J. R. Ewing

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J. R. Ewing
Larry Hagman as JR.jpg
Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing (2012)
Dallas character
Portrayed by Larry Hagman
Duration 1978–91, 1996, 1998,
First appearance April 2, 1978
Digger's Daughter
Last appearance March 4, 2013
The Furious and the Fast
Created by David Jacobs
Dallas: The Early Years
Dallas: J.R. Returns
Dallas: War of the Ewings
Knots Landing
  • Vice President of Ewing Oil (1962–77)
  • President of Ewing Oil (1977–80, 1980)
  • Shareholder & co-CEO of Ewing Oil (1980–87, 1988–90)
  • 25% Shareholder in Harwood Oil (1982–83)
  • Founder and CEO of JRE Industries (1987–88)
  • Founder and CEO of Ewing & Ewing (1991)
  • CEO of West Star Oil (1996–98, only in films)
  • Owner of Southfork Ranch (2012)

John Ross "J.R." Ewing, Jr. is a fictional character in the hit U.S. television series Dallas (1978–91) and its spin-offs, including the revived Dallas series (2012–13). The character was portrayed by actor Larry Hagman from the series premiere in 1978 until his death in late 2012 and was the only actor who appeared in all 356 episodes of the original series.[1] One of the show's most iconic figures, J.R. has been central to many of the series' biggest storylines. He is depicted as a covetous, egocentric, manipulative and amoral oil baron with psychopathic tendencies,[2] who is constantly plotting subterfuges to plunder his foes and their wealth.[3]

The original character concept was a blend of Bonanza with a rich, western patriarch and his three dissimilar sons, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with its rival brothers, and their scheming wives, and Romeo and Juliet with two star-crossed lovers whose families are sworn enemies. The thrust of the series was initially the feuding families, with J.R. just a supporting character, but his popularity grew and the producers acknowledged he became the breakout character. Two highly rated 1980 episodes became part of a cultural phenomenon that year known as "Who shot J.R.?".[4] In "A House Divided", the audience witnessed J.R. being shot by an unknown assailant.

After the cliffhanger was broadcast in March, the audience had to wait until the October conclusion, "Who Done It". With his new-found popularity, Larry Hagman threatened to leave the series unless his contractual demands were met. CBS leaked rumors of recasting, but the actor eventually prevailed.[5] He also appeared in five episodes of spin-off series Knots Landing between 1980 and 1982. The character is featured in the first two seasons of the 2012 reincarnation series as well. Hagman died on November 23, 2012, and Dallas producers subsequently announced that J.R. would be killed off in the second season.[6] The episode "The Furious and Fast" dealt with J.R's death.

J.R. Ewing is considered one of television's most popular characters,[7][8] with TV Guide naming him #1 in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.[9]

A J. R. Ewing Bourbon whiskey brand will be released in 2014 to honor the character.[10]


Original series[edit]

J.R. Ewing was the eldest son of John Ross "Jock" Ewing, Sr. and Eleanor Southworth "Miss Ellie" Ewing. J.R. was born on the family's Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas.[11] The year of his birth is inconsistent: in Dallas: The Early Years, Miss Ellie announces her pregnancy with J.R. in 1936, making the year of his birth 1936 or at the latest 1937, while in the 2012 continuation of Dallas, J.R.'s gravestone gives his birth year as 1939.

J.R. has two younger brothers Gary and Bobby, a half-brother Ray Krebbs from his father's affair with an Army nurse named Margaret Hunter during World War II, and a step-brother Steven "Dusty" Farlow from his mothers marriage to Clayton Farlow. An alcoholic, Gary and his wife Val were spun off into the prime time soap Knots Landing. Gary's daughter Lucy was whisked away to the ranch by J.R. Knots Landing was not bought by CBS until 1979.[12]

Starting at age five, J.R. was groomed to be the heir apparent to his father Jock at Ewing Oil, an independent oil company that Jock ran in a very cutthroat, ruthless manner. After coming home from the Vietnam War in 1962, J.R. began his long tenure as an employee of Ewing Oil. J.R. had no interest working on Southfork Ranch, which was mostly the domain of his mother Miss Ellie, and Ray Krebbs, but J.R. did have a special love to keep Southfork in the family. Middle brother Gary was mostly under the influence of his mother and embraced the Southworth tradition of ranching on Southfork and had no interest in Ewing Oil. He and wife Val left Dallas for California. J.R.'s youngest brother Bobby spent most of his time juggling between Southfork and Ewing Oil, and was Jock's favorite son. This made J.R. enormously determined to impress Jock. Despite his huge successes in the oil business, J.R. was never able to overcome Jock's favoritism for Bobby. This led to a major rift between J.R. and Bobby that started in childhood and continued as they grew up, especially when Bobby began pursuing a relationship with Pamela Barnes, who was part of the Ewings' rival family as Jock had a longstanding rivalry with Pam's father, Digger, and J.R. continued it with Digger's son, Cliff.

J.R. married Sue Ellen Shepard, a very beautiful former Miss Texas, in 1971. However, he had many extramarital affairs and a manic drive to maximize profits, to a point where he would resort to just about anything to get what he wanted. One plot included even mortgaging Southfork Ranch, which angered his family. Sometimes, he would ally himself with a corrupt Dallas Police detective, Harry McSween (James E. Brown), in order to get what he wanted. J.R. often had McSween issue arrest warrants for trumped up charges (usually false) against, most notably, Peter Richards (Christopher Atkins), who was driven out of Dallas on trumped up drug charges; his sister in-law, Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), whose rivalry with him resulted in her shooting J.R. in 1980 and later in her death in 1981; and attorney Alan Beam (Randolph Powell), with whom she was allied.

J.R. had two wives and three children during the show's run: James Richard Beaumont was J.R.'s eldest son by an off screen affair with Vanessa Beaumont (brought to knowledge during season 12). His second and most favored son was John Ross Ewing III from his first wife Sue Ellen (played by Linda Gray). His third child was with his second wife Cally (played by Cathy Podewell) however, neither a name nor sex was ever stated. J.R. also believed he was the father of Christopher Ewing, the son of his sister-in-law and mistress Kristin Shepard and Jeff Farraday. It was later revealed that he is not the father of Christopher who was adopted by Bobby and Pamela. Despite his adversarial relationship with everyone, J.R. seemed to have a strong and genuine love for his son John Ross; serving as a sort of Achilles' heel for the conniving oilman.

Over the years, J.R.'s actions began to catch up with him. He and Sue Ellen remarried and divorced several times, the last of which saw her leave for Europe but not before threatening J.R. with something she promised would ruin him. In addition to that, Sue Ellen's penchant for drinking nearly caused the destruction of Southfork by fire (Ray and J.R. had a fight that emerged from a car accident Sue Ellen had caused and where a cousin of Ray's was paralyzed and died).

In addition to that, J.R.'s scorned woman Cally Harper and his illegitimate son James caused him to be locked in a sanatorium for several months, which was the start of what would eventually be a year where J.R. lost everything. First, he lost control of Ewing Oil to Cliff, then was fired at West Star Oil by a vengeful Carter McKay who hated him. To top it all off, he lost control of Southfork and was disowned by his son who moved to Europe to be with Sue Ellen. All J.R. was left with was a room in Southfork that Bobby let him stay in and not much else. Contemplating suicide, the character roamed the lonely Southfork with a bottle of bourbon and a loaded revolver. After an It's a Wonderful Life-like fantasy, J.R. is shown what life would have been like had he never been born. The series ended with a single gunshot, and Bobby dashing into the room shouting, "Oh my God!". J.R.'s fate was not revealed.

Dallas (2012)[edit]

J.R. returns in the 2012 revival of the series, which focuses on J.R.'s son John Ross Ewing III and Bobby's adopted son Christopher Ewing. To J.R.'s delight, John Ross has become a carbon copy of him, in that he is more focused on oil, money, power and greed. As the series begins J.R. has spent the last few years in a nursing home, suffering from chronic depression and not speaking despite visits from Bobby. All the events of the two TV movies are ignored.

Bobby visits and tells J.R. that all of their fights over Ewing Oil and Southfork changed him in ways he doesn't like and that he wants Christopher and John Ross to be a real family and not be like them always fighting. When John Ross eventually visits him on Bobby's suggestion, he says that Bobby plans to sell Southfork and give the money from the sale to Christopher to fund Christopher's renewable energy project. John Ross also tells J.R. that he discovered a 2 billion barrel oil reserve under Southfork but Bobby has blocked the drilling. J.R. finally rouses himself to help his son fight the attempts to block his drilling for oil on the ranch and tells John Ross that Bobby was always a fool. He reveals that he is working alongside Marta Del Sol, the daughter of an old friend of J.R.'s, who owns millions of acres of land. Marta is supposedly offering a partnership to Bobby but it's J.R. pulling the strings when Bobby signs Southfork to Marta's conservatory, it'll really be going to J.R. John Ross is really working alongside Marta, with J.R. seeing them together but not seeming to mind. J.R. surprises everyone by showing up at a family gathering (acting as an invalid by using a walker) and apologizing to Bobby and Sue Ellen for his past actions. He later goes to Mexico to see Marta's father, Carlos Del Sol, but he knows nothing of any deal. He then introduces his daughter only she's not the woman J.R. knows as Marta. Realizing he's been fooled, J.R. tells Del Sol he's made a mistake and bites out that Marta should meet his son as "he's a chip off the old block."

J.R. eventually succeeds in getting Southfork from Bobby and doesn't waste any time in beginning to drill for oil on Southfork. He also cuts John Ross out of the partnership. However, he does give his son power of attorney to run his business ventures. J.R. is forced to return ownership of Southfork to Bobby when J.R. and John Ross' Venezuelan investor,Vicente Cano, turns violent against the Ewings when the loan isn't repaid. J.R. and John Ross are given immunity and sign confessions against Cano, who is sent to prison. Bobby keeps a copy of J.R.'s confession and warns him that he will send J.R. to prison if he uses any more dirty tricks. John Ross' fiancée Elena Ramos discovers John Ross' role in the plot, she breaks up with him and return to Christopher. The first season ends with John Ross and J.R. joining forces against Bobby, Christopher and Elena, who have apparently reunited as a couple.

At the start of the second season, J.R. is mentoring John Ross in business and dirty tricks and they are plotting to take control of Ewing Energies. J.R. also plots against his old rival Cliff Barnes and his daughter Pamela Rebecca Barnes, who is pregnant with Christopher's twins and is having an affair with John Ross. Bobby asks for J.R.'s help to take down Harris Ryland when it's revealed Ryland kidnapped Bobby's stepdaughter Emma and let Bobby's wife Ann think her daughter was dead. J.R. assures Bobby that he will take Ryland down. In the episode "The Furious and the Fast", J.R. talks to John Ross by phone about a "master plan" to defeat Cliff Barnes and Harris Ryland and to help John Ross take control of Ewing Energies, saying it will be his "masterpiece" when somebody apparently walks into the room and shoots twice, killing him.

J.R.'s memorial was held at the Dallas Petroleum Club where many guests from his past attended. J.R.'s favorite drink, bourbon and branch was served. Guests included J.R.'s half-brother Ray Krebbs, niece Lucy Ewing, brothers Gary Ewing and Bobby Ewing, ex-wives Sue Ellen Ewing and Cally Harper Ewing, ex-mistress Mandy Winger, adopted nephew Christopher Ewing, Elena Ramos and her brother Drew Ramos and J.R.'s son John Ross Ewing III. Other notable guests included Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. J.R.'s funeral was held at the family cemetery plot on Southfork Ranch. Ray, Lucy, Gary, Christopher, Elena, Sue Ellen, and Bobby all spoke. J.R. was buried next to the graves of Jock and Miss Ellie. At his funeral, Sue Ellen read the letter that J.R. had written to her before he was murdered where he stated that he wanted another chance with her. Sue Ellen referred to J.R. as "the love of my life". Since J.R. had been a war veteran, his coffin was draped in a U.S. Stars and Stripes flag and was handed folded to John Ross because he was his son and next-of-kin.

At the end of the funeral J.R.'s private investigator Bum Jones arrives at the gravesite. In the office at Southfork, Bum tells Bobby, John Ross, and Christopher that J.R. was in Abu Dhabi closing a deal to buy some oil leases but that his real reason for being in Abu Dhabi was because for the last several months he was trying to find Christopher's adoptive mother and Bobby's ex-wife Pamela Barnes Ewing. Bum gives Christopher some papers that would tell why it was important for Christopher to find Pam. Bum reveals that J.R. was in Nuevo Laredo following a lead to take down Harris Ryland using the quail hunt as a cover story. John Ross assumes that Ryland was behind his father's murder but Bum says that J.R. was killed by a random mugger. John Ross is given a box containing a pistol and a note from J.R. telling John Ross that now that he is dead, Cliff Barnes and Ryland will join forces to take down the Ewings. The note also says John Ross should use the contents of the box "to take from them what they want to take from us" and that afterwards "Bobby will know what to do." J.R. ends the note by telling John Ross not to forget that he is J.R.'s son "from tip to tail". Bum gives a letter to Bobby. Bobby reads the letter but doesn't reveal what it says and tells John Ross and Christopher that it is between J.R. and him for the time being. Bobby and Bum talk outside the office where Bobby tells Bum to pay off whoever he has to in order to make everyone believe that J.R. was killed by a mugger and when the time is right the Ewings will handle the situation as a family. Bobby goes to J.R.'s bedroom and drinks some of J.R.'s trademark bourbon. Bobby, imagining talking to J.R., says that he knew J.R. would have one final card to play and it was a good one. Bobby says he loves J.R. and he breaks down crying. Bobby, John Ross and Christopher continue working together on the plan and they realise how important it is to find Pam, because she owns one-third of Barnes Global shares along with Katherine and Cliff. With Katherine dead it only leaves her. It was said she entered Abu Dhabi with her husband in 1989. Bobby finally reveals that J.R's master plan was to frame Cliff for his death "from beyond the grave". He reveals that J.R., knowing that he only had days to live from terminal cancer, had Bum steal Cliff's pistol. J.R. knew that Cliff went to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico every year for a fishing competition. J.R. had Bum meet him there and kill him. His plan was to have the Ewing family plant the pistol and J.R.'s trademark belt buckle in Cliff's car and safety deposit box.

Reunion movies[edit]

Two Dallas reunion movies were produced in the 1990s. Though these movies, at the time, continued the story of Dallas, they were later deemed to be non-canon and retconned out of existence when the 2012 Dallas revival series was launched. In the first reunion movie, it was revealed that J.R. had shot a mirror and moved away to Europe for a few years. (1996) He returned and attempted to take back his empire, succeeding to an extent as he drove Cliff Barnes out of Ewing Oil, returning it to Bobby. J.R. was also elected chairman of West Star Oil, a feat he had spent almost fifteen years fighting to achieve.[13] Another reunion movie (1998) (in which Ken Kercheval was absent) saw J.R., in this moment CEO of Westar, try and fail to force a merger with Ewing Oil, but he did claim the consolation of conning $50,000,000 from Carter McKay.[14]


J.R. initially drove a green 1978 280SE Mercedes-Benz, later replaced by a 1979 Reseda Green Mercedes Benz 450SEL. In 1981, he drove the "new" W126 380SEL, also in Reseda Green. In 1983 when his wife Sue Ellen wrecked the car at the end of the Southfork driveway, J.R. replaced it with another 1983 Mercedes Benz 380SEL. In 1984, Mercedes-Benz changed the flagship S-Class model to the 500SEL, J.R. then replaced the 380 with one of these. Finally, J.R. drove a facelifted W126 560SEL beginning the 1986 season. J.R. also occasionally drove a Cadillac Allanté convertible from 1987–91. In "J.R. Returns", J.R. drives the 500SEL yet again for the first portion of the film. However, this vehicle is totaled and replaced with an updated silver 1996 Mercedes-Benz W140 S420 sedan. In "War of the Ewings", J.R. is driving a silver 1998 SL500 Roadster. All of J.R.'s vehicles had the personalized license plate "EWING 3".


  • In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 11 on its "50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time" list.[15] In the updated 2013 list, he was number 1.[9]
  • Wizard magazine ranked him the 69th Greatest Villain of all time while Best Villains on TV: Top Ten of Yahoo! Voices picked him as No. 1.
  • Pro wrestler John "Bradshaw" Layfield, modeled his post-APA persona after Ewing.


  1. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (2011-10-15). "Larry Hagman diagnosed with cancer". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ Patrick, Christopher J. (2007). Handbook of Psychopathy, Guilford Pubn., New York
  3. ^ Jacobs, David (1990-04-15). "TV VIEW; When the Rich And the Powerful Were Riding High". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  4. ^ Meisler, Andy (1995-05-07). "TELEVISION; When J.R. Was Shot The Cliffhanger Was Born". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  5. ^ "Echoes of who shot JR". BBC. 2001-04-05. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  6. ^ Funeral Episode Set for Larry Hagman's J.R. on 'Dallas' Season Two Hollywood.com, December 11, 2012
  7. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1993-10-17). "Larry Hagman Still Relishes Being TV's Oiliest Villain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  8. ^ Bromley, Tom (2010-08-24). "Top ten 80s TV villains". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  9. ^ a b Bretts, Bruce; Roush, Matt; (March 25, 2013). "Baddies to the Bone: The 60 nastiest villains of all time". TV Guide. pp. 14 - 15.
  10. ^ "J.R. Ewing Buorbon;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2014-02-22. 
  11. ^ Dallas: The Early Years
  12. ^ Corliss, Richard; Willwerth, James (1980-08-11). "TV's Dallas: Whodunit?". Time. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  13. ^ Carter, Bill (1991-05-06). "So 'Dallas' Is Finally Over. Or Is It?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  14. ^ "J.R. Reprises That Ol' 'Dallas' Malice". Daily News (New York). 1996-11-14. Retrieved 2010-08-31. [dead link]
  15. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Philadelphia: Running Press. 2007. p. 190. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9. OCLC 148914467. 

External links[edit]