He was a good old boy, one of those men who wore a cowboy hat and a scarf around his neck. He would call women "ma'am" (at least to their faces) call out to people "Howdy! How're you doing? Have your girl call mine and we'll have dinner at the Oil Barons Club. I'll put a call to Dora Mae and we'll get a good table." Then he would go to his office, then start wheeling and dealing. He was all hetrosexual, all man. He was J.R. Ewing. And nobody could play him as well as Larry Hagman.
Hagman had acting in his blood. His mother was Mary Martin-the orginal Maria von Trapp in Sound of Music, and of course Peter Pan.Sing it with me! "I don't want to grow up! I don't want to wear a tie!" He started acting in boarding school and he stuck with it, while getting a plum role: Major Tony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie. Mostly he was the straight man: the one that would yell "Jeannie!" when she did something outrageous. It was pretty Darrinesque, but Tony Nelson was a silly man. You can't put Jeannie back in that bottle! Okay you can't show her belly button,but she's not staying in the bottle!
After Jeannie ended in 1970, Hagman did many supporting roles. I think the one that comes to mind (and shows that in some ways he was an underated actor) was in Harry and Tonto, one of my favorite films. Harry (Art Carney) has been traveling across country and ends up in LA, where his youngest son Eddie (Hagman) lives.Eddie picks up Harry (and Tonto the cat) and takes them to his apartment. Eddie tries to put on a good show for his dad, but as the scene goes on we see him become more and more desperate and vulnerable; he's short on money and really doesn't want to ask his dad, but has to. It's fantastic acting with both men.
But of course there's Dallas. I've shared my love for Dallas before. In an interview Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) once said Hagman looked at the scripts and said "How bad can I make this good old boy?" The answer: Pretty darn bad. Let's remember some of the dastardly things JR did through the years:
1. Got Lee Ann De Vega (Barbara Eden) pregnant. Denied it was his. She had to have an illegal abortion, making her unable to get pregnant again.
2. Kidnapped his baby niece Lucy from her mother Valene and took her back to Southfork.
3. Called wife Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Grey) slut, whore, bad mother, and God knows what else.
4. Did badly on an oil deal while mortaging Southfork ranch, forcing his mother Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) to agree to drill oil on Southfork-something she never wanted to do (an unexpected windfall of money stopped the drilling)
5. Ruined a man's (Terry Lester) life and drove him out of Dallas because the man dared to sleep with his mistress Kristin (Mary Crosby) Kristin was also Sue Ellen's sister. Oh yeah, this was a soap!
6. Indirectly caused his sister in law Pam's miscarriage
7. While Lucy was getting married, he had sex with her sister in law Afton (Audrey Landers) upstairs)
8. Wouldn't touch his own baby until a blood test confirmed it was really his
9. Drove several men to suicide (Walt Dirscoll, Seth Stone) after ruining them financially
10. Drove Peter Richards (Christopher Atkins) <who was having an affair with Sue Ellen> out of town on false drug charges
11. Put his wife Sue Ellen several times in a sanitarium (Actually this wasn't awful because Sue Ellen was an alchololic, but that sanitarium was creepy)
There's more, but I'm getting tired typing it all.
When Hagman was trying to negoiate a contract with the producers, it was still up in the air in 1980, so the producers (Thanks to E True Hollywood Story) decided "Oh let's shoot the SOB, figure out who did it next season." There were rumors Robert Culp would take over, but everyone knew there was only one JR. And he came back that fall--in a wheelchair-- but ready to backstab again. Lorraine Despres was the chosen one to write the script which is detailed here.
The show went on for eleven years, then was brought back last summer. At first I thought the show was just ho hum. Then an adult John Ross was talking to his father, mentioning that Uncle Bobby as going to sell Southfork. JR snapped out of his semi coma state, then got down to business. And the show became alive, just like that. I tweeted that night: JR eating jello beats any reality TV show these days. #DallasTNT
On facebook tonight when I saw Larry Hagman died, I thought oh God. I knew he was ill but I also thought JR will be gone as well. I also posted a scene I loved from the show:
Due to his own stupidity and greed, JR loses Ewing Oil. He and John Ross come to the office to bid it goodbye. JR tells him that yes, the company is gone but " ... it's here son (gesturing to his heart) Inside of me. And someday it will be inside of you." After Jeremy Wendell comes in confirming he bought Ewing Oil, then starts to take the picture of Jock (Jim Davis) down, calling it an eyesore. JR cannot take it anymore. "Wendell! You touch that painting and I'll kill you where you stand."
Wendell backs away. JR walks to where Wendell is standing. Takes the painting away from him. Shows it to his son. "John Ross? This is Ewing Oil."
John Ross nods. Walks away with his dad. One could redo the scene again, only with Larry Hagman's picture. "Son? This is Dallas." And they would be so so right.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries