Dallas Styles: J.R.’s Vest

‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Is there something symbolic about the vest J.R. is wearing when he gets shot at the end of “A House Divided,”“Dallas’s” famous third-season finale?

The vest, which appears to be gray flannel with a silk paisley-printed back, goes with one of J.R.’s three-piece suits, a style that had been back in vogue for awhile when this episode debuted in 1980. Three years earlier, John Travolta famously rocked a three-piece white suit in “Saturday Night Fever,” while Steve Martin adopted a similar look during many of his late ’70s standup routines.

J.R. sports several three-piece suits during “Dallas’s” third season. In “The Wheeler Dealer”and “A House Divided,” he is seen wearing a vest without the jacket, which could signify how J.R. is no one-dimensional villain. His personality, like his wardrobe, is layered. In “A House Divided,” the vest could also be seen as having an ironic effect: The garment is like an extra layer of armor, which does J.R. absolutely no good once that intruder steps out of the shadows and pumps two bullets into him.

Whatever symbolic value J.R.’s vest offers, one thing is certain: Larry Hagman has never looked better. In his 2001 autobiography “Hello Darlin’,” the actor recalls how he went on a diet on New Year’s Day 1980 and began jogging two miles daily, eventually shedding 35 pounds. By the time “A House Divided” was filmed, Hagman is noticeably thinner. The formfitting vest accentuates his newly trim frame. He looks positively dapper.

Hagman’s physique really works in his character’s favor, too. J.R. struts his way through “A House Divided,” cockier than ever. At one point, Jordan Lee, angry that J.R. has suckered him into buying worthless oil leases, bursts into his office and sneers, “You must be mighty proud J.R. You must be on top of the world!”

Jordan is right: J.R. is on top of the world – at least until the episode’s final scene, when he almost leaves it.

Comments

  1. Destinee says:

    He looked so good in the last few episodes of this season. He definitely did not look 48 years old. Even when he got heavier again, he still looked damn good in a 3 piece suit! I see that is coming back in style, it never should have left.

    I like the way you tied that vest in with his multi-layered personality. Interesting! Have you read his entire biography?

    • Larry Hagman is the king of the three-piece suit at the end of “Dallas’s” third season. The only person who has come close to matching him is John Slattery on “Mad Men,” but really, it’s no contest.

      And yep, I’ve read Hagman’s book. It’s a good read but there’s not enough “Dallas”! Also, some of the facts aren’t quite right. (Alan Beam was never arrested for J.R.’s shooting. C’mon, Larry!)

  2. Destinee says:

    He focused too much on the crazy. But I suppose that’s at the root of who he really is. He is a very odd man! Eccentric is being too kind. But that’s why I get such a kick out of him. Not many actors can play two completely opposite characters like Major Nelson and J.R. with such aplomb.

  3. I wonder if the wardrobe choice when he’s shot is significant not for the vest but the absence of the jacket (which the vest would signify better than if he was just in shirtsleeves). Since the jacket is a symbol of business power, its absence could represent his vulnerability: he can wheel and deal leaving bodies strewn across every boardroom, but when it comes down to bullets, he’s only flesh and blood.

  4. Great critique.

  5. Clark Drew says:

    Rest In Peace Larry Hagman and other Dallas cast members that are no longer with us.

Trackbacks

  1. […] in a three-piece business suit, and a “Who Shot J.R.?” version that features a replica of the vest Larry Hagman wears in the famous scene where J.R. is gunned […]

  2. […] actor who plays him. Hagman is full of zest in “A House Divided” – and he’s never looked trimmer and sexier – yet the actor never allows his performance to devolve into camp or […]

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