The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 5 Most Meddlesome Mamas

Dallas, Judith Brown Ryland, Judith Light, TNT, Venomous Creatures

Boss mom

Judith Light is making quite a mark on TNT’s “Dallas,” where her cunning character, Judith Brown Ryland, exerts enormous influence over equally sadistic son Harris. Of course, Mrs. Ryland isn’t this franchise’s first meddlesome mama. Here’s a look at five others from the original “Dallas” and its “Knots Landing” spinoff, ranked in order from least intrusive to most.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Boys’ mama

5. Miss Ellie Ewing. Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) spent most of her time quietly fretting about her sons and their wives, but occasionally she couldn’t help but stick her nose in their business. Like the time she called out J.R. for allowing Sue Ellen’s drinking to spiral out of control. Or the time she suggested the newly divorced Sue Ellen stop dating Cliff. Or the time she pressured Ray – gently, of course – into confessing his financial failings. Did the Ewings mind Miss Ellie’s interference? I doubt it. I mean, look at that woman’s kind face. How could anyone ever get mad at Mama?

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Mommy’s revenge

4. Rebecca Wentworth. For a long time, Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer), Cliff and Pam’s mom, wasn’t meddlesome enough: She abandoned her kids when they were little and allowed them to believe she was dead. Once Cliff and Pam grew up, Rebecca re-entered their lives and tried to make up for lost time, but she overcorrected a bit, like the time she told Cliff to stop seeing Sue Ellen. Later, while Cliff was recovering from a suicide attempt, Rebecca browbeat him into resuming his war against the Ewings, even buying him his own oil company so he’d have a platform to launch his attacks. Gee, thanks Mom.

Abby Cunningham Ewing Sumner, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

Maternal affairs

3. Abby Cunningham. Abby (Donna Mills) was a pretty good mom, although sometimes she was more smothering than mothering. Remember when she ordered daughter Olivia to stop seeing Harold Dyer, just because he was in the mob? Or how about when Olivia suspected Abby of killing her crush, Peter Hollister? Abby didn’t really do it, but the fact that Olivia thought Abby was capable of murder tells you what kind of mom she could be. Then there was the time Abby flipped out after discovering Olivia was using drugs. Oh, Abby. It was the ’80s. Girls just wanted to have fun!

Dallas, Martha Scott, Patricia Shepard

Mother wants best

2. Patricia Shepard. This one warrants a psychological dissertation. Patricia (Martha Scott), mother to Sue Ellen and Kristin, only wanted the best for her girls – and I mean that literally. When J.R. was courting Sue Ellen, Patricia didn’t think he was rich enough. Of course, once they wed, Patricia came around – so much so that when Sue Ellen began to lose interest in her marriage, Patricia began grooming Kristin to replace her as the next Mrs. J.R. Ewing. Weird! Later, Patricia softened and even made amends with Sue Ellen – but that turned out to be part of Pam’s dream. Thanks for nothing, Pam.

Alexis Smith, Dallas, Lady Jessica Montford

Serial mom

1. Lady Jessica Montford. This loony lady could out-meddle them all. Jessica (Alexis Smith) was the biological mother of Dusty Farlow, although he grew up believing she was his aunt (don’t ask). Jessica committed all manner of evil in Dusty’s name, including murdering a bunch of people to ensure he’d inherit a big chunk of Westar stock. Her killing spree was pretty heinous, but if you ask me, Jessica’s vilest crime was the time she knocked out Miss Ellie and stuffed her in a car trunk. Sorry Lady Jessica, but when you did that, you broke Dallas Decoder’s cardinal rule: Never mess with Mama!

Which “Dallas” mamas do you consider most meddlesome? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Comments

  1. What a fabulous picture of Judith Light! I thought she was really great this week. I miss Rebecca. I love how she gave Cliff a company so he could do battle with J.R. That’s a very “Dallas” move.

    • Yes, I love that pic of Judith Light too. And you’re so right: Only on “Dallas” would Mom buy you an oil company (!) to help you destroy J.R. This is why we love the show.

      Thanks for commenting honey!

  2. Priscilla Duncan, a hospital patient who loses her own baby, briefly kidnaps John Ross before returning him to his family.

  3. They killed off Rebecca Wentworth way too soon. She should have stuck around, to guide Cliff in the war against the Ewings. As she said, it had always been the Rich & Powerful Ewings vs. the poor Barnes’, and now she was going to make it even by using the Wentworth fortune against them. And the fact that she used to be friends with Miss Ellie added extra drama to the feud.

    But, as I’ve said before, one of Dallas’ big failings was that it never seemed to be able to develop really powerful women as villains on the show. They could bring in new male villains like Jeremy Wendell and Carter McKay, who could go toe to toe with J.R., but the women were usually just crazy, or driven crazy because of romantic rejection, like Kristen, Katherine, and Jessica. I’m hopeful the new series, if it survives long enough, will do better in that department, with characters like Pamela Rebecca and even Judith Ryland (although she seems a little crazy, already).

    • Great observations, J.R. I also would’ve have liked to see Rebecca and Kristin stick around, and the show made a mistake by painting Katherine and Jessica into corners where they couldn’t be redeemed. The new show seems to be doing a better presenting strong women characters. Let’s hope it continues.

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