Even so, during Hagman's five seasons co-starring with Barbara Eden as the sexy genie-in-a-bottle, he was inevitably upstaged.
That would never be a problem on "Dallas," especially after the final hour of the series' second season, when J.R. was gunned down by an unknown assailant and left for dead on his office floor.
All that summer and late into the fall, the nation was seized and teased by the mystery of Who Shot J.R.? Nearly every fellow character had sufficient motive to want J.R. killed, and which of them had done the deed was a question everyone was asking. Finally, the answer was delivered on the episode that aired 32 years ago almost to the day — on Nov. 21, 1980 — when the shooter was revealed to be J.R.'s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, Kristin.
And oh, by the way, J.R. survived.
As J.R., Hagman could marshal piercing glances with his hawk-like eyes, and chill any onlooker with his wicked grin. There was no depth to which J.R. couldn't sink, especially with the outrageous story lines the series blessed him with.
But his popularity exceeded that for even a notable bad guy. This, too, is a credit to Hagman's portrayal. By all indications, the glorious rascalness that made J.R. such fun to watch was lifted intact from Hagman's own lively personality.
During last June's lunch interview with Hagman and Linda Gray (J.R.'s long-suffering onetime wife, Sue Ellen), Gray recalled the day the "Dallas" cast first met.
"He walks in, this man with a cowboy hat," said Gray, "and I thought, 'What's this?' To me, he was still the astronaut from 'I Dream of Jeannie.' Then he looked at me and he went, 'Hello, darlin'.' And that was it: I thought, Oh, darn, this is gonna be fun."