From 1965 – 1970, he was the Major everyone loved to love, especially Jeannie. From 1978 – 1991, he was the Texas oil baron everyone loved to hate. Before, during and after, he either guested on or starred in a plethora of television shows, television series, television movies and feature films while depicting hobos to oil barons; enlisted men to commanding officers; and most everything between.
Larry Hagman, 81, died at Medical City Dallas Hospital on Friday, November 23, 2012. He was surrounded by loved ones when he peacefully passed on, which was as he had wished.
Hagman was the Texas-born son of Broadway actress Mary Martin. He was able to appear onstage with his mother in South Pacific in England. While in the U.S. Air Force, he produced and directed several shows. After getting married and leaving the Air Force, Larry returned to the United States where he starred in a number of Broadway plays.
From 1957 – 1965, Hagman guested on television shows such as Goodyear Playhouse, Search for Tomorrow, Kraft Theatre, Sea Hunt, Edge of Night, Diagnosis Unknown and The Defenders. He appeared in his first TV movie, The Silver Burro, in 1963. In 1964, he was cast in two feature films, The Cavern and Fail-Safe.
It was 1965, however, that thrust Hagman into the hearts of millions of television viewers in his role as Air Force Major Tony Nelson in the series I Dream of Jeannie. This show ran until 1970. Afterward, Larry starred in two different sitcoms, The Good Life (1971 – 1972) and Here We Go Again (1973 – 1974).
Hagman appeared in 20 television movies and 21 feature films during his career. His performances in The Group, Harry and Tonto and Primary Colors were highly regarded by critics.
There can be no doubt that Hagman’s defining role was as the charming, scheming, duplicitous, villain, J. R. Ewing of Dallas. Viewers loved to hate the Texas oil tycoon so much they were sent into a frenzy when the last episode of the 1980 season ended with J.R. being shot. Everywhere one went during that summer, the question Who shot J.R.? was being discussed. An estimated 41 million viewers tuned in to learn the answer making that episode second only to the 1983 Mash finale (50 million) as the most-watched entertainment show of all time.
The original Dallas series ended in 1991. The TNT network began airing new episodes this year. When Hagman was approached about returning to the show, the first question he asked was Are my friends going to be on the show? He later stated he would not be doing the show without them.
Hagman truly embraced his role as J.R. Ewing by developing a trademark laugh for the character. He also made up fake $100 bills with his face on them with the words “In Hagman We Trust” which he used to pass out to fans.
Just last month, on October 12th, Hagman attended a one time launch event by the Larry Hagman Foundation to provide economically disadvantaged children in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area with creative arts education. Labeled the Evil Does Good or the J.R. Ewing Gives Back to Dallas fundraising event, the cocktail party and concert featured entertainment by Asleep at the Wheel. It also included a live auction with unique experiences and autographed Dallas memorabilia.
Larry is survived by his wife of 58 years, Maj; a son, a daughter and five grandchildren.