Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembering Larry Hagman September 21, 1931 - November 23, 2012

"Who Shot J.R.?"

Larry Hagman
This was the catchphrase given to one of the most watched television episodes in TV history.  This episode drew an estimated 350 million people from 57 countries and had a Nielsen rating of 53.3 and a 76% share.  It drew more people than the presidential election that year.

This show was one from the successful and long running television show "Dallas.

"J.R." was played by actor, Larry Hagman.  "J.R. Ewing" was a villainous oil baron from Dallas, Texas.

Larry Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of actress, Mary Martin, most known for her role as Peter Pan and the prominent attorney, Ben Hagman.   During Larry's childhood, his parents divorced and for a brief time was raised by his grandmother.  Following his grandmother's death, Larry returned to be with his mother who had remarried.  Soon after, his mother pursued a Broadway career and Larry moved with his father.  After graduating from Weatherford High School, Larry enrolled in Bard College in New York and decided to follow in his mother's footsteps to pursue an acting career.  His first professional appearance occurred in the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the-Round in Dallas followed by "Taming the Shrew" in New York.  He soon moved to England to become a member of his mom's stage production of "South Pacific"

Larry enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and his job was producing and directing shows for the armed forces.  Following his military service, Larry returned to New York and appeared in a series of Broadway plays. During that time, he married and he and his wife had two children. Larry's family soon moved to Hollywood and Larry made guest appearances in several television shows including "Harbormaster" "Medical Center" "Harry O" "Streets of San Francisco" and "The Rockford Files" to name a few.

"Dallas" was not the first television role that Larry is most recognized but many remember him alongside Barbara Eden on the popular "I Dream of Jeannie"  He played an astronaut on the series that ran for five seasons and produced 139 episodes.  His film career includes roles in "The Cavern" "Fail-Safe" "Nixon" and "Primary Colors"

Cast from Dallas
Because of his popularity on Dallas, Larry became a Texas legend and hosted "Lone Star" a documentary about the state of Texas.

Off screen, Larry became actively involved in numerous civic activities including chairman of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout from 1981-92.  He was also the National Spokesperson for the 1996 U.S. Transplant Games by the National Kidney Foundation.  He participated in the Love Ride 23 Harley Davidson in Glendale, California that raised 1.7 million dollars for charity.  He was an avid "Harley-hog" and enjoyed fishing, traveling, and was a collector of hats and flags.  Many don't realize that he recorded a single  called "Ballad of the Good Luck Charm" and in 2001, wrote his autobiography called "Hello Darlin: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life."  His motto in life was "Don't Worry. Be Happy, Feel Good!"

In 1992, Larry was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and a cancerous tumor developed.  Soon, Larry had a liver transplant that restored his life.

Larry Hagman memorial program
Larry continued with his successful career and it was decided to bring "Dallas" back to television.  It was during the filming of the renewed "Dallas" that Larry had developed a cancerous tumor behind his tongue.  In July 2012, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and worked hard in continuing his role on the new "Dallas" but his cancer ended his life on Nov. 23, 2012 where he died peacefully.  He was 81.  It was reported that his family and close friends (including his "Dallas" family) had joined him to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Larry's memorial service
Larry Hagman's life was remembered (program pictured) in a touching memorial service on the grounds of the Southfork Ranch.  Many props from the show including photographs, hats, and belt buckles were displayed and eulogies were given by co-stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy. Others attending the memorial were actor Lee Majors and tycoon, Caroline Rose Hunt. Hundreds of people on the days following Larry's passing paid homage to Larry at the Southfork ranch and following cremation, Larry was laid to rest on the grounds of Southfork.
Larry Hagman resting place

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