It is with sad news that we announce Larry passed away this afternoon, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. His family has released this statement:
“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved most. 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.
“I was blessed to … witness his heart that was so full of passion and charity and mischievousness,” Mr. Cain said. “His friendship will be missed by many, including me.
Recently on a trip to Santa Monica, I was initiated into a celebration, a ritual that Larry performed with guests as the sun set over the ocean, where we shouted out to the sun as the final sliver passed over the hills. … I know he would want us to stand and shout and celebrate his life and the passion with which he loved and lived it.”
Michael Cain, founder of the Dallas International Film Festival
Larry Martin Hagman (September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012) was an American film and television actor best known for playing ruthless businessman J. R. Ewing in the 1980s primetime television soap opera Dallas, and befuddled astronaut Major Anthony “Tony” Nelson in the 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
His television appearances also included a handful of short-lived other series, guest roles on dozens of shows spanning from the late 1950s up until his death, and a reprisal of his signature role on the 2012 revival of Dallas. He also occasionally worked as a producer and director on television.
Hagman was the son of the actress Mary Martin. A long-time drinker, he underwent a life-saving liver transplant in 1995, and although a member of a 12-step program, he publicly advocated marijuana as a better alternative to alcohol. He died on November 23, 2012, of complications from throat cancer.
In August 1995, Hagman underwent a life-saving liver transplant after he was diagnosed with liver cancer in July. Numerous reports state he was drinking four bottles of champagne a day while on the set of Dallas. He was also a heavy smoker as a young man, but the cancer scare was the catalyst for him to quit.
He was so shaken by this incident that he immediately became strongly anti-smoking. He recorded several public service announcements pleading with smokers to quit and urging non-smokers never to start.
Hagman died on November 23, 2012, at Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas, Texas, from complications of throat cancer. The cancer had reached stage 4 complications and he had been suffering with this for a period of six months.
Hagman was born in Weatherford, Texas, near Fort Worth. His mother, Mary Virginia Martin, later became a Broadway actress, and his father, Benjamin Jackson “Jack” Hagman, was an accountant and a district attorney.
His father was of Swedish descent. Hagman’s parents divorced in 1936, when he was five years old. He lived with his grandmother in Texas and California while his mother became a contract player with Paramount in 1938.
In 1940, his mother met and married Richard Halliday and gave birth to a daughter, Heller, the following year. Hagman attended the strict Black-Foxe Military Institute (now closed).
When his mother moved to New York City to resume her Broadway career, Hagman again lived with his grandmother in California. A couple of years later, his grandmother died and Hagman joined his mother in New York.
In 1946, Hagman moved back to his hometown of Weatherford, where he worked on a ranch owned by a friend of his father. After attending Weatherford High School, he was drawn to drama classes and reputedly fell in love with the stage and, in particular, with the warm reception he received for his comedic roles.
He developed a reputation as a talented performer and in between school terms, would take minor roles in local stage productions. Hagman graduated from high school in 1949, when his mother suggested that he try acting as a profession.
He appeared in The Taming of the Shrew in New York City, followed by numerous tent show musicals with St. John Terrell’s Music Circus in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Lambertville, New Jersey.
In 1951, Hagman appeared in the London production of South Pacific with his mother, and stayed in the show for nearly a year.
In 1952, during the Korean War, Hagman was drafted into the United States Air Force. Stationed in London, he spent the majority of his military service entertaining U.S. troops in the UK and at bases in Europe.
After leaving the Air Force in 1956, Hagman returned to New York City where he appeared in the Off-Broadway play Once Around the Block, by William Saroyan. That was followed by nearly a year in another Off-Broadway play, James Lee’s Career.
During this period, Hagman also appeared in numerous, mostly live, television programs. Aged 25, Hagman made his television debut on an episode of Decoy. In 1958, he joined Barbara Bain as a guest star in the short-lived adventure and drama series Harbormaster.
Hagman joined the cast of The Edge of Night in 1961 as Ed Gibson, and stayed in that role for two years. In 1964, he made his film debut in Ensign Pulver, which featured a young Jack Nicholson. That same year, Hagman also appeared in Fail-Safe with Henry Fonda.
After years of guest-starring in television series, Hagman’s profile was raised when he was cast as Barbara Eden‘s television “master” and eventual love interest, Air Force Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie for NBC ran for five seasons from 1965.
The show ended in 1970. Two reunion movies were later made, both televised on NBC: I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later (1985) and I Still Dream of Jeannie (1991), though Hagman did not appear in either of them.
On the TV Land Awards in March 2004, Hagman and Eden were the first presenters to reunite on stage. The following October, Hagman and Daily appeared at The Ray Courts Hollywood Autograph Show. And the following year, 2005 brought all three surviving stars from I Dream of Jeannie to the first ever cast reunion at The Chiller Expo Show.
Hagman reunited with Eden in March 2006 for a publicity tour in New York City to promote the first season DVD of I Dream of Jeannie. He reunited once again with Eden on stage in the play Love Letters at the College of Staten Island in New York and the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York.
The appearance marked the first time the two performers had acted together since Eden appeared with Hagman on Dallas in 1990.
In 1977, Hagman was offered two roles on two television series that were debuting. One was for The Waverly Wonders and the other for Dallas. Maj Hagman told Larry Hagman to take the role in Dallas. In Dallas, Hagman was cast as the conniving elder son and businessman J. R. Ewing, a man whom everybody loved to hate.
When Hagman read the script for the role of J.R. at his wife’s suggestion, they both concluded it was perfect for him. Seen in over 90 countries, the show became a worldwide success and Hagman became one of the best known television stars of the era. Dallas inspiring several prime-time soaps. Producers were keen to capitalize on that love/hate family relationship of J.R.’s, building anticipation to a fever-pitch in the 1980 cliffhanger season finale in which J.R. is shot.
At the beginning of the third full season later that year, audience and actors were trying to guess “Who shot J.R.?“, now one of fictional TV’s most famous questions to have ever been asked. During the media buildup, Hagman was involved in contract negotiations, delaying his return in the fourth season.
Holding out for a higher salary, Hagman did not appear in the first episode of the show until the final few minutes. Producers were faced with a dilemma whether to pay the greatly increased salary or to write J.R. out of the picture. Lorimar Productions, the makers of the series, began shooting different episodes of Dallas which did not include Hagman.
In the midst of negotiations, Hagman took his family to London for their July vacation. He continued to fight for his demands and network executives conceded that they wanted J.R. to remain in Dallas. From then on, Hagman became one of the highest-paid stars on television.
At the beginning of the 1980-81 season, writers were told to keep the storylines away from the actors until they really found out who actually shot J.R., and it took three weeks until the culprit was revealed on November 21, 1980 in a ratings record-breaking episode.
For his performance as J.R. Ewing, Hagman was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1980 and 1981, but did not win. He was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, between 1981 and 1985.
He was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award seven times for Outstanding Villain on a Prime Time Serial, Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial, Favorite Super Couple: Prime Time and Outstanding Actor in a Comic Relief Role on a Prime Time Serial, and won five times.
In 1984, co-star (Barbara Bel Geddes) left the show after suffering a heart attack. At one point, Hagman suggested to his real-life mother (Mary Martin) that she play Miss Ellie, but she rejected the suggestion and Bel Geddes was briefly replaced by Donna Reed. Reed was fired from the show, just months before her death in 1986, aged 64, from pancreatic cancer. Bel Geddes returned to the role in 1985 and stayed until 1990.
By the end of its thirteenth season in 1991, ratings had slipped to the extent that CBS decided to end Dallas. Hagman was the only actor to appear in all 357 episodes. He had also made five guest appearances on the Dallas spin-off series Knots Landing in the early 1980s. Some years after Dallas ended, Hagman appeared in two subsequent Dallas television movies: J.R. Returns in 1996, and War of the Ewings in 1998.
Hagman reprised his role as J.R. Ewing in TNT’s continuation of Dallas, which began in 2012.
Rest In Peace Larry
You Were One Of Us…