Hollywood today was mourning the death of actor Larry Hagman, best known for his television roles in the comedy "I Dream of Jeannie" and the prime-time soap opera "Dallas."
Hagman died Friday at age 81 due to complications of cancer. The Fort Worth native, who had a liver transplant in 1995, was in Dallas for the second season of TNT's revival of "Dallas," whose first season began June 13.
"Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years," said Linda Gray, who played his long-suffering wife Sue Ellen Ewing on both the CBS and TNT versions of "Dallas." "He was the pied paper of life and brought joy to everyone he knew.
"He was creative, generous, funny, loving and talented and I will miss him enormously. He was an original and lived life to the fullest. The world was a brighter place because of Larry Hagman."
Hagman's J.R. Ewing was a love-to-hate character, who was eventually shot in a cliffhanger episode in 1980. The fall follow-up, in which his sister- in-law and mistress was revealed to be the shooter, set a ratings record at the time. About 83 million people saw the episode that resolved who shot J.R.
In a statement from "Dallas" executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, Warner Bros., which produces the series, and its cast and crew, Hagman was called "a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most incredible in entertainment history."
"He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace," the statement said.
The "Dallas" days (1978-1991) were boozy ones. In an interview, he said he would often start drinking in the morning and keep it up all day. In 1992, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.
During his first run on "Dallas," he bought a mountaintop property in Ojai and spent years building an 18,000-square-foot chateau he called Heaven. The Malibu home he purchased for $115,000 in the 1960s was sold to Sting for nearly $7 million in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hagman, who moved to Hollywood in 1960, gained fame in a very different role as astronaut Tony Nelson on the 1965-70 NBC comedy "I Dream of Jeannie."
His co-star, Barbara Eden, said Hagman seemed healthy and full of life the last time she saw him.
"I am so thankful this past year that I was able to spend time with him and yet again experience Larry in all his big Texas bravado," she said.
He appeared in more than 80 TV productions and about 20 movies, including "The Eagle Has Landed" (1976), "Superman" (1978) and "Harry and Tonto" (1974).
Born Larry Martin Hagman, he was the son of actress Mary Martin and attorney Ben Hagman. When his parents divorced, he went to live with his grandmother in Los Angeles until he was 12. When she died, Hagman returned to his mother, who by then had remarried and was pursing a successful Broadway career.
Following a year at Bard College, Hagman decided to also become an actor, making his first stage appearance with the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the- Round in Dallas. He next appeared in the New York City Center production of "The Taming of the Shrew," followed by a year performing in regional theater.
Hagman then moved to England as part of the cast of his mother hit musical "South Pacific," portraying Yeoman Herman Quart for $30 a week, according to a biography released by NBC in 1966.
Hagman enlisted in the Air Force while in England, serving for for years, rising to the rank of corporal.
Hagman returned to New York following his military service, performing in a series of Broadway and off-Broadway plays. He was a cast member of the CBS daytime drama, from 1961-63.
Hagman is survived by his wife Maj, who he married in 1955, a daughter, Kristina, a son, Preston and five grandchildren.