It’s only natural that obituaries of American TV and film actor Larry Hagman, who died on Friday at age 81, should recall him best for only two roles: those of astronaut Major Tony Nelson in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970) and of oil magnate J.R. Ewing in Dallas (1978-1991). Those are certainly the two programs that best broadcast his name, image, and talents.
But Texas-born Hagman, the oldest child of renowned actress-singer
Martin, also guest-starred during the 1960s and ’70s on a variety of
small-screen crime and detective series. As blogger Terence Towles Canote notes in A Shroud of Thoughts, Hagman appeared on The Defenders, Dan August, The Name of the Game, Police Woman, McCloud, Harry O, Ellery Queen, McCoy, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files, and McMillan & Wife. In 1974 he starred with Louis Gossett Jr. in Sidekicks, the unpicked-up pilot for a CBS-TV Western series based on the 1971 theatrical film Skin Game, in which Gossett had starred opposite James
Garner. A year later, Hagman teamed with Brock Peters to do The Detective: Bull in a China
Shop, a cop drama made for NBC, but so thoroughly forgotten now that it isn’t even listed in the Internet
Movie Database (IMDb). And in 1976, he took the lead in another teleflick, a comedy-mystery titled The Return of the World’s Greatest Detective, playing a Los Angeles motorcycle cop named Sherman Holmes who, after suffering a bad fall, wakes up thinking he’s actually Sherlock Holmes.
New York Times’ obit says the actor died from “complications of cancer” and
that he “had been in Dallas filming an episode of the TNT cable channel’s reboot of [Dallas] ...” Given how much Hagman seemed to relish portraying the villainous (and once famously shot) J.R., it seems only fitting that he should have gone this way.
READ MORE: “Larry Hagman: A Video Retrospective of Jeannie, Dallas, BVDs,” by Scott Sandell (Los Angeles Times); “The Hat Squad: Remembering Larry Hagman,” by Tony O’B (Inner Toob).