Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Bobby’s Dead’

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

Feel his pain

In “The Family Ewing,” “Dallas’s” ninth-season opener, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is drinking in the Southfork living room when Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) enters the foyer and runs into Clayton (Howard Keel).

SUE ELLEN: Hello, Clayton. It’s a lovely evening, isn’t it?

CLAYTON: What?

SUE ELLEN: Oh, I had the best day.

J.R.: Oh, you had the best day, did you?

SUE ELLEN: [Sighs, enters the living room] Yes. Is there something wrong with that?

CLAYTON: Sue Ellen, don’t.

SUE ELLEN: Don’t what? What’s the matter? [Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) comes downstairs and stands in the foyer.] Something is wrong. What is it?

J.R.: My brother’s dead. Bobby’s dead.

SUE ELLEN: [Turns to Clayton, who nods] Oh, my God. No.

J.R.: Where were you, Sue Ellen, when we were all at the hospital?

CLAYTON: J.R., don’t.

J.R.: When Bobby was saying goodbye to us, when we needed you the most, where the hell were you?

SUE ELLEN: [Crying] I didn’t know.

J.R.: Of course you didn’t know. [Circles her] How could you have known? You were too busy rolling around in bed with that saddle tramp. Or maybe it was just getting stinking drunk at some motel.

CLAYTON: J.R., stop it.

J.R.: You’re never around when anybody needs you. John Ross almost died. Bobby did die. All you ever think about is yourself.

SUE ELLEN: That’s not true.

J.R.: Get out of here, Sue Ellen. Go back to your cowboy. Go back to your bottle. Go anywhere you want. Just get out of my sight!

Sue Ellen, sobbing, turns and runs upstairs.

ELLIE: J.R., what happened to Bobby wasn’t her fault.

J.R.: She was never a Ewing. She never was and she sure as hell never will be.

Watch this scene in “The Family Ewing,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 192 — ‘The Family Ewing’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Family Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow

Good grief

“The Family Ewing,” the first episode of “Dallas’s” ninth season, chronicles the immediate aftermath of Bobby’s death. Miss Ellie, sad but sturdy, tries to plan the funeral while holding her family together — a task complicated by J.R.’s anger, Sue Ellen’s drinking and lingering questions about why Bobby and Pam were together when he was killed. The pace is slower than usual, but this is one of the episode’s strengths. The show is giving the audience time to let the loss of Bobby sink in, allowing us to grieve alongside the characters. It’s another example of how “Dallas” makes us feel part of the world it creates.

Like “Swan Song,” the episode that kills off Patrick Duffy’s character, “The Family Ewing” offers a collection of scenes that became classics: John Ross comforting J.R. on the night Bobby dies; Pam trying to explain to Christopher why he’ll never see his daddy again; Ellie staking out Bobby’s burial plot near the tree house that Jock built him when he was a boy; the funeral itself, which culminates with J.R. gazing at Bobby’s casket, shedding a single tear and lamenting that he never told his brother how much he loved him. These moments were later wiped away by Pam’s dream, but that doesn’t make them any less moving now than when this episode debuted 30 years ago.

“The Family Ewing” isn’t altogether sentimental, of course. The first act gives us J.R.’s devastating takedown of Sue Ellen when she comes home, blissfully unaware that there’s been a death in the family. “You’re never around when anybody needs you. … All you ever think about is yourself,” he says. J.R. lashes out again when he runs into Ray and Gary, who has arrived from “Knots Landing” to attend the funeral. “I had one brother, and he’s dead. Nobody can ever replace him — least of all you two,” J.R. says. Both scenes are the “Dallas” equivalent of highway rubbernecking: We know Sue Ellen, Ray and Gary are all in for it, yet we dare not look away.

Significant Mother

Barbara Bel Geddes, Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Family Ewing, Howard Keel, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow

Splendor in the grass

J.R.’s dark turn in this episode recalls the character’s earliest days, before he became a twinkly-eyed villain. Larry Hagman is unnervingly good, although my favorite performance here belongs to Barbara Bel Geddes, who returns to “Dallas” after a yearlong absence and reminds us all how much she’s been missed. Bel Geddes is so natural, I forget I’m watching an actress playing a role. Watch the scene where Clayton speaks to Ellie at the tree house. She talks fondly about raising Bobby, offering a soft chuckle when she remembers how he and Gary used to spend “hours and hours” in the tree house “doing I don’t know what.” (Hearing that line, it isn’t hard to imagine the Ewing brothers as kids, is it?) Moments later, after Clayton has mounted his horse to ride home, Ellie stands in the grass and begins to sob. You can feel her pain.

Ellie’s resiliency is equally touching. Consider the scene where she comes out of her bedroom and encounters Sue Ellen, who expresses her guilt about missing Bobby’s farewell. Ellie urges her daughter-in-law to deal with her drinking problem, which prompts Sue Ellen to insist she isn’t an alcoholic. This is when Bel Geddes puts her hands on Linda Gray’s shoulders, looks into her eyes and says, “Oh, Sue Ellen. Yes, you are.” Can you imagine Donna Reed delivering this line? As much as I appreciated Reed’s work on “Dallas” during the previous season, it’s thrilling to see Bel Geddes reclaim her role with such a stirring performance. When Mama takes the stick and jams it into the spot where she wants Bobby buried, it might as well be Bel Geddes marking her territory and reminding the world that “Dallas” is her show as much as anyone’s.

Exit Camelot

Dallas, Family Ewing, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Widow theory

“The Family Ewing” isn’t without its share of curiosities. Was there no better way to end Dusty and Sue Ellen’s bar confrontation than by having him punch her in the face? And how does a single strike to the chin manage to render her unconscious? Also, when Gary calls Southfork, are you surprised that he doesn’t recognize Clayton’s voice? I always figured “Dallas” wanted us to believe Gary spoke to his family regularly, even if we didn’t see the conversations on screen. I guess that’s not the case. (Ted Shackelford’s character isn’t altogether out of the loop, though: He seems to know who Katherine Wentworth is, wondering how the fugitive villainess got to Dallas.) I also find it amusing that when the Ewings return home from the hospital at the beginning of the episode, the producers don’t even bother to put Ellie in a dress similar to the one Reed wore in her final scene in “Swan Song.” Even the colors are different.

This is the only choice by costume designer Travilla that deserves to be second-guessed, however. All the other outfits in this episode hit the mark — especially at the funeral, where Sue Ellen is dressed in a dark Valentino blouse and skirt (she’ll ruin both when she goes on a bender in the next episode) and Pam wears a black pillbox hat. I’ve always believed the latter was a conscious attempt to draw a parallel between Pam and Jackie Kennedy, a real-life heroine who cradled a dying husband in her arms. The comparison might raise eyebrows now, but when I think back to watching this episode as a kid, it really did feel like another Camelot had ended.

Grade: A+

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Dallas, Family Ewing, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Omri Katz

Mourning son

‘THE FAMILY EWING’

Season 9, Episode 1

Airdate: September 27, 1985

Audience: 20.5 million homes, ranking 7th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: The Ewings bury Bobby. Dusty tries to help Sue Ellen, whose drinking problem worsens. Ray and Donna reconcile. Pam doesn’t tell Miss Ellie that she and Bobby were planning to get together before he was killed.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Farlow), Dolores Cantu (Doris), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Joshua Harris (Christopher Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“The Family Ewing” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

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.”

The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 8 Most Moving Funerals

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

Texas mourn

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.

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

Surprise, surprise

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.”

Chris Weatherhead, Dallas, Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Son, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Meg Callahan

Black cat down

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.

Abby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing, Finishing Touches

Black widow

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!

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Knots Landing, Love and Death, Ted Shackelford

Bachelor father

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.

Bobby Ewing, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Jock's Trial Part 2, Ken Kercheval, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

Digger departed

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.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Requiem, Victoria Principal

Fit for a queen

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?

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Tunnel of Love

Cry Bobby

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.

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

Good grief

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.”