Hollywood Icon Larry Hagman Dead at 81

Larry Hagman, who became a household name and a television and film icon for his roles on the hit TV shows "Dallas" and "I Dream of Jeannie," died yesterday according to ABC News following a long battle with cancer.

He was 81.

Beginning his career in the late 1950's, Hagman worked his way up through the Hollywood ranks with a number of small parts before finally getting his big break in a pair of big screen efforts: Sidney Lumet's 1964 hit "Fail-Safe," where he appeared alongside Henry Fond and Walter Matthau, and the 1965 war drama "In Harm's Way," where he co-starred beside John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.

Those film roles as military men helped Hagman land the iconic part of Major Anthony Nelson in the television sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie," which became sensation in 1965 and stayed on the air for five seasons. Following its cancellation, Hagman returned to film, appearing in movies like the 1974 rock drama "Stardust" and 1978's "Superman."

But it was "Dallas" and the role of ruthless oil tycoon J.R. Ewing which truly turned Hagman into a Hollywood legend. Intended as a five-episode television miniseries in 1978, "Dallas" proved so popular it was almost immediately given a full season pickup. By the time it finally ended in 1991, "Dallas" had racked up 14 seasons and become the highest rated show in television thanks to the infamous 1980 cliffhanger that spawned the pop culture catchphrase "Who Shot J.R.?"

Following the show's demise, Hagman again returned to film, appearing in acclaimed hits such as Oliver Stone's 1995 drama "Nixon" and the 1998 political satire "Primary Colors." Earlier this year, he reprised his role has J.R. Ewing for a new edition of "Dallas," which became a hit on TNT thanks again in large part to his outsized presence as J.R. Ewing.

"I can honestly say that we've lost not just a great actor, not just a television icon, but an element of pure Americana," Hagman's "I Dream of Jeannie" co-star Barbara Eden said in a statement. "Goodbye, Larry. There was no one like you before and there will never be anyone like you again."

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