General News

Larry Hagman dead at 81

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Nov 24, 2012 | 4:15am EST

The actor, who played ruthless oil tycoon J.R. Ewing in the hit TV soap and its 2012 revamp, passed away in a Texas hospital on Friday afternoon (23Nov12).

Reports suggest he suffered complications related to his recent cancer battle.

He had spent America's Thanksgiving Day (22Nov12) with family and friends before suddenly falling ill.

A statement from his family reads, "Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most... When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for."

The son of actress Mary Martin, Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He attended New York's Bard College and then followed his mother into acting, as a castmember of Martin's hit stage musical South Pacific in England.

After a tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force, he returned to the States and became a regular on Broadway.

His break-out TV role came in 1965 when he was cast as astronaut Major Anthony Nelson in hit sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. He played the role for five years and followed that with U.S. show The Good Life. There was another iconic TV role to come after Hagman signed on to play Dallas villain Ewing from 1978 to 1991.

Away from the cameras, the actor battled alcohol abuse for years - his heavy drinking left Hagman in need of a liver transplant in the mid 1990s, after which he took a step back from Hollywood, appearing occasionally in shows such as Nip/Tuck and Desperate Housewives and in the films Nixon and Primary Colors.

But when TV bosses opted to bring Dallas back to the small screen last year (11), Hagman was invited to reprise his role as the scheming J.R. No sooner had filming begun than Hagman was diagnosed with throat cancer. He battled the disease as he filmed the drama and was declared cancer free this summer (12).

He recently laughed off the idea of retirement, stating, "I'd like to die onstage, so to speak. I love acting and I've had a wonderful career."

As well as his TV career, Hagman has also enjoyed big screen success - among his many hits were roles in cult films The Eagle Has Landed and Mother, Jugs & Speed.

His renewed success on Dallas was tinged with sadness for Hagman, who was forced to accept he could no longer care for his wife of almost 60 years, Maj, after she developed advanced Alzheimer's disease. He moved her into a rented home, where she is attended to by live-in nurses.

TV bosses at TNT, the network which airs the new hit Dallas TV show, also released a statement upon hearing of Hagman's death.

It reads, "All of us at TNT are deeply saddened at the news of Larry Hagman's passing. He was a wonderful human being and an extremely gifted actor. We will be forever thankful that a whole new generation of people got to know and appreciate Larry through his performance as J.R. Ewing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Dallas executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin added, "Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history."

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