nelson became the master of Jeannie, portrayed by Barbara Eden, after discovering and rubbing her bottle, leading to an ongoing series of adventures and, eventually, love.
However, though his resume boasts over 100 television and movie productions, Hagman is most often recognized for his portrayal of the iconic and villainous J.R. Ewing in the long-running series Dallas, which aired from 1979 through 1991. J.R. Ewing’s scheming and conniving personality turned him into the characters viewers loved to hate. This relationship was also reflected in the character’s relationship with the rest of the Ewing family, and the second season’s finale left viewers with perhaps one of the most famous cliffhangers in television history as J.R. was shot by an unknown assailant. CBS promoted the upcoming season with the catchphrase “Who Shot J.R.?” That quote became one of the pop culture slogans of the summer of 1980 and survives as a well-known pop culture reference to this day.
Hagman’s role as J.R. Ewing earned him multiple awards and nominations, including Primetime Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” in 1980 and 1981, Golden Globe nominations for “Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series – Drama” four times (1981, 1982, 1983 and 1985), and multiple Soap Opera Digest awards for both “Outstanding Actor” and “Outstanding Villain”. Hagman reprised his role as J.R. for the 2012 Dallas series revival.
Despite portraying a villain, Hagman was beloved by fans as well as his costars alike. He remained close with many of his Dallas costars for the remainder of his life; Linda Gray, who played the role of his on-screen wife Sue Ellen, was at his bedside as he passed. In a statement to NBC, she said of Hagman: “Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years. He was the pied piper of life and 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 full and the world was a brighter place because of him.”
Larry Hagman is survived by his wife, two children, and five grandchildren. All of us at KD Conservatory extend our sincerest condolences to his friends, the Hagman family, and all who have been touched by his life and saddened by his passing.