Forever associated with his most famous role, that of the charming, conniving and crafty JR Ewing in Dallas, actor Larry Hagman has died at the age of 81.
Though Dallas made him a household name, and the legendary cliffhanger surrounding his character (Who Shot J.R.?) became the second-most-watched television episode in US history, Hagman had a career that spanned the stage and screens both big and small.
His mother, Mary Martin, was an established actress who passed her love of performing on to her son. He attended Bard College in New York and then appeared in regional theatre before heading to England to appear in the cast of his mother’s latest show, South Pacific. It was in the UK that he met his wife, Maj Axelsson, whom he married in 1954 while serving in the Air Force.
After returning to the States for a stint on Broadway, he began appearing on television and in small roles in movies such as Fail-Safe. He truly found his niche on the smaller screen, scoring a two-year run on daytime soap The Edge Of Night. But his first big breakout role was as Major Anthony Nelson, the astronaut who falls for a genie in I Dream Of Jeannie. A healthy carer of guest roles followed until he won the part of J.R. on Knots Landing. That led to Dallas and the rest is TV history.
Hagman battled personal demons, including chronic alcoholism, which saw him drop out of the limelight for years only appearing occasionally for projects such as Primary Colors or Nixon.
But this year, Dallas came back in a rebooted form, and no version of the show could be complete without Hagman, who returned as J.R. alongside some of his other veteran cast mates. He enjoyed the chance to bring the character back, but announced in October 2011 that he’d been diagnosed with cancer.
“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” the family said in a statement. “Larry’s family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for.”