Who was Larry Hagman?
Larry Hagman was an American actor, producer, and director, who made his presence felt in Hollywood for more than 50 years. He was best known for playing the villain ‘J.R. Ewing’ in the soap opera ‘Dallas,’ in 1978. He reprised his role in the 2012 revival of ‘Dallas.’ He also played the perplexed and friendly astronaut ‘Major Anthony Lenson’ in the hit TV sitcom ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ His other notable TV series included ‘Sea Hunt,’ ‘Diagnosis: Unknown,’ ‘Nixon,’ ‘Primary Colors,’ ‘The Edge of Night,’ and ‘The Defenders.’ He also made appearances in ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’ He has also appeared in movies such as ‘The Group,’ ‘Mother,’ ‘Jugs & Speed,’ ‘The Eagle Has Landed,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘S.O.B.,’ ‘Sidekicks,’ and ‘The Return of the World’s Greatest Detective.’ His last movie, ‘I Get That a Lot,’ was released in 2013. Larry had to go through a liver transplant due to his drinking habits. Soon, he was diagnosed with cancer too. Larry died on November 23, 2012, due to complications from cancer. He was 81 years old at the time of his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Larry was born on September 21, 1931, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Mary Martin and Benjamin Jackson Hagman. His mother was a ‘Broadway’ actor, and his father was an accountant and a lawyer.
After his parents divorced, Larry spent most of his time with his grandmother. His mother worked as a contract player with ‘Paramount.’ His mother married Richard Halliday in 1940, and Larry moved in with her.
After the birth of his stepsister in 1941, Larry’s mother moved to New York to focus on her career as an actor. Larry had to move to California with his grandmother again.
His mother gave a lot of auditions, which earned her the nick name ‘Audition Mary.’ While his mother was busy with her career as an actor, Larry attended a military school, the ‘Black-Foxe Military Institute.’
After the death of his grandmother, Larry moved in with his mother in New York. Eventually, he went back to his hometown in 1946.
He attended ‘Weatherford High School’ in Weatherford. Although his father had wanted him to be a lawyer, Larry knew what he wanted to do with his life.
After completing high school, Larry decided to pursue acting as a career. The rest, as they say, is history.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Larry’s first acting stint was with Margaret Webster’s school productions at ‘The Woodstock Playhouse’ in New York. He had a small role in ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’
While at the ‘Bard College’ in New York, Larry found time to work as a production assistant and did small roles with Margo Jones’s theater company.
In 1952, he had to take a break to serve in the ‘US Air Force.’ After his service, he went back to New York to focus on his career.
He started with performing at stage plays and indulged in a lot of theater work. He appeared in ‘Once Around the Block,’ an ‘Off-Broadway’ play.
Larry made his ‘Broadway’ debut with ‘Comes a Day,’ in 1958. His interest in ‘Broadway’ was proved by his appearances in plays such as ‘God and Kate Murphy,’ ‘The Nervous Set,’ and ‘The Beauty Part.’
Apart from working on ‘Broadway’ plays, Larry developed a keen interest in TV. He made his first TV appearance in the crime drama ‘Decoy’ in 1957.
He appeared in a number of shows such as ‘Harbormaster’ (1958), ‘Sea Hunt’ (1958), ‘Diagnosis: Unknown’ (1960), and ‘The Defenders’ (1961). He had a major breakthrough with the 1965 sitcom ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ where he played ‘Major Anthony Nelson,’ a friendly man who finds a bottle with ‘Jeannie’ (played by Barbara Eden) inside it.
‘I Dream of Jeannie’ gave Larry’s career the much-needed boost. He was also part of the movies ‘I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later,’ released in 1985, and ‘I Still Dream of Jeannie,’ released in 1991.
Larry became a well-known face on American TV and continued making appearances in TV shows such as ‘The Good Life’ (1971), ‘Here We Go Again’ (1973), ‘Ellery Queen’ (1975), and ‘The Rockford Files’ (1977), before he played the role of the evil businessman ‘J. R Ewing’ in the hugely successful TV show ‘Dallas’.
Continue Reading Below
‘Dallas’ premiered in 1978 as a primetime show and became one of the most successful drama series on US TV. Larry became one of the most successful TV actors of all time because of this show.
One of the main reasons which contributed to ‘Dallas’ becoming a worldwide hit was its dramatic ending in the 1979–1980 season, after which ‘Who shot J.R.?’ became the most talked-about question on TV. It was later revealed that the character’s sister-in-law and mistress, ‘Kristin Shepard’ (played by Mary Crosby) had shot him.
Larry was the only actor in the show who appeared in all the episodes of ‘Dallas’ because of his popularity. His role as ‘J.R. Ewing’ earned him a lot of recognition, nominations, and awards.
He reprised his role of ‘J. R. Ewing’ in the 2012 reboot of ‘Dallas.’ He continued making regular appearances in the TV shows ‘The Simpsons’ (1989), ‘Orleans’ (1997), ‘Nip/Tuck’ (2006), and ‘Desperate Housewives’ (2010).
As a movie actor, Larry made appearances in films such as ‘The Group’ (1966), ‘Sidekicks’ (1974), ‘Mother, Jugs & Speed’ (1976), ‘Superman’ (1978), ‘S.O.B.’ (1981), ‘Nixon’ (1995), and ‘Primary Colors’ (1998). His last appearance was in the 2013 film ‘I Get That a Lot,’ which released after his death.
Larry had also directed a horror movie, ‘Beware! The Blob,’ in 1972. The movie was a sequel to the 1958 horror film ‘The Blob.’
Larry had also recorded a single, ‘Ballad of the Good Luck Charm,’ in 1980.
Awards & Achievements
Larry was nominated twice for the prestigious ‘Emmy Award,’ in the category ‘Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series’ for ‘Dallas,’ in 1980 and 1981.
He was nominated for four ‘Golden Globe Awards,’ between 1981 and 1985, for ‘Dallas.’
He was nominated for seven ‘Soap Opera Digest Awards,’ under various categories, for ‘Dallas’. He won the award five times.
In 1954, Hagman got married to Swedish designer, Maj Axelsson. They have two children: a daughter, Heidi Kristina, and a son, Preston. The family had their home in Malibu, California, but later moved to Ojai. Maj Hagman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008. She died in 2016.
Hagman was a member of ‘Peace and Freedom Party.’ His friend Jack Nicholson introduced him to marijuana. Hagman was a known supporter of using marijuana as a better alternative to alcohol.
Larry Hagman was actively involved in philanthropic activities. He was a strict non-smoker and acted as the Chairperson of ‘Great American Smokeout,’ organized by ‘American Cancer Society,’ from 1981 to 1992. He was also an advocate of organ donation. A year after his liver transplant, Hagman served as the National Spokesperson for 1996 ‘US Transplant Games’ presented by ‘National Kidney Foundation.’ He was honored with an award for the efforts he took to increase public awareness about organ donation.
In 2011, Hagman was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and continued to work, but in 2012, cancer resurfaced. Larry Hagman died on November 23, 2012, following the complications of leukemia. Surrounded by his loved ones, he spent his last moments peacefully. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in Southfork Ranch, Texas.
Actress Linda Gray, who was Hagman’s co-star in ‘Dallas,’ spoke of him as ‘pied piper of life, who brought joy to everyone.’ Another co-star, Patrick Duffy, described Hagman as ‘a fighter who fought gently against all obstacles.’
Hagman was known for his odd character. He used to maintain total silence one day every week, to test his self-discipline. When his gallstones were removed, he got a ring made out of them. Whenever his fans approached him for autographs, he made them either sing or tell a joke, before signing.