29 March 2009

Dallas 1980: Who Shot JR?

That mean ole JR Ewing (played magnificently by Larry Hagman) really stole the show in Dallas. S'wellin', Bar-bee and the poison dwarf simply never got a look in. T'weren't fair. But then who said life is fair, darlin'?

Fledgling soap Dallas, which had begun as a mini-series in 1978, suddenly peaked in 1980. In a sudden change of plan when two extra episodes were required, Dallas executives decided that JR was going to be shot for the end of season cliffhanger, and the identity of the person behind the gun was going to remain a mystery until the next season's episodes began.

The shooting episode was to be screened in England on 26 May, and by then interest was at fever pitch...

Daily Mirror, 26/5/1980:

Smooth-talking DJ Terry Wogan was almost speechless yesterday after being named a suspect in the JR shooting.

Terry, as every radio listener knows, simply hates the Mr Nasty of BBC TV's "Dallas" series.

And as "Dallas" fever swept the country over the weekend bookies started laying odds that it is Terry's finger on the trigger when JR gets his comeuppance in tonight's programme.

Hot favourite to do what millions of viewers have been itching to do is Lusty Dusty at 2-1. He's the ex-lover of JR's wife, Sue Ellen, and was believed to have died in an air crash.

Sue Ellen is a good tip at 3-1. Kristin, a former mistress, is a 4-1 shot.

A business rival of JR's - Cliff Barnes - is 7-1.

JR's brother, Bobby, is at 10-1. Lucy Ewing, Pam Ewing and Miss Ellie all 12-1. Jock Ewing and Vaughn Leland are 14-1.

And Terry? He's a rank outsider... at 1,000-1.

An estimated eighteen million viewers will see the man-they-love-to-hate gunned down and critically wounded by an unseen attacker tonight.

But even the scriptwriters haven't decided on the culprit - and filming on the next series doesn't begin until next month.

Inside the same newspaper was this article by Hilary Kingsley:

At last, nasty old JR gets his comeuppance. He is shot tonight and his face twists with astonishment.

But save those cheers. JR, played with such magnificent malice by Larry Hagman in "Dallas" (BBC-1, 8.10) lives to smirk his way through a new series in the autumn.

So whodunnit? No one knows. Not even JR.

A spokesman for Lorimar Productions, where security is almost as tight as at the White House, said: "Only the two writers for the series know who pulled the trigger - even the suspects don't know."

And there's a gang of suspects. They are:

SUE ELLEN (Linda Gray), JR's alcoholic wife, who is probably the favourite.

CLIFF BARNES (Ken Kercheval), JR's life-long enemy.

KRISTIN (Mary Crosby), who screams "I'll kill him" when JR has her arrested on a prostitution charge.

Her fellow blackmailer ALAN BEAM (Randolph Powell).

And, intriguingly, JR's nice but weedy brother BOBBY (Patrick Duffy), who is sickened by his brother's plotting.

But my money is firmly on an outsider - the grief-stricken widow of double-crossed businessman Seth Stone.

Finally we got to see the episode. Old JR was working late at the office when he heard a sound... was he alone? Then we saw somebody holding a gun and...

JR fell to the floor and the season ended.
What a great badge!

It soon seemed as though the world and his dog had done the dirty deed.

During the summer of 1980, "WHO SHOT JR?" and "I SHOT JR" T-shirts, stetsons, badges and car stickers abounded.

The aforementioned Terry Wogan, on BBC Radio Two, led the national obsession.

A children's song of the time went: "I'm only a poor little Ewin', JR keeps pickin' on me, the baby's a punk, Sue Ellen's a drunk and Bobby came out of the sea!"

-Patrick Duffy, the actor who played Bobby, had previously found fame as The Man From Atlantis, and the last part of the song was a reference to that.

Then there were "catchy" ditties like the Wurzels' "I hate JR, I'm hanging the sign in the back of my car..."
Fancier badge - same message!

From the Daily Mirror, 19/11/1980:
J.R. Ewing, that cunning, conniving TV tycoon, was revealed as just a dummy yesterday.

His spittin' image was proudly unveiled at Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London. And Larry Hagman, who plays the sneaky oilman in "Dallas", was the first to have a look.
Hagman (Mark One) recognised the guy on the left immediately, if only by his J.R. stetson.

Like the actor, the waxwork remained tight-lipped about the show's big question: Who shot J.R.? 

But Hagman aims to provide an answer to the BBC's financial problems.

 He will appear on posters promoting TV licence stamps and emphasising the value that viewers get from the Beeb. The caption: "Trust me. Would I steer you wrong?"

 Hagman gave his services free. Don't tell J.R.

So, who did shoot JR?
 Mary Crosby, daughter of Bing, as Sue Ellen's sister Kristin, was the black hearted hussy.

Years later, Mary told Larry Hagman: "The best feedback I ever got on shooting you [JR] was from this angelic little old English lady, who said: 'Why didn't you shoot lower?'"

Here's JR being very nice to Bobby's secretary in this Dallas picture strip featured in the Sun in April 1981...

But life was very difficult for dedicated businessmen like JR in the 1980s. He couldn't open his mouth without being shot or, as seen here in 1982, being shoved in the Southfork swimming pool.
Poor man. As sweet as any rampant capitalist, he really didn't deserve the way life treated him.
Doesn't it make you want to weep?

Dallas fever in novel form - two books published in 1980 and 1981.

The ultimate guide to the Ewings of Southfork Ranch - Laura Van Wormer's epic work told the complete story from 1860-1985. Ms. Van Wormer dedicated it to the memory of Jock Ewing, 1909-1981.

With the 1985 greetings cards from Paper Dreams, Manchester, England, you could say whatever you wanted (just about) with a little help from your favourite Dallas characters. There were many more where these came from. The card above contains the greeting: "Always a winner. Happy birthday".

This was cheering. Whatever your age, the response "Are you? You don't look it! Happy birthday" is bound to bring a smile. In this case is JR saying it to Clayton or vice versa?

"Two Interesting thoughts" - the delectable Sue Ellen and Pam.

"You're not just one year older, you're one year sexier. Happy birthday."

Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) found happiness with Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel) after Jock's death. The card's greeting reads: "You two are perfect together. Happy Anniversary".
"Do I miss you? Hell yes!" Cliff Barnes had a troubled love life. In fact he had a troubled life.

"I can't get you out of my mind" (Actually, Pammy's mind was rather a strange place. See 1986 for further details!).


Anonymous said...

The excitement gripped the world! EVERYBODY wanted to know the answer.

Peter Lane said...

RIP Larry Hagman.

Drew said...

Yes, so sorry to hear of his death. JR is a fabulous TV legacy to have left behind. We'll never forget Larry!

Anonymous said...

J.R.WAS THE BEST....I love Dallas cant wait until next season.R.I.P. Larry