Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hagman Made His Shot Count

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 Mary 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.

The 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).


RJR said...

Don't forget the 1997 6 episode series ORLEANS, where he played a judge. I liked that show very much.


J. Kingston Pierce said...

Ed Robertson, host of the vintage-TV radio program TV Confidential, reminds us that “In addition to the many shows listed, Hagman also made two memorable appearances on Police Story, including ‘Glamour Boy’ from 1974, in which he played a serial bank robber who used charm instead of violence. Hagman had some nice moments with Don Meredith in that one.” There’s more on “Glamour Boy” here: Hagman also appeared in the 1979 TV movie Police Story: A Cry for Justice (

zybahn said...

I best remember Hagman for his great performance in the very good first episode Night Gallery segment "The Housekeeper" (December 1970).