The old saying “let sleeping dogs lie” is an adage producers in soap-land may want to start heeding for the sake of its former stars if Bill Tarmey and Larry Hagman are anything to judge by.
Another huge soap star, almost bigger than Bill Tarmey, has died reprising a previous role. Larry Hagman, a.k.a. J. R. Ewing, has died in hospital aged 81, according to a statement from his family.
Bill Tarmey passed away earlier in the month shortly before a planned reprisal of Corrie’s Jack Duckworth with Vera (actress Liz Dawn) for Children in Need. Similarly, Larry Hagman had brought J.R. back to the new Dallas series, 21 years after the original series he made famous was axed.
90 Million Americans watched Dallas in 1980 to see who shot J.R.
The ‘Who shot J.R.?’ plot line remains, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest storyline in global soap history. A staggering 90 million Americans tuned in to watch the episode that revealed who’d had the audacity to pull the trigger on Larry Hagman’s, J.R.
You have to credit the writers, but it was the manner in which Larry Hagman portrayed the nasty Texan oil tycoon that invoked the truly global phenomenon the story became. And it was his character; originally turned down by Robert Foxworth for being too harsh, Larry took J.R. from the originally cast bit-part to the most renowned character on the box.
Spanning thirteen series between 1978 – 1991, J.R. Ewing, even though he’d been almost killed by…no, I’m not going to say, if you don’t know – it will spoil the re-runs bound to be shown at the star’s passing…was the only character portrayed in all 357 Dallas episodes, not bad considering the role was only ever supposed to be a cameo.
Yes, in reflection, “Who shot J.R.?” was probably even bigger than the ‘Free Diedre Rashid’ campaign in the UK a few years ago. Just to give some insight for those of you who don’t remember Dallas the first time around.
J.R. Ewing was so different from Larry Hagman, the man.
What was remarkable about Larry Hagman’s performance in Dallas was the difference between J.R. and the actor himself. Despite the on-screen bitterness between J.R. and his wife, Sue-Ellen, Linda Gray who played her couldn’t be more complimentary.
Speaking of his passing, she said, “Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years…He was the Pied Piper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew.”
And it was in Dallas, the city, that Larry Hagman passed away, having reprised his most famous character for Season 1 of Dallas’ second run. It was a place he loved, his family loved and fittingly, the Stetson J.R. made famous is in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
As J.R. said famously, “Lots of men have tried to run roughshod over me; you can visit them in the cemetery.”
There’ll be a few tortured souls looking over their shoulders now that Larry Hagman has gone to join them.