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TV actor Larry 'J. R.' Hagman dies from cancer at 81

By Greg Goodsell
November 25th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If there ever was a man that the world loved to hate - at least on episodic TV - it was J. R. Ewing, portrayed by actor Larry Hagman of the "Dallas" series. Smug and charming, the character of J. R. was capable of anything with a dastardly smile on his face. When the CBS series left the world hanging with the attempted murder of Ewing, the world went "Who Shot J.R.?" happy in 1980, inspiring parties and speculations. Hagman has since lost his battle with cancer. He was 81.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Larry's family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time," a statement read.

Born into acting, Hagman was the son of stage actress Mary Martin, most famous for her ole of "Peter Pan" on the Broadway stage. Born in Texas, his father, Ben Hagman, was a lawyer. Spending only a year in college, he embarked on a stage acting career, appearing with his mother in a production of "South Pacific" in England. He even produced and directed several shows while in the U.S. Air Force.

The stint in the military no doubt prepped him for his second-most famous TV role, Maj. Tony Nelson, or "Master," as he was known to the scantily clad genie played by Barbara Eden in the hit comedy, "I Dream of Jeannie" in 1965.

Eden would post on her Facebook page that Hagman "was the center of so many fun, wild, shocking and, in retrospect, memorable moments that will remain in my heart forever ...I, like many others, believed he had beat cancer and yet we are reminded that life is never guaranteed.

"Goodbye Larry. There was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."

Hagman shot to television superstardom in 1978 with the role of J.R. Ewing, the scheming Texas oil tycoon, in the prime-time soap opera "Dallas." Hagman said he based the character on all the "good ol' boys" he knew while growing up in Texas, who knew how to "catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Even those who didn't follow the show became aware after the 1980 episode, "Who Shot J.R.?" that left Americans guessing who pulled the trigger.

The answer came on November 21, 1980, in an episode dubbed "Who Done It?" More than 350 million viewers tuned in around the world to find out Kristen Shepherd, the sister of J.R.'s wife, shot him. It remains one of the most watched television episodes in history. Hagman and the rest of the cast thrived for 14 seasons total before the initial run of Dallas ended in 1991.

Hagman skated close to the brink of death numerous times. An alcoholic, he received a life-saving kidney transplant in 1995. The cancer that claimed his life was his second-run in with the disease.

Hagman is survived by his wife of many years, son and daughter.

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