TV's JR Ewing, Larry Hagman dies at 81

So farewell JR Ewing. "You’re a drunk and a whore, Sue Ellen" – that was your catchphrase. One of American TV’s best-loved actors, Larry Hagman has died at 81. The role that defined his career, JR Ewing in Dallas, became one of TV’s iconic villains. Hagman played JR with such relish that it was difficult to hate him even as he hatched one of his fiendish plans. While the character was a black-hearted bully, Hagman was a fun-loving, warm family man, much-loved by his fellow cast members.

Hagman had been suffering from cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. He had resisted the illness long enough to appear in the revived version of Dallas, where JR was still up to his devious machinations. His family took comfort in his return to the role. "Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most," the Hagman family said in a statement. "He was surrounded by loved ones."

Linda Gray, who played JR’s long-suffering wife Sue Ellen, was at his bedside. "Larry Hagman was my best friend for 35 years," she said. "He was the Pied Piper 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 full."

After an uneven start in showbusiness, Hagman first came to attention as the straight man in a 1960s sitcom. He played an astronaut in the show I Dream Of Jeannie. His big breakthrough was his casting as JR in Dallas in 1978. The show became a global success with a particularly fervent following in Britain, where DJ Terry Wogan became its unofficial publicist.

Throughout his years of fame, Hagman was battling alcoholism. In his autobiography he told how he consumed five bottles of champagne a day, even during the heyday of Dallas. The revived Dallas will struggle to continue without JR’s keystone presence.

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