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Actor Larry Hagman, Who Played J.R. Ewing on Dallas, Passes Away at 81

Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on Dallas

Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on Dallas

It’s a sad day in Big D when one of our brightest stars ceases to exist. Actor Larry Hagman passed away on Friday, November 23, 2012, at Medical City in Dallas. Mr. Hagman had been suffering complications from a recent battle with cancer.

If you are like me, then Mr. Hagman played a big part in your life as played out on television. I first remember Mr. Hagman as Major Anthony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70). I wasn’t around to see the sitcom in its prime time slot. I enjoyed the reruns, both black and white, and color. Even though the series was filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood, I was attracted to the setting of Cocoa Beach on the space coast of Florida, just north of my home town. I could never figure out why Major Nelson just did not wish for Jeannie to stay out of trouble.

I lost track of Mr. Hagman after Jeannie. I’m sure my parents knew what Mr. Hagman was doing. He appeared on Marcus Welby, MD (1969-76), Barnaby Jones (1973-80) and other guest parts. I did not see him again until Superman (1978) with Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman. Mr. Hagman played the small part of an Army major. I probably didn’t realize it was him at the time. I’ll need to watch this one again now.

Sometime in the mid-1970s, my parents moved us to a suburb north of Dallas. It wasn’t long before Mr. Hagman found a place in our home. He played the villainous J. R. Eweing on Dallas (1978-1991). I don’t remember much about the show. It was something my parents watched. I do know that Friday night football games created quite a stir because that was also the night for Dallas. I would be willing to wager that Dallas was not only the most watched show, but also the most video recorded* show at the time.

My entire memory of Mr. Hagman was strictly from the small screen of television. It wasn’t until I took a film class at Southern Methodist University that I saw Fail-Safe (1964) starring Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau and Larry Hagman. Although Mr. Hagman was playing a very serious part, all I could see was Major Nelson talking to Henry Fonda. Fail-Safe is worth another viewing too.

If Jeannie could grant me one wish, it would have been a photo shoot with Mr. Hagman. As everyone knows, the biggest mystery on television was who shot J.R. Ewing. I’m working on a photography book about the Kennedy assassination. I would love to have included Mr. Hagman in the pages. He would have been the second most famous person shot in Dallas.

Thank you, Larry Hagman.

* For all you kids, a video recorder was a device for recording television shows onto magnetic tape. These tapes could hold 2, 4 or 6 hours of entertainment from only one channel at a time. I believe my mother had a tape dedicated for recording Dallas.

About Mr. Holga

Mr. Holga is our walkabout photographer and art reporter. Mr. Holga specializes in film photography, especially with Holga cameras. You can follow Mr. Holga on Twitter at or visit his website at

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