Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Will Not Allow You to Do This’

Laying down the law

Laying down the law

In “Dallas’s” fifth-season episode “Blackmail,” Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) sits at the Southfork kitchen table while Donna (Susan Howard) stands nearby and tells her the story of how Sam Culver and “a partner” staged a land grab by committing the property owner, who later killed himself.

DONNA: I had thought Jock might’ve told you.

ELLIE: Well, why would Jock know anything about it?

DONNA: Because Jock was Sam’s partner, Miss Ellie. It was the beginning of both of their fortunes.

ELLIE: How can you believe such lies about Jock? Of all the men in the world, he would never do that. His first wife ended up in an asylum. He hated them.

DONNA: I understand how you feel.

ELLIE: Oh, no you don’t. You don’t understand anything.

DONNA: Miss Ellie, I would never print anything without your permission. That’s why I came here.

ELLIE: You came to get my permission to destroy the reputation of the finest man that’s ever lived? To tell lies about him, when he’s not here to defend himself? All for the sake of some cheap book? How dare you!

DONNA: [Quivering] I don’t care about the book. I don’t want to hurt you.

ELLIE: Then how could you come and tell me this? It’s not true.

DONNA: It’s true.

ELLIE: It’s not! [Slams fist on the table]

DONNA: [Begins crying] Please, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: All right. You go ahead and write your book. And the day it’s published, I’ll sue you through every court in the land if I have to. I will not allow you to do this to my husband. [Picks up her eyeglasses and leaves]

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 100 – ‘Blackmail’

Dark room

Dark room

In “Blackmail,” J.R., armed with newly obtained evidence that suggests Christopher is his biological son, comes home to Southfork and enters the nursery. It’s a dark and stormy night, and the little boy is whimpering in his crib as thunder crackles outside. J.R. doesn’t comfort the child, though. He merely watches him. “Hello Christopher,” J.R. says. “You don’t know it, but I’m your daddy. I wonder how your Aunt Pam would feel about it, if she found out?”

The line is made all the more ominous by the wicked smile Larry Hagman flashes after he delivers it. We don’t discover what J.R. is plotting until later in the episode, when he tells Bobby he’ll reveal the “truth” about Christopher’s paternity unless Bobby agrees to do his bidding at Ewing Oil. This is one of J.R.’s most despicable deeds, and not just because he’s using his own child to blackmail his brother. Consider: J.R. grew up with the pain that came from knowing Jock favored Bobby over him. Yet here J.R. is many years later, following in his father’s footsteps: J.R. has one son he adores (John Ross) and another (Christopher) he’s treating as a pawn in his quest for power.

In a clever touch, “Dallas” underlines J.R.’s favoritism by evoking the third-season classic “Paternity Suit.” In that episode, J.R. receives the blood test results that prove he’s John Ross’s father and visits the nursery, where he picks up the boy for the first time. This tender moment stands in sharp contrast with J.R.’s crib-side encounter with Christopher in “Blackmail.” (And even though we’ll soon learn Christopher is not J.R.’s child, “Dallas” doesn’t abandon the theme of J.R. emulating Jock’s parenting style. Toward the end of the show’s run, J.R. learns he has an illegitimate son, James, whose arrival leaves John Ross feeling like the neglected brother.)

The nursery scene isn’t the only dark moment in “Blackmail.” Bobby discovers Farraday’s dead body inside his dingy apartment, while Roger strikes Lucy and knocks her to the floor when she tries to escape from his captivity. I love the suspenseful music that composer Richard Lewis Warren uses to score both sequences, as well as the camera work from director Michael Preece. These two also collaborate nicely in the scene where the grieving Miss Ellie sits alone at the Southfork breakfast table and breaks into tears; Warren’s music grows more mournful as Preece slowly zooms in on Barbara Bel Geddes.

Bel Geddes helps supply “Blackmail” with its other highlight: the scene where Donna sits with Ellie in the Southfork kitchen and tells her the story of how Jock and Sam Culver’s land grab a half-century earlier resulted in another man’s suicide. Ellie refuses to accept the truth and threatens to sue Donna if she includes the story in the biography of Sam she’s writing. I love how Bel Geddes goes from disbelief to rage in a matter of seconds; Susan Howard’s performance is equally heartbreaking.

This scene, perhaps more so than any other in “Blackmail,” makes me appreciate how “Dallas” eschewed gimmicks during its heyday. When I was younger, I used to watch this episode and wonder why the show didn’t bring in a special guest star or deliver a major plot twist to mark its 100th hour. Now I realize: When your cast includes great actresses like Barbara Bel Geddes and Susan Howard, who needs stunts?

Grade: A


Woman alone

Woman alone


Season 5, Episode 23

Airdate: March 19, 1982

Audience: 26.9 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. tells Bobby he’s Christopher’s father and vows to keep quiet if Bobby cedes control of his voting shares. Cliff moves forward with his drilling project, even after J.R. reveals the land is dry. Miss Ellie explodes when Donna asks for permission to publish the story of Jock’s land grab. Roger holds Lucy captive. The police question Bobby after Farraday is discovered dead.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Jonathan Goldsmith (Joe Smith), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Art Hindle (Jeff Farraday), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Bob Hoy (Detective Howard), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), Pamela Murphy (Marie), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dennis Redfield (Roger Larson), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Tom Stern (Detective White), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Blackmail” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.