Actor Larry Hagman passed away yesterday due to complications from throat cancer. He was 81.
If you are close to my age (49), you may remember first seeing Hagman as Capt. Tony Nelson in “I Dream of Jeannie,” a slightly dumb, but popular show that ran from 1965 until 1970. Before that, he had appeared on television in shows such as “Sea Hunt” and “The Defenders,” but it was really “I Dream of Jeannie” that put Hagman on the map.
After “Jeannie” ended, Hagman bounced around television, appearing in “Ellery Queen,” “Barnaby Jones,” and “The Rockford Files” while starring in “Here We Go Again” (yeah, I don’t remember it either, but it only ran a year) and “The Good Life” (it ran two years).
In 1978, Hagman would land a role that would make him larger than life – that of J.R. Ewing in the night time soap opera “Dallas.” He was a Texas oil tycoon who cheated in business and real life – true American corruption at its very best. Everyone loved to hate J.R. and much of America was happy when he was shot in the lift hanging 1980 episode titled “Who Shot J.R.” The show, in which viewers didn’t know if J.R. was dead or not, was one of the most watched shows ever at that time. In case you forgot, it was sister-in-law Kristin who shot J.R. because he said he would tell everyone she was a prostitute unless she left town.
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The show ended in 1991, but there would be three specials over the years and this year, TNT brought the “Dallas” series back to life with returning stars Hagman, Linda Grey (as J.R.’s long suffering wife Sue Ellen), and Patrick Duffy (as J.R.’s rival brother Bobby).
While J.R. and Sue Ellen had their issues on the show, Gray, along with Hagman’s family, was with the actor when he died. She said Hagman was “an original and lived life to the fullest.”
It may have been that “fullest” that almost cost Hagman his life 20 years ago. In 1992, Hagman was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, probably brought on by years of heavy drinking. He was given a liver transplant in 1995, but many thought it came too soon and Hagman used his celebrity to skip in line. Despite whether that is true or not, Hagman became an organ donation advocate and volunteered at hospitals to help calm scared patients before and after transplant surgeries.