Actor Larry Hagman became known for his starring roles in I Dream of Jeannie, and Dallas, two of the biggest cult TV shows of all time. He played the comic astronaut Tony Nelson in the first, and villain oil man J.R. Ewing in the second. Few viewers will forget March 21, 1980, one of the most hyped moments in TV history when over 350 million fans in fifty-seven countries tuned in to find out who shot J.R. At the turn of the century, it remains the second highest rated TV show in the history of the medium.
Hagman was born in Fort Worth on September 21, 1931, to musical theater superstar Mary Martin, and her first husband Benjamin J. Hagman, an accountant. They lived just north of Fort Worth in Weatherford, Texas. His parents divorced in 1935, and his mother took him to Los Angeles to live with his grandmother.
His grandmother died when he was twelve. Hagman returned to living with his mother, who had remarried in 1940 and was by then a successful and popular Broadway performer.
He spent a year at Bard College in New York before deciding to go into his mother's profession. He first acted with the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the-Round in Dallas, followed by the New York City Center production of "Taming the Shrew," and a year in regional theater.
In 1951, he moved to England to appear with his Mother in the London production of South Pacific. He stayed for the next five years, including being stationed there in the U.S. Air Force. During his military service, Hagman met Maj Axelsson, a young Swedish designer. They were married in December 1954. They have a daughter, Kristina Mary, born February 17, 1958, and a son, Preston, born May 2, 1962.
Hagman's first television roles were on such shows as "The ALCOA Hour." Those led to his appearance on the afternoon soap opera The Edge of Night from 1961 to 1963. Having spent eight years in New York, the Hagmans moved to Hollywood.
From 1965 to 1970 he co-starred with Barbara Eden and Bill Daily in I Dream of Jeannie. His later TV series, in addition to Dallas (1978 to 1991), include Here we Go Again (1973), and Orleans (1997). Hagman also appeared in several made-for-TV movies.
In the fall of 1985, Hagman was the host of "Lone Star," an eight-part documentary series on the history of Texas, for PBS. It was one of many events celebrating the Texas sesquicentennial. His major feature films include Ensign Pulver (1964), Fail Safe (1964), Mother, Juggs & Speed (1976), The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Superman (1978), Nixon (1995), and Primary colors (1998).
On August 23, 1995, Hagman underwent a 16-hour liver
transplant operation. It saved his life and he spoke openly about how his alcohol abuse
was the cause of his health problems. He chaired the American Cancer Society's "Great
American Smokeout" from 1981 to 1992.
Hagman was National Spokesperson for the 1996 U.S. Transplant Games presented by the National Kidney Foundation. On November 2, 1996, he received the Foundation's Public Service Award for his work on behalf of organ donation. Hagman continues to be an advocate of organ donation and transplantation.
The Hagmans live on a ranch in Ojai, California, a condo in Santa Monica, and a home in Santa Fe.
Bibliography: The Official Larry Hagman Web Page (http://www.invaders.dk/students/petert/larry/actor.htm). E! Online <http://eonline.com/Facts/People/Stories/0,127,6587,00.html>. "Larry Hagman," CBS Entertainment Biographies <http://cbs.infoplease.com/ipea/A0762104.html>. "MARTIN, MARY VIRGINIA." The Handbook of Texas Online. <http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/view/MM/fmacg.html>