Larry Hagman, Dallas' JR Ewing, dies aged 81

Actor who found fame as the machiavellian Texan oilman in cult US soap dies in Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer.

Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer.
Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from his battle with throat cancer.

Larry Hagman who played one of television's most infamous villains - the amoral oil tycoon JR Ewing - in the longrunning soap Dallas, has died at the age of 81. The soap had a cult following around the world, including Malta.

The actor's family confirmed his death after the Dallas Morning News reported Hagman had died of complications from throat cancer in hospital in the city on Friday. He had suffered from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in the 1990s after decades of drinking.

Hagman first found fame in 1965 staring in I Dream of Jeannie, a popular television sitcom in which he played Major Anthony Nelson, an astronaut who discovers a beautiful genie in a bottle.

But it was his role as the machiavellian oilman JR Ewing in Dallas that made Hagman an international star. The soap, which ran for 13 seasons from 1978 to 1991, broke viewing records with more than 350m people worldwide tuning in to the cliffhanger 1980 episode to find out "Who shot JR?".

Hagman's character became the villain TV viewers loved to hate, grinning wickedly in his Stetson cowboy hat and boots, plotting how to undermine his business rivals, his brother Bobby, and cheat on his long-suffering wife Sue Ellen.

His Dallas co-stars joined with his family to pay tribute to the star, who had recently returned to the role of JR in the 2012 revival of the series.

In October last year he discovered a tumour on his tongue and was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation before it went into remission in March.

Earlier this year he appeared in a new 10-episode series of Dallas, with a second series in production and due to run next year.

Various celebrities took to Twitter and Facebook to express their sadness at his death. Veteran American broadcaster Larry King wrote: "I'm shocked. Larry Hagman was a dear man who had an incredible career. He helped me to stop smoking. He really was a very special person."

More in Entertainment