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Larry Hagman, Best Known as TV’s Notorious J.R. Ewing, Dead at 81

Larry Hagman, most famous for playing the evil J.R. Ewing on the TV show Dallas, died on Friday in Dallas from complications of his recent battle with cancer.

Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” the family said in a statement. “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 family requests privacy at this time.

The role of J.R. Ewing the scion of the show’s oil family, changed Hagman’s career. Before that, he was best known as Tony Nelson, the hapless astronaut who released the genie from the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie.” But about 20 years after Barbara Eden’s Jeannie wowed people in her cute costume and racy navel, Hagman put on that cowboy hat and took the screen as the most well-known anti-hero in TV drama history.

Hagman lived in California with his wife of 60 years, the former Max Axelsson, and reprised his role on TNT’s Dallas reboot, even though he was in poor health.

And although his TV wife, Sue Ellen and he fought constantly, along with his TV brother Bobby, the stars who played them, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy, were at Hagman’s bedside when he died.

“They had been friends for 35 years and they had worked together for many years, so obviously it is devastating,” Lane said.

Hagman announced in October 2011 he had a “treatable” form of cancer, but that he’d keep working in the role in the new show.

As J.R., I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery. But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love. Besides, as we all know, you can’t keep J.R. down!

You couldn’t keep him down in the last 70s and early 80s, either. Hagman was at the centerpiece of the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” story line, in which his character was shot in the 1979-80 season finale. in March. “Who Shot J.R.?” became a nationally repeated catchphrase, and the assailant wasn’t revealed until the show came back on that November, and the episode attracted record ratings.

Hagman’s portrayal of the rogue oil magnate turned him into a likeable character, and viewers tuned in from 1978-91 to watch him in every one of the series’ 357 episodes.

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