Larry Hagman poster

Larry Hagman

The son of Broadway actress Mary Martin, Larry Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas. After his parents divorced, he lived with his grandmother in California until the time of her death. Hagman, 12 years old at the time, then returned to his mother who was working on the Broadway stage. After attending Bard College in Anandale-on-the-Hudson for one year, his own early efforts at breaking into showbiz began at the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the-Round in Dallas, and soon after in The Taming of the Shrew at the New York City Center. While working as a cast member on his mother's hit show South Pacific, Hagman took up residence in England and ended up staying there for five years. During that time he joined the U.S. Air Force where he found time to produce and direct several theater productions. It was also during that time that he met and fell in love with Maj Axelsson, a young Swedish designer. They were married in December of 1954. Back in the U.S., Hagman began to make progress in his career, tallying up several TV guest-star appearances (including, presciently, a smiling villain on an episode of Sea Hunt), a regular role as lawyer Ed Gibson on the daytime soap opera The Edge of Night, and a beautifully played supporting role as a Russian/ English interpreter in the nuclear nailbiter Fail Safe. In 1965, Hagman received his most prominent acting assignment to date as eternally flustered astronaut Tony Nelson on the TV sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. After five years of Jeannie, Hagman took a few film and TV-movie parts, co-starred with Donna Mills on the 1971 sitcom The Good Life, co-starred with Lauren Bacall in the TV rendition of the Broadway musical Applesauce, acted and directed in the low-grade horror spoof Beware! The Blob. Hagman's best-ever TV stint was as the charming but conniving J. R. Ewing on the nighttime TV serial Dallas, a role he played from 1978 through 1990. At first reluctant to accept the role, Hagman acknowledges that it was his wife Maj's encouragement that convinced him to do the series. Proof of Hagman's drawing power as J.R. came when, at the end of the 1979-80 season, the character was shot down by a mysterious assailant--setting the stage for the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode, one of the highest-rated telecasts of all time. After the cancellation of Dallas, Hagman was forced to slow down his busy schedule due to an ongoing battle with liver cancer, and in August of 1995 he was the recipient of a liver transplant, a procedure that saved his life. Hagman's public life has always included a variety of civic and philanthropic undertakings. A staunch non-smoker, Hagman acted as the chairperson of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout for nine years, and since his 1995 surgery, he has become the National Spokesperson for the 1996 U.S. Transplant Games sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation and has been recognized by the foundation for his role in increasing public awareness in regards to organ donation. In 1997, Hagman had recovered sufficiently to make a television comeback as the Honorable Judge Luther Charbonnet in the critically acclaimed CBS series Orleans.
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