At the age of 81, iconic “Dallas” star Larry Hagman has sadly passed away due to complications related to Stage II throat cancer. Hagman is best known for his role as J.R. Ewing on the television show “Dallas”, which ran from 1978 to 1991 on CBS and was playing the role again in the present day reinvention of the show on TNT. Hagman had already begun filming part of season two of the show at the time of his passing.
The news comes as a bit of a shock, as the form of cancer Hagman was diagnosed with is generally considered to be easily treatable and has a good prognosis. Earlier in 2012, Hagman was quoted saying “I beat that thing. I am in remission now. All good!” after completing the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. However, it appears that he was not in full remission, and the complications of the disease sadly took a turn for the worst. He passed away on Friday surrounded by friends and family.
“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” says a close family member. “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. The family requests privacy at this time.”
Coworkers from TNT were also there at the time of his death and had many kind and sad words to impart over the loss of their beloved co-star. Linda Gray, who plays Sue Ellen in “Dallas” was beside herself over the death of her “best friend for 35 years” and said "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."
In statement from Warner Brothers and TNT, the networks have expressed their deep sorrow at the loss of such a fine individual.
“All of us at TNT are deeply saddened at the news of Larry Hagman’s passing. He was a wonderful human being and an extremely gifted actor,” TNT’s statement read. “We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”
"Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history," the statement said. "He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character, and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace. Everyone at Warner Bros. and in the Dallas family is deeply saddened by Larry's passing, and our thoughts are with his family and dear friends during this difficult time."
Hagman is believed to have finished filming six of the fifteen episodes of season two of the “Dallas” reboot at the time of his death, which has been slated to premiere on January 28th. At the time being, it is unclear how the network will choose to deal with his death in relation to the show. It is possible that they may choose to extend the hiatus of the show in favor of a later date so that the scripts and episodes may be adjusted to give Hagman, and the iconic character of J.R., a fitting send off.
Hagman has had a long and successful career in Hollywood which seemed to be predestined by his birth. He is the son of the son of singer-actress Mary Martin, who starred in such classics as “South Pacific” and “Peter Pan”. He attended one year of school at Bard College while he worked as a production assistant and actor in small role at the Margo Jones Theatre during the 1950’s. Following this, he appeared in “The Taming of the Shrew” in New York and other various musicals across the country.
In 1952 Hagman was drafted into the Korean War in the United States Air Force stationed in London where he spend the majority of his service using his skills to entertain the troops before leaving in 1956 and returning to New York. Hagman appeared in a few Off-Broadway and Broadway plays between the years of 1956-1958 along with guest starring in some live television programs such as “Harbormaster”. His first permanent television role came as Ed Gibson in the show “The Edge of Night”, which he held from 1961-1963 and in 1964 he made his debut into film. Hagmans big break came when he was cast as the love interest of Barbara Eden, Air Force Captain Anthony Nelson, in the much loved “I Dream of Jeannie” for NBC, which ran for a full five seasons from 1965-1970.
In 1977 Hagman had the chance to make the decision to star in one of two television series that were debuting at the time, either “The Waverly Wonders” or “Dallas”. Of course, Hagman took the role of J.R. Ewing in “Dallas”, the conniving son and business man that everyone loved to hate. He went on to be one of the most notorious characters to ever come out of the television screen, and the famous cliff-hanger episode from 1980 in which he was shot gave birth to one of the most memorable television moments of all time. “Who shot J.R.?” fueled international speculation, bets and wagers and helped boost the series to the spot of one of the most watched entertainment shows of all time.
Over the length of the series, Hagman was nominated for his role as J.R., and starred in two “Dallas” television movies in 1996 and 1998. When the iconic television show was revived in 2012 by TNT, Hagman gladly came back to reprise his role as J.R.
“I'm shocked. Larry Hagman was a dear man who had an incredible career. He helped me to stop smoking. He really was a very special person.” said Larry King on his Twitter page.
As celebrities flood Twitter and Facebook to express their regret at the death of the television icon, it is clear the impact he has had on many generations and the loss that will be felt at his passing.
Barbara Eden, who starred with Hagman in “I Dream of Jeannie” said "I can honestly say that we've lost not just a great actor, not just a television icon, but an element of pure Americana. Goodbye Larry, there was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."