Dallas Parallels: Requiems for the Heavyweights

Dallas Parallels - Requiems for the Heavyweights 1

The funerals of J.R. and Bobby Ewing were filmed 28 years apart, but they draw upon similar themes, including the idea that grief and anger are sometimes indistinguishable. The episodes also show how each brother becomes unmoored when he loses the other, demonstrating how essential their relationship is to the “Dallas” mythology.

Bobby’s funeral is seen in “The Family Ewing,” the original show’s ninth-season opener, and even though his death later turns out to be part of Pam’s dream, it still packs punch. The episode begins with the Ewings returning home from the hospital after Bobby said goodbye to them from his deathbed. The characters retreat to different corners of the ranch (Miss Ellie and Clayton to their bedroom, Donna and Ray to their living room, etc.), where they begin to cope with the painful reality that the family’s favorite son is gone. Barbara Bel Geddes, who returns to “Dallas” in this episode after relinquishing her role to Donna Reed during the previous season, delivers an especially moving portrait of quiet resolve as Ellie begins making Bobby’s funeral preparations.

Of course, no one is more devastated than J.R., who sits in the Southfork living room and silently buries his head in his hands. Moments later, when Sue Ellen arrives home from a shopping spree, cheerfully unaware of the tragedy that took place in her absence, J.R. becomes enraged. For him, breaking the news of Bobby’s death to his wife becomes an opportunity to vent his pent-up marital frustrations. “All you ever think about is yourself!” he shouts. (I also love how Larry Hagman unleashes his Texas accent when J.R. asks Sue Ellen, “Where the hell were yew?”) J.R.’s cruel tendencies are also on display when he encounters Gary and Ray the next day, but Hagman wisely balances his character’s hostility with tender performances, including the scene where J.R. goes into John Ross’s bedroom to be near his son.

“J.R.’s Masterpiece,” last year’s exquisite funeral episode from TNT’s “Dallas,” continues the franchise’s grand tradition of sending its characters off in style. The episode includes a sequence where the Ewings return to Southfork after confirming J.R.’s death in the Mexican morgue (shades of “The Family Ewing” scene that shows the Ewings coming home from the hospital). Later, as the characters prepare for J.R.’s funeral, Bobby exhibits the same kind of behavior that J.R. did in “The Family Ewing.” Bobby is terse with Gary when he sees him at Southfork, and he’s unusually cool to Ray when he runs into him at the memorial service. J.R.’s death also prompts Bobby to finally acknowledge his lingering resentment toward Ann for keeping so many secrets from him during their marriage. In a powerful performance from Patrick Duffy, Bobby erupts (“I’m pissed!”) at Ann on the night before J.R.’s funeral, leaving her feeling as stunned as Sue Ellen did when J.R. shouted at her in “The Family Ewing.”

The two funeral scenes also share similarities, although the differences might outweigh the parallels. Bobby’s burial takes place in a Southfork pasture and includes all of the Texas Ewings, except for Lucy. (Charlene Tilton had departed the series at the end of the previous season and wasn’t invited back for “The Family Ewing.”) J.R.’s burial also takes place on Southfork, and even though the crowd at his funeral is smaller than Bobby’s, I’m less surprised by who’s absent (James, Cally), than by who’s present (no offense Carmen and Drew, but you’re not family; I’ll give Elena and Emma a pass since they’re linked to Christopher and Ann). Also, we don’t see any of the eulogies for Bobby, while J.R.’s mourners deliver one memorable tribute after another, including Sue Ellen’s heartbreaking speech.

Perhaps most notably, “The Family Ewing” and “J.R.’s Masterpiece” both end with one brother paying tribute to the other when no one else is around. In the 1985 episode, after the mourners have left Bobby’s burial site, J.R. stands alone at his brother’s casket, expresses regrets for “all the fights” and finally tells him, “I love you. I do.” Flash forward to “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” After Bobby receives the mysterious letter that J.R. wrote before he died, he retreats to his empty bedroom, pours himself a glass of his brother’s bourbon and says he knew J.R. would have one more trick up his sleeve. “It is a good one. I love you, brother,” he says.

It’s every bit as haunting and as beautiful as J.R.’s tribute to Bobby almost three decades earlier. How I wish it were just another dream.

 

‘I Love You. I Do.’

Dallas, Family Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Sad dream

In “The Family Ewing,” a ninth-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) stands alone near Bobby’s casket at the end of his funeral.

J.R.: Bobby, I never told you how much you meant to me. All the fights, all the time butting heads with one another … I’m sorry we were never closer. I wish … I wish I’d taken the time to tell you how much I love you. I do. And tell Daddy I love him too. Bye, Bobby. I’ll miss you.

 

‘I Love You, Brother’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Hard truth

In “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) enters J.R.’s bedroom after reading a letter he wrote before he died, pours himself a glass of bourbon and sits at the foot of the bed.

BOBBY: I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R. It is a good one. [Chuckles softly] I love you, brother. [Sobs, takes a drink]

 

 

How do you think J.R. and Bobby’s funerals compare to each other? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

Comments

  1. Jennifer Irons says:

    Thankfully, Bobby’s “death” was only a part of Pam’s dream and that the death was just because Patrick was leaving the show for other opportunities! Very sadly, JR had to die because his wonderful portrayer had passed away. RIP Larry Hagman & JR Ewing!!

    • Jennifer, I was so devastated when Bobby “died.” I was 11 at the time. I was old enough to realize it wasn’t “real,” but it still shook me up.

  2. Loved both funerals. I especially like that the writers remembered that JR was a vet and had an American flag on his coffin. JR and Bobby each expressing love for the other was especially nice. Loved the eulogies on JR’s funeral.

  3. C.B., brother J.R. might have been a vet, but if u recall, he said he “never killed anybody, not even during the war.” I also loved how Brother Bobby acknowledged he he needed J.R. or the evil as a counterbalance II his good soul!

    • Yes, indeed, R.J. J.R. and Bobby are the yin and yang of “Dallas.” As far as J.R.’s record when it comes to killing: What are your thoughts on Kristin’s fall into the pool? Did she slip or did he push her?

      • If I recall she slipped from an angle in a drugged/drunken stupor. Braddock Cty sheriffs investigated & proved that J.R. didn’t come out from out of the house until after she fell. He was attending I think II Sue Ellen or John Ross or was on the phone. Kristin fell from the angle or corner of the deck. J.R. couldn’t have pushed her as when u see him he’s only 1/3rd out the deck landing, so 2/3rd’s away. So Cliff saying “u bastard” to him was wrong. Right for knocking her up, but again, J.R. never touched her as he was 2 far away!

      • If I remember correctly, when Dallas first cam on, twice it was referenced that JR was capable of having people killed but never actually saw it. Not sure if the writers decided not to go there or that was just a myth of JR that was said about him.

        Anyway, my thoughts on that was if JR was the killing type he would have killed himself or had someone kill Pamela who had just taken his son away.

      • I don’t remember any suggestions or hints that J.R. had people killed, but I think you’re right: If he was the killing type, he would have had someone knock off Pam a long time ago!

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