Tributes after Dallas star Larry Hagman dies at 81

Tributes paid to Dallas legend Larry Hagman, who has died at 81 after losing cancer battle

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2012, 4:01am


Fervour for the show Dallas was intense in 1980, when Britain's Queen Mother met actor Larry Hagman and joined the global chorus asking: "Who shot JR?"

"Not even for you, ma'am," replied Hagman, who portrayed villainous oil baron JR Ewing at the centre of the popular prime-time soap from 1978 until 1991.

About 300 million viewers in 57 countries had watched JR get shot by an unseen assailant, a season-ending plot twist that is credited with popularising the cliffhanger in television series.

Hagman, who became a television star in the 1960s starring in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, died on Friday at a Dallas hospital, said a spokesman for actress Linda Gray, his longtime co-star on Dallas. He was 81.

The actor had just returned to the role of JR in a new version of Dallas, which hit television screens in the US in June.

A year ago, Hagman revealed he was fighting his second battle against cancer. He spoke about his decades of drinking that led to being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 1992, prompting him to go teetotal. Three years later he had a liver transplant.

"He was the pied piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew," Gray said. "He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented ... He was an original and lived life to the full."

As an actor, Hagman came with a serious pedigree. He was the son of Mary Martin, a legendary star of Broadway musicals.

On Dallas, Hagman's JR was "the man viewers loved to hate," according to critics, a scheming Texan in a land of plenty. Much of the show's run paralleled the nation's fascination with big money and big business in the 1980s. "Here is a man born to play villainy," television critic Howard Rosenberg wrote after the show's debut. "His performance on Dallas is a salute to slime."

A Texas native, Hagman often said he played the character as a composite of "all those good old boys" he had known growing up, "who caught more flies with honey instead of vinegar."

He approached the role as "a cartoon," Hagman once said of the role that earned him two Emmy nominations.

Hagman also admitted he drank his way through Dallas.

Champagne was "his poison" - he would uncork a bottle by 9am and keep the bubbly flowing all day. He once poured bourbon on his cornflakes.

Over more than 50 years he appeared in more than 80 television productions and 20 films, including The Eagle Has Landed (1978) and Superman (1978).

In Malibu, where he lived for decades, he was known as an amiable eccentric.

He once went shopping for groceries while wearing a yellow chicken suit and played with a Frisbee clad in a Robin Hood hat and a karate robe.

"My behaviour earned me the nickname the Mad Monk of Malibu," he wrote in his 2001 autobiography. "Living up to it came naturally."