HOLLYWOOD (CNS) – Larry Hagman, best known for his portrayal of the ruthless oilman J.R. Ewing on the 1978-91 CBS prime-time soap opera “Dallas,” died today in Dallas. He was 81.
Hagman died of complications from cancer, his family told The Dallas Morning News.
Hagman was in Dallas for filming of the second season of TNT’s revival of “Dallas,” whose first season began June 13.
“Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years,” said Linda Gray, who played Ewing’s long-suffering wife Sue Ellen on both the CBS and TNT versions of “Dallas.” “He was the pied paper 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 fullest. The world was a brighter place because of Larry Hagman.”
In a statement from “Dallas” executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, Warner Bros., which produces the series, and its cast and crew, Hagman was called “a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most incredible in entertainment history.”
“He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace,” the statement said.
Hagman first gained fame from a very different role, genial astronaut Tony Nelson on the 1965-70 NBC comedy “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas on Sept. 21, 1931, the son of actress Mary Martin and attorney Ben Hagman. When his parents divorced, he went to live with his grandmother in Los Angeles until he was 12. When she died, Hagman returned to his mother, who by then had remarried and was pursing a successful Broadway career.
Following a year at Bard College, Hagman decided to also become an actor, making his first stage appearance with the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the- Round in Dallas. He next appeared in the New York City Center production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” followed by a year performing in regional theater.
Hagman then moved to England as part of the cast of his mother hit musical “South Pacific,” portraying Yeoman Herman Quart for $30 a week, according to a biography released by NBC in 1966.
Hagman enlisted in the Air Force while in England, serving for for years, rising to the rank of corporal.
Hagman returned to New York following his military service, performing in a series of Broadway and off-Broadway plays. He was a cast member of the CBS daytime drama, from 1961-63.
Hagman is survived by his wife Maj, who he married in 1955, a daughter, Kristina, a son, Preston and five grandchildren.
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