He showcased two of the most diverse performances in the history of television.
In the 1960s, Larry Hagman portrayed the lovable Major Anthony Nelson, opposite the adorable Barbara Eden on the super-successful supernatural sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
On that show, which originally aired on NBC from 1965 to 1970, Hagman became the mortal husband of Eden's magical genie. “I loved working with Larry,” Eden told PBS.org.
In the late 1970s through the early '90s, Hagman, son of Broadway star Mary Martin, played the nasty oil monger J.R. Ewing on the hit prime-time soap, Dallas, which originally aired on CBS from 1978 to 1991.
But whether or not Hagman's characters were naughty or nice, it was the actor's likable portrayal of the roles that caught the viewer's attention. It was a testament to the actor's talents that he proved endearing to the audience.
As also documented on PBS.org, Hagman, who died in 2012 (while working on a reboot of Dallas), became interested in the entertainment business due to his famous mom.
“Always hang up your costumes, know your lines, and stay reasonably sober,” was her advice to him. “Well, I did two of them,” Hagman once said.
"For his career-defining role in Dallas," PBS.org continued to report, "...what came in handy wasn’t any insider professional advice, but his experience working for a Texas farmer, digging ditches. His tough boss became the inspiration for J.R. Ewing.
Hagman later turned to more dramatic roles, including one in a film called Stardust which, as PBS.org chronicled, he credited as helping him hone characteristics that would one day become J.R.
According to PBS.org, Hagman, who was actually from Texas, "was ready to play J.R. when he landed Dallas in 1977.
Co-star Linda Gray once recalled the big impression Hagman made when they first met:
“Larry walked in, in a cowboy hat. Slung over his shoulder he had carved leather saddlebags with a case of champagne. And I said to him, ‘ah, I’m your wife, Sue Ellen.’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘Hello, Darlin'."
As is concluded on PBS.org, "J.R. Ewing became the man that everyone loved to hate and made Hagman one of the best-known television villains in the world. J.R. remains the perfect symbol of 1980s excesses – an oil man who liked money and didn’t care who he stepped on to get it."
For more about Larry Hagman, J.R., and Dallas, visit PBS.org.
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