Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas
Currently Known For:
1960s - 1980s
September 21, 1931
I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas
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“My definition of a redundancy is an air-bag in a politician's car.” A sitcom star, a ruthless soap opera villain and a notorious Hollywood wild child are just a few ways to describe the late Larry Hagman. Launching his career in the early 1950s, Hagman made his claim to fame as an astronaut named Major Tony Nelson opposite the stunning Barbara Eden in the 1960s classic television series, I Dream of Jeannie. With the series wrapping up in 1970, he went on to make a string of appearances in Harry and Tonto, Stardust, The Rockford Files and Superman before taking on his next starring role as the ruthless and conniving J.R. Ewing in CBS’s primetime soap opera, Dallas. Donning his signature cowboy hat for 13 seasons until the show’s end in 1991, Hagman reprised his role nearly two decades later when TNT revived the series in 2012. Sadly, the 81-year-old actor passed away in November 2012 and left the show’s writers and his costars with big boots to fill.
A true Texan at heart, Larry Martin Hagman was born on September 21, 1931 in Fort Worth, Texas. His mother was a famous stage and screen actress named Mary Martin and his father was a district attorney and accountant. When he was five years old, his parents divorced and sent him to live with his maternal grandmother while his mother worked with Paramount to further her Hollywood career. A few years later, his mother remarried, gave birth to a daughter and moved the family to New York City but sent Hagman to live with his grandmother while he attended the prestigious Black-Fox Military Institute in Hollywood. Years later, after his grandmother died, he joined his mother in New York before returning to his hometown of Weatherford, Texas where he rekindled his relationship with his father.
While Hagman’s father encouraged him to study law and later join the practice, Hagman fell in love with the stage and, after graduating from Weatherford High School, moved back to New York to launch his acting career. In 1950, he made his debut at The Woodstock Playhouse and later joined Margo Jones’ theatrical company as he traveled the world performing. He even briefly took the stage with his mother in a London production of South Pacific before returning to the United States and enlisting in the United States Air Force with plans to serve in the Korean War. Fortunately, he was stationed in London and spent most of his time entertaining the troops before leaving the Air Force after four years in 1956.
Finding himself back in the Big Apple, Hagman proved his talents in Off-Broadway productions like Once Around the Block and Career before finally making his Broadway debut in the 1958 production of Comes a Day. Following up the performance with God and Kate Murphy, The Beauty Part, The Warm Peninsula and The Nervous Set, Hagman was only 25 years old when he made his television debut on Decoy and appeared alongside Lloyd Bridges on the adventure series Sea Hunt.
With his television career taking off in the early 1960s, Hagman appeared in series like Diagnosis: Unknown, The Defenders and a soap opera titled The Edge of Night as he went on to make his first feature film debut in the 1964 flick, Ensign Pulver. After eight years as a guest star, things finally changed for Hagman in 1965 when he was offered a leading role in NBC’s newest comedy series, I Dream of Jeannie. Hagman embraced the role as Major Tony Nelson opposite the stunning Barbara Eden and saw the series become a fan favorite as it spawned a wave of magical comedy series like My Favorite Martian and Bewitched. After five years, the show wrapped but saw a resurgence with sequels like I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later in 1985 and I Still Dream of Jeannie in 1991, neither of which Hagman appeared in after arguing that he’d already closed his I Dream of Jeannie chapter.
Eight years after his magical love story ended, Hagman had his choice of television shows with offers for The Waverly Wonders and Dallas in 1978. After reading the script for Dallas and instantly connecting with the conniving J.R. Ewing, Hagman’s choice was easy as he made his primetime soap opera debut and saw Dallas climb to the top of the charts as an international hit over the next 13 years. Hagman even earned two Emmy Award nominations in 1980 and 1981 in addition to four consecutive Golden Globe Award nominations from 1981 to 1985, which just goes to prove that Hagman/Ewing was someone everyone loved to hate and hated to love!
After Dallas ended in 1991, Hagman went on to star in a variety of projects including films like Nixon and Primary Colors as well as television series like Orleans and Desperate Housewives. He reprised his role as J.R. Ewing in the made-for-television films Dallas the Early Years and Dallas: J.R. Returns but received the shock of a lifetime in 2012 when he was invited to star in TNT’s revival series of Dallas. By then, news had already broke that the legendary villain had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
“As J.R. I could get away with anything—bribery, blackmail and adultery. But I got caught by cancer,” Hagman announced. “I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love.”
With a tumor removed from his tongue in 2011, Hagman’s cancer was said to be in remission when he suffered a series of complications and died on November 23, 2012 with friends and family surrounding him. As his costar Linda Gray said, “He was the Pied Piper 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.”