Tuesday, November 27, 2012

R.I.P. Larry Hagman

Reposted from the www.jabootu.net forum:

     Mr. Hagman is dead at 81. For most of the world he will be remembered for one of two roles he held on long-running television shows. 

    On the lighter side, he was Maj. Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie for the run of that series (although when the series was revived as a TV movie, the part was turned over to Wayne Rogers). Hagman was perfectly cast as Nelson, looking every inch like an astronaut and coming across as a likeable regular guy swept into extraordinary circumstances. Not only did he display excellent chemistry with Barbara Eden, but he made half of a great comedy team with Bill Daily as the skirt-chasing and oft-excited Maj. Roger Healy. Although something of a hippie off-screen, Hagman played the conservative hero quite well, and displayed excellent comic timing. He also had one of the most comical screams ever heard by a man on television. 

    A few years later, Hagman would reach international fame as the heavy on Dallas where he played one J.R. Ewing. The entire world, some may remember, was caught up in the speculation of "Who shot J.R.?" after the cliffhanger ending of one season. Amusingly, Dallas was aired behind the Iron Curtain as an expose of decadent western society with it's unrestrained capitalism, only for the oppressed viewers to make a hero of J.R.!

    My fondest memory of Hagman is this: He shared screen-time with Henry Fonda in one of the few truly scary movies ever made, Columbia's FAIL-SAFE in 1964 (unfortunately, the release was held back so the studio could first release the comical version of the same story -why you wouldn't release the straight one first and THEN the comical take, I have no idea- DR. STRANGELOVE). Hagman plays the President's translator as the heads of the super-powers communicate by telephone. He's young, nervous, and must grow up quickly in the face of this horror. It's a great part, and Larry handles it nicely. I screened the film again last night. Hagman and Fonda's scenes together are some of the best in the picture.

    Monster movie fans will likely remember (or hate) him for directing the weird, if star-studded, misfire SON OF BLOB (aka SON OF THE BLOB) in 1972. He even played a small part. Although he shows a love for directing comedy (and he had directed a few "Jeannie" episodes which demonstrate his ability in this capacity), he really shines in the straight horror scenes (much of the climax). One wishes he had picked a direction and ran with it, for the two styles don't blend particularly well in this exercise also known as BEWARE! THE BLOB!

    When all is said and done, Hagman was one of television's most familiar faces. He will be missed. Rest In Peace, Sir, and thanks for everything. Here's to one last space flight for the Major.

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