The actor best known as the notorious J.R. Ewing in the classic television series, Dallas, died Friday afternoon at Medical City Dallas hospital from complications of his recent battle with cancer.
Larry Hagman had returned to Dallas to film what his family called “the iconic role he loved most” in the reboot of the series that was an international hit in the early 1980s. His friends and family had joined him to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Linda Gray, his TV wife and longtime friend, was reportedly by his side when he passed. Patrick Duffy, another longtime friend and castmate, was also there.
Hagman also supported creative arts education for disadvantaged children in Dallas-Fort Worth through the Larry Hagman Foundation. The organization’s first beneficiaries were Dallas Children’s Theater, Big Thought, Artreach and Thornton Foundation for the Arts.
Hagman was 81.
Born in Fort Worth to actress Mary Martin, Hagman lived most of his childhood with his grandmother in Texas and California while his mother pursued a career that led to Broadway stardom. After his grandmother died, he moved to Weatherford, Texas, where he worked on a ranch owned by a friend of his father and became interested in acting at Weatherford High School.
He began his career in Dallas, working as a production assistant and acting in small roles in Margo Jones' Theater in 1950. After a long career of guest starring in TV shows and appearing on the New York stage, he won a starring role in the hit TV series, I Dream of Jeannie, in 1965, where he portrayed astronaut Anthony Nelson.
In 1977, he took the role of J.R. Ewing, the conniving elder son of Jock and Miss Ellie Ewing in the television series, Dallas, and almost instantly captured the imagination of a nation. The show became a hit in 90 countries and, in the third season, the "Who shot J.R.?," cliffhanger racked up record ratings.
When the series was rebooted on TNT earlier this year with a new young generation of actors, Hagman reprised his role and stole nearly every scene he was in, joined by Gray, who had played his long-suffering wife in the original series, and Duffy, who had played his brother and chief rival.
The show was a cable hit, with a second season slated to premiere in January.
In October, 2011, Hagman announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but said he hoped to remain with the new series.
“As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery,” Hagman said in a statement. “But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love. Besides, as we all know, you can’t keep J.R. down!”