Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘No One’s Made a Ewing Back Down’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Paternity Suit

Scene from a mall

In “Paternity Suit,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie and Lucy (Barbara Bel Geddes, Charlene Tilton) are shopping for dresses when Marilee and Linda (Fern Fitzgerald, Joan Lancaster) approach.

LUCY: [Walks toward Miss Ellie with a red boa around her neck] Grandma? Grandma, what do you think?

ELLIE: Well, I think it has a rather limited usefulness.

MARILEE: Why, what a surprise.

LINDA: We didn’t expect to see you here.

LUCY: Where did you expect to see us?

MARILEE: This must be a terrible time for you, Miss Ellie.

LINDA: We’re all gonna miss Sue Ellen tomorrow night at the DOA dinner.

ELLIE: I don’t know what you mean.

LINDA: Well, with all the goings-on in the papers, I hardly think she’d be comfortable there.

ELLIE: Why, she wouldn’t miss it for the world. We’re all going, aren’t we, Lucy?

LUCY: Of course.

ELLIE: We’re buying some new clothes for the occasion.

LUCY: [Holds up the boa] Yeah, how do you like this one? For me, of course, you know.

LINDA: Well, it’s interesting.

MARILEE: We’d love to have you at our table, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: Thank you, Marilee, but the whole family will be there. I imagine we’ll take up a whole table by ourselves. But why don’t you stop by the ranch for cocktails first. We’ve invited a few friends.

MARILEE: You’re having a party?

ELLIE: Six-thirty, tomorrow.


LINDA: Well, that sounds just fine.

MARILEE: I’m sure my husband will be delighted.

ELLIE: Good. We’ll see you then. Bye.


Marilee and Linda walk away.

MARILEE: [Under her breath] Who’d have thought?

LINDA: Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel.

LUCY: Grandma, you were terrific.

ELLIE: I thought so. But I’ve faced worse scandals than this. No one’s ever made a Ewing back down yet. I doubt if they ever will.

LUCY: Are you sure you don’t like this? [Wraps the boa around her neck]

ELLIE: No. You may not wear that horrible dress.

Lucy smiles and walks away.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 46 – ‘Paternity Suit’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Paternity Suite, Tyler Banks

Father and son, at last

“Dallas” creator David Jacobs has called the final scene in “Paternity Suit” – when J.R. picks up his son for the first time – his favorite moment during the series. I understand why. Nothing humanizes J.R., Jacobs’ most famous creation, quite like this.

In the scene, J.R. – clad in a tuxedo because he’s on his way to one of Miss Ellie’s charity dinners – enters the Southfork nursery moments after receiving the blood-test results that prove he is, indeed, the father of newborn John Ross Ewing III. J.R. picks up the child, holds him close and kisses him. No dialogue is spoken, and none is needed. The expression on Larry Hagman’s face – pride, relief, love – says it all.

This is one of several stellar scenes in another standout episode from “Dallas’s” third season. I also love when Miss Ellie refuses to act embarrassed when she and Lucy run into phony-baloney society matrons Marilee Stone and Linda Bradley while shopping. Barbara Bel Geddes is wonderful here, but so is Joan Lancaster. Each actress gets a great line at the end of the scene. Linda whispers to Marilee (“Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel.”), while Miss Ellie imparts a little family wisdom to Lucy (“No one’s ever made a Ewing back down yet. I doubt if they ever will.”). Perfect.

I also get a kick out of the whole Southfork cocktail party sequence, which makes me appreciate the number of semi-regular characters – Harv Smithfield, Jordan Lee, the Stones, the Bradleys – the show has introduced in just two-and-a-half seasons. “Dallas” really does feel like its own little world now, doesn’t it?

Of course, not everything in “Paternity Suit” rings true: Cliff’s withdrawal from the congressional race feels a bit rushed, and the Dallas Press’s splashy headline (“BARNES CLAIMS EWING CHILD HIS”) is typically over-the-top, but these quirks are really part of “Paternity Suit’s” charm.

Similarly, Jock spends a lot of time in this episode huffing and puffing about Cliff’s lawsuit. Some might find the Ewing patriarch’s incredulousness annoying, but to me, his behavior is rather sweet. It’s as if the old man is incapable of fathoming the idea of Sue Ellen cheating on J.R.

Jock’s faith in his daughter-in-law’s virtue is misplaced, but it exists – and in the Ewing family, that’s saying something.

Grade: A


Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Paternity Suit, Sue Ellen Ewing

Facing the truth


Season 3, Episode 17

Airdate: January 11, 1980

Audience: 21.9 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Loraine Despres

Director: Harry Harris

Synopsis: After Cliff’s financing dries up and he quits his congressional race, he realizes J.R. set him up and seeks revenge by publicly claiming he is baby John’s father. A blood test proves the father is J.R., who finally embraces the child.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Martina Deignan (Deborah Johns), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Stanley Grover (Dr. Miles), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Stephen Keep (Barry Lester), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Joan Lancaster (Linda Bradley), Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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