Dallas legend Larry Hagman dies aged 81

Actor Larry Hagman, best known for playing the dastardly oil baron JR Ewing in Dallas, has died aged 81, his family has confirmed.

According to reports the actor passed away at a Dallas hospital on Friday after suffering complications of throat cancer.

He had also suffered from liver disease in recent years, having undergone a transplant in 1995.

Hagman was most recently seen on screen reviving the role of JR Ewing in the reboot of Dallas, which was screened on Channel 5 in the UK.

“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas re-enacting the iconic role he loved the most,” his 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.”

Co-star Linda Gray, who plays Sue Ellen Ewing in the show, also paid tribute to the actor, calling him “my best friend for 35 years”.

The actress, who also appeared in the revival, was reportedly at his bedside when he died.

Hagman, the son of actress Mary Martin, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1931 and was in the US Air Force during the Korean War before he turned to acting, initially beginning his career on the stage.

His big small screen break came in the 1965 comedy smash I Dream Of Jeannie, which saw him starring as a man who inherits a well-meaning but clumsy genie, played by actress Barbara Eden. The show ran until 1970 and was repeated during the 80s on Channel 4.

He also appeared in a string of films including Mother Jugs and Speed, The Eagle Has Landed and, more recently, Primary Colours and Nixon – but it was his role as JR Ewing which made him a household name after Dallas first hit screens in 1978.

The character’s shooting at the end of the third series in 1980 sparked one of the biggest cliffhangers in television history, with more than 350m people tuning in worldwide to find out who shot JR – the culprit eventually being revealed as his sister-in-law Kristin Shephard.

The identity of his assailant became such a closely-guarded secret that it even made the news, as prints of the episode were brought into the country under tight security.

Hagman played the role until the series ended in 1991 and briefly revived JR for a number of one-off Dallas specials.

In more recent years he also starred in the likes of Nip/Tuck and Desperate Housewives before Dallas was revived in 2011 – and he returned to the series despite undergoing treatment for what he described as a ‘treatable’ form of throat cancer.

“As JR I could get away with anything – bribery, blackmail and adultery,” he said.”But I got caught by 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, you can’t kep JR down!”

The series recently finished its run on Channel 5 in the UK with a second series due to air in the US early next year.

Hagman is survived by his wife, Maj Axelsson, whom he married in 1952 and who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2008. The couple had two children, Heidi Kristina and Preston.

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