Early Life & CareerEdit
Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas. His mother, Mary Martin, later became a Broadway actress and his father, Benjamin Jack Hagman, was a district attorney. His parents divorced in 1936 when he was five years old. He lived with his grandmother in Texas and California. His famous mother became a contract player with Paramount in 1938 and occasionally took him to her movies.
In 1940 his mother met and married Richard Halliday and gave birth to a daughter, Heller, the following year. Hagman attended the strict Black-Foxe Military Institute (now closed). When his mother moved to New York City to continue her Broadway career, Hagman again lived with his grandmother in California. A couple of years later, his grandmother died and Hagman joined his mother in New York. At age 14 (in 1945) while attending boarding school, he began drinking heavily which led to serious health problems later in life.
In 1946 Hagman moved back to his hometown of Weatherford, where he worked on a ranch owned by a friend of his father. After attending Weatherford High School, he was drawn to drama classes and reputedly fell in love with the stage and, in particular, with the warm reception he got for his comedic roles. He developed a reputation as a talented performer and in between school terms, would take minor roles in local stage productions. Hagman graduated from high school in 1949, when his mother suggested that he try acting as a profession.
Hagman began his career in Dallas, Texas working as a production assistant and acting in small roles in Margo Jones' Theater in 1950 during a break from his one year at Bard College. 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 was drafted into the United States Air Force. Stationed in London, he spent the majority of his military service entertaining U.S. troops in the UK and at bases in Europe.
Becoming an ActorEdit
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.
During this period, Hagman 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 and drama series Harbormaster. Hagman joined the cast of 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 unknown Jack Nicholson. That same year, Hagman also appeared in Fail-Safe, opposite Henry Fonda.
I Dream of JeannieEdit
After years of guest-starring in many TV roles, and starring in a less successful series the previous year, Hagman hit the jackpot in 1965 playing Barbara Eden’s TV "master" and eventual love interest, Air Force Captain (later Major) Anthony Nelson in the sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie, for NBC. The show had climbed into the Top 30 in its first year and was NBC's answer to both successful 1960s magical comedies, Bewitched on ABC and My Favorite Martian on CBS. The show ran until 1970. Two reunion movies were later made, both televised on NBC: I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later (1985) and I Still Dream of Jeannie (1991), however Hagman did not appear in either of them.
After Jeannie was canceled, Hagman starred in two other short-lived series in the 1970s: Here We Go Again and The Good Life. He also appeared in various television films, including Getting Away From It All, Sidekicks, The Return Of The World's Greatest Detective, Intimate Strangers, and Checkered Flag or Crash.
Hagman appeared in the theatrical films The Group, Harry and Tonto, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Eagle Has Landed, Superman, Nixon and Primary Colors. He directed (and appeared briefly in) a low-budget comedy and horror film in 1972 called Beware The Blob (a sequel to the classic 1958 horror film, The Blob). Some have jokingly called this "the film that J.R. shot".
In 1977 Hagman was offered two roles on two television series that were debuting. One was for The Waverly Wonders and the other for Dallas. Maj Hagman told Larry Hagman to take the role in Dallas. In Dallas, Hagman was cast as the conniving elder son and businessman J.R. Ewing, a man whom everybody loved to hate for the long-running series Dallas. When Hagman read the script for the role of J.R. at his wife's suggestion, they both concluded it was perfect for him. Seen in over 90 countries, the show became a worldwide success and Hagman became one of the best known television stars of the era. By the end of its second season, Dallas was a hit. Producers were keen to capitalize on that love/hate family relationship of J.R.'s, building anticipation to a fever-pitch in the 1980 cliffhanger season finale in which J.R. is shot.
At the beginning of the third season of Dallas, audience and actors were guessing "Who Shot J.R.?". During the media buildup, Hagman was involved in contract negotiations, delaying his return in the third 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 picture. Lorimar Productions, the makers of the series, began shooting different episodes 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 in Dallas. From then on, Hagman became one of the highest-paid stars on television. At the beginning of the third 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.
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 Globes, 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, Favorite Super Couple: Prime Time and Outstanding Actor in a Comic Relief Role on a Prime Time Serial, and won five times. In 1984, co-star (Barbara Bel Geddes) left the show after suffering a heart attack. At one point, Hagman suggested to his real-life mother (Mary Martin) that she play Miss Ellie, but she refused and Bel Geddes was replaced with veteran actress Donna Reed. Reed was fired from the show, just months before her death in 1986, aged 64, from pancreatic cancer. Bel Geddes returned to the role in 1985 and stayed until 1990. By the end of its thirteenth season in 1991, ratings had slipped to the extent that CBS decided to end Dallas. Hagman was the only actor to appear in all 357 episodes. He had 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 TV movies: J.R. Returns in 1996, and War of the Ewings in 1998.
Hagman currently reprises his role as J.R. Ewing in TNT's continuation of Dallas, which began in 2012.
Between 1991 & 1997 and after Dallas 1978Edit
In January 1997, Hagman starred in a short lived TV series named Orleans as Judge Luther Charbonnet, lasting only eight episodes. By this time, Hagman ceased wearing his toupée.
I Dream of Jeannie againEdit
In November 1999, after 29 years, Hagman agreed to reunite with Jeannie co-stars Barbara Eden and Bill Daily and creator/producer Sidney Sheldon on the The Donny and Marie Show. In 2002, when I Dream Of Jeannie was set to join the cable channel TV Land, Hagman once again took part in a I Dream Of Jeannie reunion with Eden and Daily, this time on Larry King Live. On the TV Land Awards in March 2004, Hagman and Eden were the first presenters to reunite on stage. The following October, Hagman and Daily appeared at The Ray Courts Hollywood Autograph Show. And the following year, 2005 brought all three surviving stars from I Dream Of Jeannie to the first ever cast reunion at The Chiller Expo Show.
Hagman reunited with Eden in March 2006 for a publicity tour in New York City to promote the first season DVD of I Dream Of Jeannie. He reunited once again with Eden on stage in the play Love Letters at the College of Staten Island in New York and the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. The appearance marked the first time the two had acted together since Eden appeared with Hagman on Dallas in 1990.
In 2002, Hagman made an appearance in the fourth series of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's British comedy panel game, Shooting Stars. In January 2011, Hagman made a guest appearance in the seventh Season of Desperate Housewives as a new husband for Lynette Scavo's mother, Stella (played by Polly Bergen).
During the 1980s, Hagman was featured in a national televised Schlitz beer campaign, playing on - but not explicitly featuring - the J.R. character from Dallas. Hagman wore the same kind of western business outfit - complete with cowboy hat - that he wore playing J.R. Ewing. The end of each 30-second spot featured a male voice-over saying, "Refreshing Schlitz beer...the gusto's back..." and Hagman grinning into the camera and saying, "...and I'm gonna get it!" He also made commercials for B.V.D. brand underwear.
In 2010, Hagman was hired as a spokesman for SolarWorld, a solar energy commercial enterprise. While the SolarWorld commercials do not specifically mention either Dallas or J.R. Ewing, Hagman essentially revisits the character (complete with a picture of Hagman as J.R. Ewing from the original series on the mantle), stating that his oil company days are long over, "though still in the energy business", meaning solar energy instead.
In 1973 stepfather Richard Halliday died, and Hagman reconciled with his mother, Mary Martin, soon after. The two became close until his mother's own death from colon cancer in 1990, at the age of 76.
In 1954 Hagman married Swedish-born Maj Axelsson and they had two children, Heidi Kristina (b. 1958) and Preston (b. 1962). Longtime residents of Malibu, California, they now live in Ojai, California. Hagman has been a member of the Peace and Freedom Party since the 1960s. Hagman derided President George W. Bush, a fellow Texan, before the Iraq War. At a signing for his book he described Bush as "A sad figure, not too well educated, who doesn't get out of America much. He's leading the country towards fascism". Hagman is a member of the Democratic Party and supported Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and later Barack Obama in their respective bids for the United States Presidency.
In 1967, friend musician David Crosby, supplied Hagman with LSD after a Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert: "LSD was such a profound experience in my life that it changed my pattern of life and my way of thinking and I could not exclude it." Hagman was 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." Although Hagman says he no longer smokes marijuana and is on a "Twelve-step program", he explains, "Marijuana is like being compared to alcohol and when you come right down to it, alcohol destroys your body and makes you do violent things, but with grass, you just sit back and enjoy life."
In 1982, Hagman crowned the winner of the Miss Sweden competition in Stockholm. During the coronation he wore a traditional Lapphatt and sang a Swedish folksong.
In August 1995, Hagman underwent a life-saving liver transplant after admitting he had been a heavy drinker. Numerous reports state he was drinking four bottles of champagne a day while on the set of Dallas. He was also a heavy smoker as a young man, but the cancer scare was the catalyst for him to quit. Hagman was so shaken by this incident that he immediately became strongly anti-smoking. He has recorded several public service announcements pleading with smokers to quit and urging non-smokers never to start. Hagman 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 2001, Larry Hagman wrote his autobiography entitled Hello Darlin' Tall (and absolutely true)Tales about my Life. As of 2012, this is the only book Hagman has written.
In a 2007 interview, he talked about how he is now a major proponent of alternative energy. On an episode of Living With Ed, Hagman and his wife showed actor Ed Begley, Jr. their solar powered, super energy efficient home and talk about their green lifestyle. In early 2010, the couple put their 43-acre Ojai estate (called "Heaven", which they purchased in 1991) up for sale, which was valued at $9.5 million.
Hagman appeared at the Dublin races in 2008 with his wife. In 2008 Maj Hagman was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. In June 2011 Hagman said he has stage two throat cancer. He commented, "As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery", Hagman said in a statement. "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.". In January 2012, Hagman announced that his cancer treatments have gone well and is back on the set of Dallas, but has "a lot of catching up to do". Since his cancer treatments Hagman has made several appearances in promotion for the return of the series in better health.
Hagman passed away on November 23, 2012 in Dallas, Texas at the Medical City Dallas Hospital from complications of his stage 2 throat cancer.