J.R. Ewing will be laid to rest in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” a special “Dallas” episode that TNT will telecast on Monday, March 11. Raise a glass of bourbon (and don’t forget the branch!) as we recall the most moving funerals from the original series, as well as two Ewing funerals seen on its “Knots Landing” spinoff.
8. J.R. Ewing. It’s easy to forget that J.R. (Larry Hagman) already had one funeral. In “J.R. Returns,” a 1996 “Dallas” reunion movie, he faked his death as part of a convoluted plot to wrest control of Ewing Oil from Cliff. The memorial service brought Bobby, Sue Ellen, John Ross and Christopher together at Southfork, along with Cliff, who announced, “I just came to make sure he was dead.” While John Ross (Omri Katz) was eulogizing his father, J.R. himself arrived – on the back of a truck hauling pigs, no less. “Hey, what’s going on? Bobby throwing a party?” he asked. It was silly, but what I wouldn’t give to have J.R. turn up as a surprise guest in “J.R.’s Masterpiece.”
7. Blackie Callahan. Blackie who? As “Dallas” neared the end of its run, the producers cast Denver Pyle as Blackie, an aging wildcatter who helped J.R. find oil in the town where Jock had his first strike. In the 1991 episode “Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Sons,” one of “Dallas’s” final hours, J.R. attended Blackie’s funeral, where his daughter Meg (Chris Weatherhead) realized J.R. had been paying Blackie royalties out of his own pocket. The scene was surprisingly touching, not just because it showcased J.R.’s softer side, but also because of Meg’s poignant dialogue: “I guess that’s what life’s all about. The young taking over from the old, shaping things their way.” How prophetic.
6. Gary Ewing. “Knots Landing” fans were stunned when Gary (Ted Shackelford) was suddenly murdered in 1984. Everyone on the cul-de-sac turned out for his funeral, which was seen at the end of the episode “Finishing Touches.” The sad affair brought out the best in everyone – except for Gary’s widow Abby (Donna Mills), who refused to make peace with his ex-wife Valene. As the minister read from Ecclesiastes, a lone guitarist strummed in the background and we saw Gary’s friends and neighbors mourning him quietly. Then the camera cut to … Gary, seated in what looked like a police station. It turned out he was alive and in a witness protection program. Thank goodness Miss Ellie never heard about any of this!
5. Valene Ewing. When Joan Van Ark left “Knots Landing” in 1992, the producers “killed off” Valene in a fiery car crash. CBS had slashed the show’s budget, so no departed stars came back for her funeral, which was seen in the episode “Love and Death.” But two important figures in Val’s were mentioned, at least: Lilimae was said to be not up for the trip, while Lucy was traveling in Europe and couldn’t be reached. At the memorial service, Val’s best friend Karen MacKenzie eulogized her as “the little engine that could.” It proved too much for Gary and Val’s little girl Betsy, who ran away in tears. She missed her mommy, but she was probably also afraid Karen was going to break into her “Pollyanna” speech.
4. Digger Barnes. Poor, old Digger. After a life of hard livin’, Keenan Wynn’s tragic character was laid to rest in the last scene of the 1980 episode “Jock’s Trial, Part 2.” It was a fittingly humble affair. When the minister asked Digger’s sister Maggie if she’d like him to say anything special, she wearily responded, “No, please. Just the 23rd Psalm. It’s all he’d have had patience for.” The funeral was difficult for Pam (Victoria Principal), who had just discovered that Digger wasn’t her “real” daddy, and Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who slowly walked away from the gravesite before the final freeze frame. Maybe Cliff was sad – or maybe he was just ticked that so many Ewings showed up.
3. Rebecca Wentworth. Priscilla Pointer’s grande dame received a grand sendoff in “Requiem,” a 1983 episode directed by Hagman. He memorably showed three black limos arriving at the cemetery and allowed us to watch as the Barneses and Ewings exited the cars, one by one. In true “Dallas” style, Pam was accompanied by Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and half-sister Katherine (Morgan Brittany), who was secretly plotting to steal him for herself. The crowd also included a slew of recurring characters – including Punk and Mavis Anderson and Marilee Stone – and a throng of paparazzi. It felt like the kind of funeral that a Texas society matron would receive – but what was up with all those palm trees in the background?
2. April Ewing. When Bobby’s wife April (Sheree J. Wilson) was killed during their Parisian honeymoon, he buried her in the City of Lights. This always struck me as odd. Shouldn’t April have been laid to rest in Dallas or maybe Ohio, where she grew up? On the other hand, you can’t deny that the funeral, seen in the 1990 episode “Tunnel of Love,” is as sad as April’s death. Bobby is the only mourner there, although young cyclist Mark Harris (played by Duffy’s son Padraic and named for his “Man From Atlantis” character), who tried to help Bobby rescue April, watches from the distance. The fact that priest conducts the service in French reinforces the sense of isolation. Never before has our hero seemed so alone.
1. Bobby Ewing. Bobby’s burial in 1985’s “The Family Ewing” is exquisite. Everything feels right: It’s a fairly intimate gathering in a lush Southfork pasture, attended by the Ewings, the Barneses and close associates like Harv Smithfield. Even the wardrobe is perfect, right down to Pam’s Jackie Kennedy-esque pillbox hat. Director Nick Havinga allows us to hear the minister deliver the 23rd Psalm under Jerrold Immel’s solemn score, and then after the family disperses, we’re left with J.R. delivering his memorable speech at Bobby’s gravesite. “I wish I’d take the time to tell you how much I love you,” he says with wet eyes. Does it matter that this scene turned out to be part of Pam’s dream? Yes, but only a little.
What “Dallas” funerals moved you most? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”