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Dallas actor Larry Hagman dies

Television actor Larry Hagman, famed for his portrayal of unscrupulous Texas oilman J.R. Ewing in the soap opera Dallas, has died at the age of 81. His character became the cultural icon everybody loved to hate.

Hagman died in hospital in Dallas, Texas, following complications from cancer, the Dallas Morning News cited his family as saying.

The actor first became a TV star in 1965 in the comedy series "I Dream of Jeannie," playing an astronaut who discovered a beautiful genie in a bottle.

However, he was propelled to international fame by the series Dallas, which made its premiere in 1978 on the US network CBS.

The show told the story of an oil-rich Texas family, with Hagman's character depicted as a scheming villain, gleefully accumulating enemies through his double dealing, family feuds and adultery.

"I really can't remember half of the people I've slept with, stabbed in the back or driven to suicide," Hagman once said of his character.

'Who Shot J.R.?'

As a finale to the show's second season, the producers showed Ewing being shot by an unseen assailant.

The famous November 1980 Dallas episode that answered the question "Who Shot J.R.?" attracted a record 350 million viewers worldwide.

Having become a heavy drinker, Hagman underwent a liver transplant in 1995 started to campaign against alcohol abuse and smoking. He also became an advocate of organ donations, solar energy and marijuana as an alternative to alcohol.

Joined by other ex-members of the Dallas cast, Hagman had recently reprised his former role in a new edition of the soap for the entertainment network TNT.

rc/sej (AP, dpa, Reuters,)