Larry Hagman, the actor who lent a charming smile that often hid the villainous intent of J R Ewing on the television series Dallas and who directed Beware! The Blob, died yesterday afternoon at a Medical City Dallas Hospital after a year-long struggle with cancer. He was 81.

Hagman had only directed a few episodes of I Dream Of Jeannie when he made his feature directorial debut with 1972’s Beware! The Blob. Hagman’s involvement came about through his friendship with Jack H. Harris, producer of the original 1956 The Blob. A 1982 re-release of the film was advertised with a play on Hagman’s Dallas connection – “The film that J R shot!”

As J R Ewing, Hagman took Dallas from being a just a night time soap opera to a national obsession that culminated in a cliffhanging attempt on his life that left the entire nation spending the summer of 1980 wondering “Who shot JR?” Dallas was Hagman’s second successful television series, following on from his six-year stint as Major Tony Nelson, the astronaut in love with a 2000-year magical genie in the form of Barbara Eden on I Dream Of Jeannie.

And while Hagman’s biggest career highs were on television, he spent much of his career doing film work. One of his earliest film roles was a small part in the 1964 sequel to Mister Roberts, Ensign Pulver. That same year he also had a supporting role in the Cold War thriller Fail-Safe starring Henry Fonda. Hagman also played military types in The Eagle Has Landed and Superman: The Movie. Larger film roles include the comedy Mother, Juggs And Speed, Harry And Tonto, Nixon and Primary Colors, where a played a charming southern politico.