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JR Ewing actor Larry Hagman dies in Texas

Photo: www.larryhagman.com

The actor behind one of the most iconic TV villains of the 1980s has died in hospital in Texas.

Larry Hagman – who brought the devious oil barron JR Ewing to TV screens across the world for more than a decade, before returning in the reboot this year – was 81 and had been suffering from cancer and liver disease.

His family said he was surrounded by loved ones when he died, peacefully, “just as he had wished for.” 

Larry Hagman had an early introduction to the entertainment industry; his mother was the movie star Mary Martin. He became a star himself in 1965, playing Major Anthony Nelson in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.

But it was the CBS soap Dallas that propelled him into cultural immortality in 1978. The show became so successful that when someone tried to kill his character in one episode in March 1980, fans all around the world were asking “Who shot JR?” The network kept everyone waiting until November that year to reveal the perpetrator, and when that show arrived in the UK, the tape had to be guarded until it was broadcast.

After Dallas came off air, Hagman fell into ill-health, having developed a drinking problem.

A diagnosis of cancer didn’t deter Hagman when talk of a reprisal of the show came to fruition. Earlier this year, Dallas returned with JR and his long-suffering brother Bobby, played by Patrick Duffy, continuing their feud, as a similar rivalry played out between their sons.

Linda Gray — who played JR’s alcoholic wife Sue Ellen — also returned for the new series. Her agent said she and Duffy were with Hagman’s family at his bedside when he died. Gray described Hagman as creative, generous, funny, loving and talented. In a statement, she said they’d been best friends for 35 years. “He was an original and lived life to the full. The world was a brighter place because of Larry Hagman.”

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