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Hagman, Larry

Category: Performer

 

Larry Martin Hagman (September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012) was an American film and television actor, director and producer best known for playing ruthless oil baron J.R. Ewing in the 1980s prime-time television soap opera Dallas and befuddled astronaut Major Anthony "Tony" Nelson in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie

Hagman was the son of actress Mary Martin, the lady who played Peter Pan.

For his performance as J.R. Ewing, Hagman was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1980 and 1981, but did not win.

He was also nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, between 1981 and 1985. He was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest award seven times for Outstanding Villain on a Prime Time Serial, Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial, Favourite Super Couple: Prime Time and Outstanding Actor in a Comic Relief Role on a Prime Time Serial, and won five times.

Early in his career, he pursued the stage with parts in South Pacific (1950) in London, and a number of plays on Broadway - The Taming of the Shrew (1951), Comes a Day (1958), God and Kate Murphy (1958), The Nervous Set (1959), The Warm Peninsula (1959), The Beauty Part (1962), and later in 2005 a tour of Love Letters.

The cast of Dallas

After he had moved into films, Hagman had roles in numerous feature films including The Group, Fail-Safe, Up in the Cellar, The Toy Game, Antonio, The Big Bus, Harry and Tonto, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Eagle Has Landed, Superman, S.O.B., Nixon, and Primary Colors.   He was always in supporting roles, for example in The Cavern (1964) he was Capt. Wilson; in Ensign Pulver (1964) he was Billings; in In Harm's Way (1965) he was Lieutenant Cline; in Stardust (1974) he was Porter Lee Austin; in Checkered Flag or Crash (1977) as Bo Cochran; and in The Flight of the Swan (2011) as Corporate President.

His television appearances also included guest roles on nearly 60 shows and TV series spanning from the late 1950s until his death. For those who think of Larry only in terms of Dallas or Jeannie, he was a prolific actor hardly ever out of work.   He also worked as a television producer and director.

I Dream of Jeannie

His television work included Getting Away from It All, Sidekicks, The Return of the World's Greatest Detective, Intimate Strangers, and A Howling in the Woods.  His parts were again often supporting roles.  He occasionally appeared in only one episode of a TV series in a character part, or many episodes.  In Desperate Housewives (2010) (TV series) he appeared as Frank Kaminsky; in Nip/Tuck (2006) (TV series) he was Burt Landau.  In The Rockford Files (1977) (TV series) he appeared in one episode as Richard Lessing; and in The Simpsons (1989) he again appeared in one episode, in 2006 as Wallace Brady.

He also directed (and appeared briefly in) a low-budget comedy and horror film in 1972 called Beware! The Blob, also called Son of Blob, a sequel to the classic 1958 horror film The Blob.

 

Hagman was the only actor to appear in all 357 episodes of Dallas.

He also made five guest appearances on the Dallas spin-off series Knots Landing in the early 1980s.

Some years after Dallas ended, Hagman appeared in two subsequent Dallas television movies: J.R. Returns in 1996, and War of the Ewings in 1998.

Why is he on the site? 

Because he had a near death experience as a consequence of a life-saving liver transplant in 1995. He also had some interesting drug experiences. 

In 1969, Hagman's friend, musician David Crosby supplied Hagman with LSD after a concert: "LSD was such a profound experience in my life that it changed my pattern of life and my way of thinking."

Hagman was also introduced to marijuana by Jack Nicholson as a safer alternative to Hagman's heavy drinking. "I liked it because it was fun, it made me feel good, and I never had a hangover."

More details are provided in the observations.

He died on November 23, 2012 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Hagman's friend, musician David Crosby left in the photo, supplied Hagman with LSD after a concert, the photo shows Crosby, Stills and Nash

Life

 

Hagman's mother, Mary Martin, became a Broadway actress and musical comedy star after his birth. His father, Benjamin Jackson Hagman, was of Swedish descent, an accountant and lawyer who worked as a district attorney.

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on September 21, 1931. My mother was 17. She had married and become pregnant almost the moment her marriage was consummated. She had no idea about sex.

Nor did she have much of a clue about motherhood. It just happened as if it was supposed to, like so many events in life seem when you look back on them. But Mom did things her way and her way was rarely traditional. Her father, Preston Martin, was a prominent lawyer in town. Her mother, Juanita Presley, had taught violin at the community college. Mother was born in the family's modest home.
According to her, my grandfather signalled her birth to the neighbours by raising the bedroom curtain, and she liked to say, "Curtains have been going up for me ever since." My mother was a good-looking child. She sang the words to every song the town band played on Saturday nights outside the courthouse. At 12, she took voice lessons. She would describe herself as the best customer at the Palace, the town's only movie theater. She began to dream about becoming a performer after seeing Al Jolson sing "Mammy", and soon she was able to mimic Ruby Keeler, ZaSu Pitts, and other stars of the day.
"Give me four people and I'm on," she said.
"Give me four hundred and I'm a hundred times more on"
My father, Ben Hagman, had his own flair. He was a criminal attorney who, at six feet and 240 pounds, commanded a courtroom the way Mother did a stage.

Mary Martin

Hagman's parents divorced in 1936 when he was five years old. He lived with his maternal grandmother, Juanita Presley Martin, in Texas and California while his mother became a contract player with Paramount in 1938.

Hagman attended a strict academy, Black-Foxe Military Institute. When his mother moved to New York City to resume her Broadway career, Hagman again lived with his grandmother in California.

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

Soon my mother accepted a contract from Paramount Pictures to star in movies, and Grandma and I joined her in L.A. …. Mom made 11 films in just three years, including The Great Victor Herbert .  I was enrolled in Black Fox Military Institute. Those regimented military schools were quite popular among parents, especially showbiz parents, back in the 1930s and 1940s. Among those in my class were the sons of Bing Crosby, Edward G. Robinson, Charlie Chaplin, and Harry Blackstone, the magician. I took to all the rules and the strict sense of order.

A few years later, his grandmother died and Hagman joined his mother in New York.  Although the photos of the time appear to show a happy loving mother and son, Hagman rarely saw his mother, and his home life was a strange disruptive one with school the only stable facet of his life:

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

Hagman with his Mum later in life -"Miss Martin, what's
it like to have an icon for a son?" My mother gazed
benignly down upon her and quietly said, "My dear,
my son is a star. I am an icon."
That's what I loved about mother-her truthfulness.

.... when Grandma took ill ,  I moved into their Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City. The change happened suddenly and without any pre-planning. Nanny went into the hospital for a gallbladder operation, and I was shipped east, shielded from the gravity of her illness.
Mother and everyone else expected her to die during surgery, or soon after if she made it through, and they were right. Nanny died.
 I cried for days.
She'd raised me through my first 12 years and her death broke me up. Without her, I was truly on my own in Richard's house. A whole new life began for me.
I was enrolled in Trinity an old-fashioned prep school that I rather liked. All the students wore a jacket and tie and flannels. They called teachers "sir." It reminded me of military school. Home-work was as mandatory as cleaning your locker or polishing your shoes had been in military school, and this kind of routine was familiar to me. The same couldn't be said for my new Fifth Avenue home.
The last time I'd lived with my mother, Nanny was still running the show. At that point, Mother had been a rising nightclub singer trying to make it in the movies. Now her world was completely different. She was a star.
Her name was above the marquee on a new Broadway play, Lute Song. She was photographed in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She and Richard regularly socialized with Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Leland Hayward-the biggest names in the New York entertainment world.
 It was everything she'd dreamed of, but none of what a kid like me found comforting, warm, or nourishing. We didn't spend much time together. On school days, I got up at seven and knew to be quiet because she was still asleep. When I came home around four or five, she was getting ready to go to the theater. Usually she'd have a light dinner with us, and then she went to work as Richard called, "'We've got to leave or we'll be late." I was asleep when she got home.

In 1946, Hagman attended Woodstock Country School, a boarding school in Woodstock, Vermont.

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

with Linda Gray from Dallas, a lifelong friend of Larry

Though I'd been away 12 of my 13 years, mom was concerned about how I'd react to being sent away, but I was delighted to escape Richard. ……. …Woodstock was the first coed school I'd ever attended. It was a progressive institution, a bastion of liberal educational theory and thought where students created the rules. Yet, as they explained on the first day's indoctrination, there was no smoking, no drinking, and no sex. The three biggies, they called them. I broke them all. I didn't actually have to try. ….The last two rules toppled when I started going with "an older woman." ... At 16, she was already a woman, light-years ahead of me in worldliness, relationships, everything. ….. She must've thought I had potential, because one day she offered me a cigarette. I said no. I wasn't going to smoke cigarettes. "If you take a puff," she said, "I'll let you put your hand on my breast" Well, I smoked for 20 years after that. I didn't stop until I was 34 years old.

Hagman wavered between living with his father and being with his mother.  Initially he decided to live with his father and told him he wanted to be a cowboy....

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

It was the summer after my senior year of high school. I was seventeen years old. Two years earlier, I'd left a comfortable liberal school for rich kids in bucolic Vermont to be with my dad, a prominent lawyer in the small Texas town. I'd said I wanted to work as a cowboy. That time had finally come. I had my hat, my jeans, my boots . . . everything but a job.

 

My dad got me work in the machine shop at the Antelope Tool Company a stultifyingly hot Quonset hut where I made a tool used in oil drilling that a machine behind me spit out at a rate a hundred times faster than I could make them by hand. Then I switched to unloading 1OO-pound cement bags from railroad boxcars under the fiery August sun, until the company's owner transferred me to his house-theoretically a promotion-where I was put to work digging ditches for sewer lines and a hole for his swimming pool.
But that was the toughest of all the jobs, and probably as close to hell as I've ever been. Shovels and picks were useless against the hard ground. Every few feet, we had to blast it with dynamite. One sweltering afternoon, as I leaned unsteadily against my shovel at the bottom of a 10-foot hole where guys much older and tougher than me were passing out from the heat and the dynamite fumes, I had an epiphany.
The only horses I'd seen all summer were in the local rodeo. The hell with trying to be a cowboy.

Hagman with his Mum Mary

"I think I want to be an actor," I told my dad. Soon I was standing on my mother's doorstep in New York.
My mother was Broadway star Mary Martin. It's hard to imagine anyone not knowing who my mother was, but nowadays, eight years after her death, I'll meet young people up to 25 or 30 who have no idea of the Mary Martin of South Pacific or The Sound of Music. But mention Peter Pan and their eyes light up. They can tell me how old they were and where they were when they watched it. When I tell them that Peter Pan was my mother, they light up but then look incredulous. One 18-year-old girl said, "That's impossible. Peter was a boy. And anyhow, he never grew up."

Hagman, Mary Martin, Richard Halliday,
Heller Halliday

In 1940, Hagman's mother had met and married Richard Halliday before giving birth to a daughter, Heller, the following year. Hagman did not see eye to eye with Richard and it caused something of a rift between him and his mother, but in 1973, his stepfather Richard Halliday died, and Hagman was able to reunite with his mother, Mary Martin, soon after. The two were close until her death from colon cancer in 1990.

Hagman began his career in 1950 acting in productions at Margaret Webster's school at The Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, New York. That summer, during a break from his one year at Bard College, he worked in Dallas as a production assistant and acting in small roles in Margo Jones's theater company. He appeared in The Taming of the Shrew in New York City, followed by numerous tent show musicals with St. John Terrell's Music Circus in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Lambertville, New Jersey. In 1951, Hagman appeared in the London production of South Pacific with his mother, and stayed in the show for nearly a year.

In 1952, during the Korean War, Hagman enlisted in the United States Air Force.  Stationed in London, he spent the majority of his military service entertaining U.S. troops in the United Kingdom and at bases in Europe.

In 1954, Hagman married Swedish-born Maj Axelsson (born May 13, 1928, in Eskilstuna, Södermanlands län, Sweden – died May 31, 2016, in Los Angeles, California); they had two children, Heidi Kristina (born 1958) and Preston (born 1962). Longtime residents of Malibu, California, they later moved to Ojai. Larry and Maj remained together until his death.

After leaving the Air Force in 1956, Hagman returned to New York City, where he appeared in the off-Broadway play Once Around the Block, by William Saroyan. That was followed by nearly a year in another off-Broadway play, James Lee's Career. His Broadway debut occurred in 1958 in Comes a Day. Hagman appeared in four other Broadway plays, God and Kate Murphy, The Nervous Set, The Warm Peninsula, and The Beauty Part.

Ensign Pulver in 1964

During this period, he also appeared in numerous, mostly live, television programs. Aged 25, Hagman made his television debut on an episode of Decoy. In 1958, he joined Barbara Bain as a guest star in the short-lived adventure-drama series Harbormaster. Hagman joined the cast of daytime soap opera The Edge of Night in 1961 as Ed Gibson, and stayed in that role for two years. In 1964, he made his film debut in Ensign Pulver, which featured a young Jack Nicholson. That same year, he also appeared in Fail-Safe, with Henry Fonda.

Hagman's first television role was as Kenneth Davidson in the 1957 episode "Saturday Lost" of the syndicated crime drama, Decoy, starring Beverly Garland as the first female police officer in a television lead. Hagman then appeared three times in 1958 on Lloyd Bridges' syndicated adventure series, Sea Hunt. In 1960, he was cast in the CBS summer medical series Diagnosis: Unknown in the role of Don Harding in the episode, "The Case of the Radiant Wine". In 1963 and 1964, he appeared twice in segments of the CBS legal drama, The Defenders.

“It is the one of the greatest moments in TV history - Who Shot J.R.?  …
.millions of viewers were obsessed with the plot line following the
attempted murder of the world's most famous TV villain - played by Larry
Hagman - and then later the big reveal of the would-be assassin's identity. 
It was a relatively unknown Mary Crosby. Her only claim to fame: She
was the 19-year-old daughter of musical legend, Bing Crosby.  Her role
on Dallas as Kristin Shepard, J.R.'s scorned mistress and sister-in-law,
propelled her to A-list stardom”.

After nearly eight years of guest-starring in various television series, Hagman was cast as "genie" Barbara Eden's television "master" and eventual love interest, Air Force Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson in the NBC situation comedy I Dream of Jeannie, which ran for five seasons from 1965 to 1970. The show entered the top 30 in its first year and was NBC's answer to the successful 1960s magical comedies, Bewitched on ABC and My Favorite Martian on CBS.

In 1978, Hagman was offered two roles on two television series that were debuting. One was for The Waverly Wonders and the other for Dallas, in the role of conniving elder son and businessman J.R. Ewing. When Hagman read the Dallas script at his wife's suggestion, they both concluded it was perfect for him. Hagman based his portrayal in part on memories of the eldest son who had won the Antelope Tool Company succession battle.

"Dallas" became a worldwide success, airing in 90 countries. Hagman became one of the best-known television stars of the era. Producers were keen to capitalize on that love/hate family relationship of J.R., building anticipation to a fever-pitch in "Who shot J.R.?", the 1980 cliff-hanger season finale in which J.R. is shot by an unknown assailant. Ultimately, the person who pulled the trigger was revealed to be Kristin Shepard (played by Mary Crosby) in the "Who Done It?" episode which aired on November 21, 1980.

 

At the beginning of the fourth season later that year, audience and actors were trying to guess "Who shot J.R.?". During the media build-up, Hagman was involved in contract negotiations, delaying his return in the fourth season. Holding out for a higher salary, Hagman did not appear in the first episode of the show until the final few minutes. Producers were faced with a dilemma whether to pay the greatly increased salary or to write J.R. out of the program. Lorimar Productions, the makers of the series, began shooting different scenes of Dallas which did not include Hagman. In the midst of negotiations, Hagman took his family to London for their July vacation. He continued to fight for his demands and network executives conceded that they wanted J.R. to remain on Dallas. From then on, Hagman became one of the highest-paid stars in television. At the beginning of the 1980–81 season, writers were told to keep the storylines away from the actors until they really found out who actually shot J.R., and it took three weeks until the culprit was revealed on November 21, 1980, in a ratings record-breaking episode.

 

In 1984, co-star Barbara Bel Geddes left Dallas, following her March 1983 quadruple heart bypass surgery. At one point, Hagman suggested to his real-life mother Mary Martin that she play Miss Ellie, but she rejected the suggestion and Bel Geddes was briefly replaced by Donna Reed for the 1984–1985 season, before Bel Geddes returned in better health for the 1985–1986 season. By the end of its 14th season in 1991, ratings had slipped to the extent that CBS decided to end Dallas.

After Dallas ended, Hagman found it difficult to get other roles, as his persona as JR hampered his attempts.  In 1993, Hagman starred in Staying Afloat as a down-on-his-luck former millionaire who agrees to work undercover with the FBI to maintain his playboy lifestyle. Originally ordered for two TV movies and a weekly series by NBC, the pilot movie aired in November 1993 to critical drubbing and low ratings, ending production.

Again, in January 1997, Hagman starred in a short-lived television series titled Orleans as Judge Luther Charbonnet, which lasted only eight episodes.

Illness and death

In later years, Hagman suffered from numerous problems with his health.  In 1995, Hagman underwent a life-saving liver transplant after he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

 

It's no secret that I'm a recovering alcoholic whose life has been prolonged by a liver transplant. It's all true, but there's more to say, lots more. Some of it's funny, some of it's serious, and some contains the wisdom that comes from discovering that having it all doesn't mean you actually have it all. ….. I'm often asked how my liver transplant operation changed my life. Aside from saving it, nothing changed. It confirmed what I've always tried to do-live my life as fully as possible before the clock runs out. My happiness comes from being a husband, father, and grandfather of five, not from stardom, which is a fluke. I starred in two very successful television series.
When people ask for my secret, I tell them it's been 20 percent hard work, 80 percent luck. I think a lot of life comes down to that. If you push too hard for something, it seems to retreat. If you hold on to something too tightly it manages to slip away.

Maj Hagman too was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008, and Hagman at first took the lead in caring for her, but her condition deteriorated. By 2010, she required 24-hour nursing care.

Hagman was a heavy smoker as a young man before quitting at age 34. He was the chairman of the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout for many years and also worked on behalf of the National Kidney Foundation.  In June 2011, however, Hagman discovered he had stage 2 throat cancer.  Hagman had an acorn-sized tumour removed from his tongue in 2011.

In June 2012, the cancer was said to be in remission. Then, in July 2012, doctors diagnosed Hagman with myelodysplastic syndrome (formerly known as preleukemia).

Hagman died on November 23, 2012, at Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas following complications from acute myeloid leukemia.

In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Hagman's family said: "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 New York Times described him as "one of television's most beloved villains".

 

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life – Larry Hagman

I don't want to sound like I'm on a soapbox, but I think I've entered a more spiritual stage of my life. As I grow older, I see myself in a period of giving back. The way the world seems headed, I feel like I have to be involved with many organizations.
I am at present the National Kidney Foundation's spokesperson for organ transplants and also involved with Habitat for Humanity and the Solar Electric Light Fund, a nonprofit that brings electricity to areas of the world where people have never seen a light bulb. I also have been appointed to the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I never thought I'd live this long or this far into the twenty-first century, but here I am, and I'm concerned about the world my grandchildren are inheriting.
Sure, there are advances every day. Computers go faster and drugs work miracles. But they also come with two pages of legal warnings that they might do more harm than good. The brilliant surgeon who performed my liver transplant had to quit practising because the insurance companies and accountants were telling him how to treat his patients. Politicians legislate the destruction of the environment so we can drive SUVs, and they do it without considering the effect they are having on the whole chain of life of which we're a part.
Rome fell when the lead went from their pencils into their wine and the lawyers took over society. Everything was crooked. Nothing got done and problems piled up. Finally the barbarians came through and solved all the problems for them. They killed everyone.
 But poets are still writing about love, musicians are still making music, and kids are still thinking they know how to do things better than their parents.
As long as that continues, we've got a chance.

 

References

 

In 2001, Hagman wrote his autobiography titled Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life.

We have taken the observations and quotes from this book as well as the information above, however, his daughter Kristina has also a written a biography of him which is a little more raunchy and explicit. 

We have not used this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Observations

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