The Dal-List: 15 Great ‘Dallas’ Scenes Featuring Larry Hagman

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Once and future king

Larry Hagman made magic every time he appeared on “Dallas,” so coming up with a definitive list of his greatest scenes feels like an impossible task. Instead, let’s just call this a list of 15 performances I love.

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

The rose and the briar

15. Welcome to the family. On the day Bobby brings Pam (Victoria Principal) home to Southfork and introduces her as his new bride, J.R. cheerfully takes her outside for a pre-dinner tour of Miss Ellie’s garden, where he offers Pam a bribe to “annul this farce.” When Bobby approaches with a concerned look on his face, J.R. explains he’s just “talking a little business” with his new sister-in-law. “Mama don’t like business talk with supper on the table,” Bobby says. “Well, you know Mama. She’s so old-fashioned,” J.R. responds with a chuckle. It was the first time we heard his mischievous laugh, and it signaled the arrival of a different kind of villain. (“Digger’s Daughter”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

The smiling cobra

14. Poor Cliff. When his latest underhanded deal goes awry, J.R. is forced to sign over ownership of one of the original Ewing Oil fields to Cliff. “I can’t believe it,” Cliff says as he reclines in his chair. “After all these years, I finally whipped J.R. Ewing.” It’s a measure of J.R.’s power that we don’t feel happy for Ken Kercheval’s character at this moment. We feel sorry for him because we know this is a temporary setback for J.R. To wit: When Kercheval delivers the line about “finally” whipping J.R., Hagman responds with a slight smile. It’s more unnerving – and oddly, more satisfying – than any dialogue the writers might have come up with. (“Five Dollars a Barrel”)

Dallas, Joan Van Ark,J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman, Valene Ewing

Friendly enemies

13. There goes the neighborhood. When the residents of Knots Landing decide to fight Ewing Oil’s plan to drill near the local beach, J.R. comes to town to squelch the protest. Seeing this larger-than-life Texan in suburbia is a hoot. In one great scene, a frazzled Valene telephones Gary at work while cucumber-cool J.R. pulls a book off her kitchen shelf and flips through it. “I just love cookbooks,” he says. In another golden moment, J.R. takes a bite of the sandwich Val has just served him. “Hey, that is good. What do you call this?” he asks. “Tuna fish,” she hisses. Rarely have Hagman’s comedic sensibilities – and his crackling chemistry with Joan Van Ark – been put to better use. (“Community Spirit”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Secrets cry aloud

12. Here comes Kristin. My favorite Southfork dinner scene: The Ewings are entertaining Sue Ellen’s visiting mother Patricia and younger sister Kristin, who has barely concealed her attraction to J.R. When Kristin announces she’s considering putting off going to college, J.R. suggests she could fill in for his honeymooning secretary Louella. And instead of having Kristin stay at Southfork, J.R. recommends putting her up in the company-owned condo. In other words: J.R. sets up his soon-to-be-mistress with a job and a love nest, right in front of his whole family. No wonder Hagman looks like he’s having the time of his life playing this role. (“The Kristin Affair”)

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

Truth and consequences

11. Sock it to him. My favorite Southfork cocktail hour: Ellie worries Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) didn’t get enough to eat at dinner. “She gets all the nourishment she needs from this,” J.R. says, waving around a liquor bottle. Next target: Pam. “She’s cracking up, slowly and surely. And who can blame her? I mean, she finds out that her daddy, Digger Barnes, is no relation at all. … And her mother’s a whore!” Bobby responds by punching J.R., and even though we know he deserves it, we kind of feel sorry for him. This was Hagman’s genius: Despite the awful things J.R. said, the actor delivered his lines with such joy, you couldn’t help but root for him. (“The Wheeler Dealer”)

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Miss Ellie Ewing

Mama dearest

10. He’s got your back, Mama. Hagman often said he only accepted the role of J.R. after the “Dallas” producers told him they had cast Barbara Bel Geddes as his mother. I believe it. Every time these two appeared together on camera, you could feel Hagman’s reverence for her. (Fun fact: Bel Geddes was just nine years older than Hagman.) In this terrific scene, J.R. stands behind Miss Ellie as she chastises the cartel for taking advantage of one of Ewing Oil’s misfortunes. Hagman doesn’t have a single line of dialogue here, but he doesn’t need one. Sometimes great acting means knowing when to let your co-star have the spotlight. (“Waterloo at Southfork”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Call waiting

9. Strike! J.R. is down because he hasn’t hit a gusher in Southeast Asia. The phone rings. “It’s the Associated Press,” Kristin announces. “They want to know something about an oil well.” Line 2 buzzes. This call is from Hank, J.R.’s man in the Orient. “Where the hell have you been?” J.R. demands as he takes the receiver. In the background: A drumbeat builds. Slow, steady. Bum. Bum. Bum. Finally, J.R. exclaims, “Yee-ha! We hit!” This scene is brilliant because it mimics a gusher: The news about J.R.’s strike trickles in before his joyful rupture. Hagman directed the sequence, proving he was just as clever behind the camera as he was in front of it. (“Mother of the Year”)

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

The legacy

8. “This is Ewing Oil.” When J.R. finally goes too far with one of his schemes, the Justice Department forces the Ewings to sell their company. J.R. is giving John Ross one last look around the office when Jeremy Wendell, Ewing Oil’s new owner, enters and orders father and son off the premises. “Take this eyesore with you,” Wendell says as he reaches for Jock’s portrait. “Wendell!” J.R. shouts. “Touch that painting and I’ll kill where you stand.” Hagman takes the picture off the wall, holds it aloft and – with trumpets sounding in the background – says to young co-star Omri Katz, “John Ross, this is Ewing Oil.” The boy smiles. So do we. (“Fall of the House of Ewing”)

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

Lest the truth be known

7. Out of the frying pan… J.R. is fixing his breakfast plate in the Southfork dining room when he notices Jock comforting a distraught Miss Ellie. It seems Bobby has just told them he’s leaving the ranch because he’s fed up with J.R.’s dirty deeds. That’s when Sue Ellen chimes in, pointing out J.R. has driven away another Ewing brother. Dumb move, darlin’. J.R. responds with a vicious tirade, calling his wife a “drunk and an unfit mother” and announcing it’s time to send her back to the sanitarium. This is J.R. at his most menacing – which is remarkable since Hagman holds a strip of bacon the whole time he delivers J.R.’s venom-filled speech. (“A House Divided”)

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

Sins of the father

6. Another close shave. An adult John Ross is in a barbershop getting shaved while J.R. tells him a story that demonstrates how J.R. loved – and feared – Jock. Quietly, J.R. takes the razor from the barber, holds it to John Ross’s neck, yanks off the towel covering his son’s face and reveals he knows the younger man is planning to double-cross him in their scheme to seize Southfork. Then J.R. says, “I don’t blame you for trying to screw me. I was never much of a father during your formative years. And I’d like to make up for that.” As J.R., Hagman could be tough, but he could also be very tender – sometimes all at once, as this scene demonstrates. (“The Price You Pay”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman


5. Tears for Sue Ellen. After J.R. has a very pregnant, very alcoholic Sue Ellen committed to the sanitarium, our heroine escapes, steals a car, wrecks it and goes into premature labor. With the lives of both Sue Ellen and newborn John Ross hanging in the balance, J.R. sits with Bobby at his wife’s hospital bedside and recalls happier times. He concludes his moving monologue by saying, “Oh, Bobby. She’s got to live. She’s just got to.” With this line, Hagman purses his lips, shuts his tear-filled eyes and bows his head. It’s an early glimpse of J.R.’s humanity – and one of the few times the character cries on camera. (“John Ewing III, Part 2”)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

The brothers Ewing

4. Mourning Daddy. Jock’s death sends J.R. into a deep depression. He stops shaving, stops showing up for Ewing family dinners and even stops showing up for work. Finally, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) has enough. Barging into J.R.’s bedroom, Bobby yanks him off the bed, drags him across the room, makes him look at himself in the mirror and reminds him their Daddy built the company not just for them, but also for their children. “It’ll never be the same, Bob,” J.R. responds. Hagman’s delivery of this line never fails to move me. Before this moment, we’d seen J.R. break a lot of hearts. This time, he broke ours. (“Head of the Family”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Daddy’s little darlin’

3. Welcome to fatherhood. For months after John Ross’s birth, J.R. all but ignored the child because he secretly suspected Cliff is the father. Cliff thought the same thing and eventually filed a lawsuit to gain custody, prompting him and J.R. to take blood tests to determine the child’s paternity once and for all. On the night of one of Miss Ellie’s charity dinners, the results come in and prove J.R. is, in fact, the father. Armed with this knowledge, our tuxedo-clad hero enters the Southfork nursery, picks up his son, holds him close and kisses him. No dialogue is spoken. None is needed. The look on Hagman’s face – pride, relief, joy – says it all. (“Paternity Suit”)

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

The Ewing touch

2. Reminiscing. After a long day at work, J.R. comes home and finds Sue Ellen asleep in John Ross’s nursery, having dozed off while rocking him. She awakens and helps J.R. put the boy in his crib, and then the couple moves into their bedroom, where they recall their courtship. The dialogue beautifully captures the unique qualities Hagman and Gray bring to their roles. (Sue Ellen on J.R.’s eyes: “They always seemed to be hiding secrets. Things you knew about the world that no one else knew.”) The conversation also reminds us J.R. is not a hateful man. He loves many people, and none more than Sue Ellen. Theirs is the greatest – and most complicated – romance Texas has ever known. (“New Beginnings”)

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

True confessions

1. Brotherly love. J.R. finally does the right thing when he ends the war for Southfork and returns ownership of the ranch to Bobby, but the drama isn’t over: Bobby suffers a seizure and is taken to the hospital for emergency surgery. Standing at his brother’s hospital bedside, J.R. holds Bobby’s hand and pleads with him to wake up. “I’m going to tell you something you never heard me say before,” J.R. says. “I love you, Bobby, and I don’t know who I’d be without you.” With this line, J.R. acknowledges what the audience has always known: He’s incapable of checking his own worst impulses; he needs Bobby to do it for him. This is a deeply moving moment in its own right, but it takes on added poignancy now that we know Duffy was at Hagman’s side when he died. It’s also comforting to know J.R.’s greatest fear – having to face life without his beloved baby brother – will never be realized. How sad for us, though, that we must now face a world without Larry Hagman. (“Revelations”)

What do you consider J.R. Ewing’s greatest moments? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Dallas Styles: J.R.’s Vest

‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Is there something symbolic about the vest J.R. is wearing when he gets shot at the end of “A House Divided,”“Dallas’s” famous third-season finale?

The vest, which appears to be gray flannel with a silk paisley-printed back, goes with one of J.R.’s three-piece suits, a style that had been back in vogue for awhile when this episode debuted in 1980. Three years earlier, John Travolta famously rocked a three-piece white suit in “Saturday Night Fever,” while Steve Martin adopted a similar look during many of his late ’70s standup routines.

J.R. sports several three-piece suits during “Dallas’s” third season. In “The Wheeler Dealer”and “A House Divided,” he is seen wearing a vest without the jacket, which could signify how J.R. is no one-dimensional villain. His personality, like his wardrobe, is layered. In “A House Divided,” the vest could also be seen as having an ironic effect: The garment is like an extra layer of armor, which does J.R. absolutely no good once that intruder steps out of the shadows and pumps two bullets into him.

Whatever symbolic value J.R.’s vest offers, one thing is certain: Larry Hagman has never looked better. In his 2001 autobiography “Hello Darlin’,” the actor recalls how he went on a diet on New Year’s Day 1980 and began jogging two miles daily, eventually shedding 35 pounds. By the time “A House Divided” was filmed, Hagman is noticeably thinner. The formfitting vest accentuates his newly trim frame. He looks positively dapper.

Hagman’s physique really works in his character’s favor, too. J.R. struts his way through “A House Divided,” cockier than ever. At one point, Jordan Lee, angry that J.R. has suckered him into buying worthless oil leases, bursts into his office and sneers, “You must be mighty proud J.R. You must be on top of the world!”

Jordan is right: J.R. is on top of the world – at least until the episode’s final scene, when he almost leaves it.

Dallas Styles: Miss Ellie’s Fur Coat

Warm, in more ways than one

In “The Wheeler Dealer,” Jock and Miss Ellie visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda, his first wife, has lived for many years. The scene is beautifully written and performed, but whenever I watch it, I find myself a little distracted by the dark brown fur coat Barbara Bel Geddes wears.

This is a decidedly un-Ellie-like look, after all. On “Dallas,” Ellie is the rancher’s daughter who never outgrew her affinity for simple skirts and blouses. For her, dressing up usually means conservative suits and a strand of pearls. What’s she doing bedecked in fur?

Perhaps the “Dallas” wardrobe designers wanted to draw a contrast between Ellie and Amanda, who wears a basic floral print dress and long sweater in this scene. The fur might also offer a window into Ellie’s state of mind, suggesting she’s still struggling to accept the fact she isn’t the first Mrs. Jock Ewing.

Remember, Ellie didn’t learn about Amanda until the eve of her cancer surgery in “Mastectomy, Part 1,” an earlier third-season episode. The shock came at a time when Ellie was worried about her health and feeling insecure about her femininity. Is the fur coat her way of asserting her role as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man?

As “Dallas” fans, we tend to put Ellie on a pedestal, but she was capable of experiencing doubts, as we saw during the “Mastectomy” episodes. Of course, Ellie is mostly strong and compassionate, which the sanitarium scene ultimately demonstrates. When Amanda sees Jock, she doesn’t recognize him and appears somewhat frightened, so Ellie approaches the woman, gently puts her hand on her shoulder and quietly says, “Hello Amanda. My name’s Ellie.”

It’s a touching moment, and even though it’s very brief, I consider it one of Bel Geddes’ best scenes. It’s also a lovely reminder that Ellie is “Dallas’s” warmest character, and not just because of the coat she wears.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I Never Meant to Be a Burden’

Amanda Ewing, Dallas, Lesley Woods, Wheeler Dealer

Lost in time

In “The Wheeler Dealer,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Jock (Jim Davis), accompanied by Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) and Bobby and Pam (Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal), visits a Colorado mental hospital to see his first wife Amanda (Lesley Woods), who doesn’t recognize him. When Amanda spots Bobby, she runs toward him with outstretched arms.

AMANDA: There you are! You said you’d come and I didn’t believe you. [She embraces him.] How long was it this time, six months? Do you like my dress? [She twirls.] I bought it special, just for you.

BOBBY: It’s lovely.

AMANDA: I know it’s your favorite color. I wanted to look so nice for you.

BOBBY: You do. You look real pretty.

AMANDA: Are you going away again?

BOBBY: Yes, I have to go away.

AMANDA: [Points to Jock] You’re going with him, aren’t you? He’s a wildcatter. Please don’t go. I wish you wouldn’t. I worry so much about you. Please.

BOBBY: I’ll be all right. You just take care of yourself, OK?

AMANDA: I’m nothing but a burden to you, Jock. And I don’t mean to be. I love you so much. [A nurse approaches and comforts her.] I never meant to be a burden. Never. Really, I didn’t. Never.

As the nurse leads her away, Jock touches her shoulder.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 53 – ‘The Wheeler Dealer’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Wheeler Dealer

J.R. Ewing here

With “The Wheeler Dealer,” “Dallas” continues tying up its third-season plot threads. The Ewings pay off the mortgage on Southfork, Kristin realizes she’ll never become J.R.’s wife, and Sue Ellen is back where she was a year ago: dreadfully unhappy and boozing herself into oblivion.

“The Wheeler Dealer” also offers a coda to the season’s biggest bombshell: Jock’s revelation that he was married to another woman before Miss Ellie became his wife.

The postscript begins when Ellie persuades Jock to visit the Colorado sanitarium where Amanda has lived for many years. (Trivia: The shot that concludes this scene, where Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes gaze into each other’s eyes, inspired the “portrait” of Jock and Ellie seen on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In “The Wheeler Dealer’s” most memorable sequence, Jock and Ellie, along with Bobby and Pam, visit the confused Amanda, who believes Bobby is Jock and that she’s still married to him. The saddest moment comes when 60-something Amanda girlishly twirls around to show off the “new” dress she wore to impress her husband. “I wanted to look so nice for you,” she says.

Lesley Woods is heartbreaking as Amanda, but the other actors in this scene shine, too. Jim Davis moves me when Jock gets tongue-tied as his frightened first wife recoils from him, while Patrick Duffy is wonderful as kind-hearted Bobby, who is put in the awkward position of having to pretend to be his own father. (More trivia: In 2006, Duffy played the son of Woods’ character on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”) I also love when Ellie, looking regal in her fur coat, gently puts her hand on Amanda’s shoulder and comforts her. What a terrific scene.

This episode’s other great moment: when Vaughn Leland, the banker who almost foreclosed on Southfork, tells J.R. he’s joining the deal with the cartel members who are buying Ewing Oil’s Asian wells. Leland doesn’t know the wells are about to be nationalized, so there’s something satisfying about knowing J.R. is about to stick it to the man who came close to evicting the Ewings.

I know I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but I bet I’m not alone. There’s probably a little wheeler-dealer in most “Dallas” fans.

Grade: B


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Wheeler Dealer

Gaze gone by


Season 3, Episode 24

Airdate: March 14, 1980

Audience: 21.1 million homes, ranking 6th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Barbara Searles

Director: Alexander Singer

Synopsis: J.R. gets an inside tip his Asian wells are going to be nationalized, so he unloads most of them on the cartel. Jock, Miss Ellie, Bobby and Pam visit Amanda, Jock’s first wife. Cliff learns Digger’s heirs are entitled to half the proceeds from the Ewing 23 oilfield. Sue Ellen goes on a bender. Alan and Kristin plot revenge against J.R.

Cast: Robert Ackerman (Wade Luce), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Stephanie Blackmore (Serena), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ed Kenney (Seth Stone), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jeanna Michaels (Connie), Dennis Patrick (Vaughn Leland), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Geoffrey Scott (“Dusty”), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Lesley Woods (Amanda Ewing)

“The Wheeler Dealer” is available on DVD and at and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.