Larry Hagman, television legend, dies at 81

Larry Hagman, who will forever be remember for his portrayal of one of television’s best loved (and hated) characters, died earlier today (November 23) after a bout with throat cancer. He was 81.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Hagman’s parents were Benjamin Hagman, a local district attorney, and his wife Mary (nee Martin). The two had met in high school and Benjamin convinced Martin’s parents to allow them to marry when she was seventeen. His parents divorced when Hagman was five and he and his mother moved to California, where they stayed with his grandmother. It was while in California that Mary was signed to a contract with Paramount. In later years she would become a star on Broadway, originating lead roles in musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific.”
Hagman attended several schools as a young man, including the Black-Foxe Military Institute. While his mother went off to New York he remained with his grandmother until her passing, then was sent to boarding school. It was at these schools that he developed a liking for drama classes. He graduated from high school in 1949 and, on the advice of his mother, decided to give acting a try professionally.
While attending Bard College he took some time off to appear in a New York City production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” then spent the summer traveling the country in a variety of musical road shows. In 1951 he joined his mother in the London production of “South Pacific,” remaining with the show for over a year. In late 1952 he was drafted by the United States Air Force and spent four years in London entertaining troops stationed there. After his discharge he returned to New York City where he appeared in several plays, both on and off-Broadway, and the occasional television program. In 1961 he joined the cast of daytime soap opera “The Edge of Night,” playing Ed Gibson for two years. He made his film debut in 1964 in the comedy “Ensign Pulver” and later appeared opposite Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe” that same year.
In 1965 he was cast as Captain Anthony Nelson in the hit television series “I Dream of Jeannie.” The show featured Hagman as the “master” of Jeannie, a beautiful blonde he discovers when he finds an old bottle on the beach. The two eventually married and the show ran until 1970. For years after the show was canceled Hagman refused to associate with anything connected to it, refusing to appear in the two subsequent made for television movies. Although Eden did make an appearance on “Dallas” it wasn’t until 1999 that he agreed to appear with Eden and fellow co-star Bill Daily for a reunion on “The Donny and Marie Show.”
In 1977 Hagman was cast as J.R. Ewing in the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.” As the oldest son of Jock Ewing, J.R. was the bad guy you loved to hate. His scheming and conniving ways came to a head at the end of the second season when J.R. was shot. That summer the phrase “Who Shot J.R.?” became a business in itself, with T-shirts and bumper stickers popping up all over America. That summer also saw Hagman asking for a large raise. The story I was told goes like this:
The producers called Hagman’s agent and asked him and Hagman to come to their office on Monday morning. When they arrive they are taken to a screening room where they are shown the last scenes of the last episode. They see a body being put into an ambulance and the ambulance speeding away. Suddenly another vehicle hits the ambulance, which bursts into flames. The screen goes black and the words SIX MONTHS LATER flash across it. Fade in on a face heavily bandaged. Off screen a voice says, “Because of the extensive plastic surgery we had to do you may not look the same Mr. Ewing.” The bandages are removed and there in the hospital bed is Robert Culp.
A deal was finally made and on November 21, 1980 (ironically 32 years ago this week) the world discovered who had shot J.R. The show ran until 1991, earning Hagman multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations as Best Dramatic Actor. In 1995 Hagman underwent a liver transplant. He had acquired a drinking problem as far back as high school and was reported to drink up to four bottles of champagne a day on the set of “Dallas.” He also quit smoking that year, becoming a spokesman for the American Cancer Society in later years.
After “Dallas” he continued to work, appearing in such films as “Nixon” and “Primary Colors” as well as recurring roles in such television shows as “Orleans” and “Nip/Tuck.” In the summer of 2011 Hagman made two major announcements about his life and his career: “As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery. But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love.” He revealed to the world that he had stage one throat cancer while also announcing his return to the role he loved in the updated version of “Dallas.” The show debuted earlier this year to great success, brought about, no doubt, by the presence of the irascible Larry Hagman. A true television legend who will be sorely missed

DVD Review “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy- Volume 1”

Starring: Larry the Cable Guy
Episodes: 10 out of 20 episodes
Running time: 376 minutes
Original channel: History Channel

Volume 1: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Something about Larry the Cable Guy is like a car accident…you can’t look away. No matter how corny or stupid he may be, he is damn entertaining. This show is funny and is also very informative. In the series, Larry travels America as he experiences different lifestyles, jobs and hobbies. that occur “only in America”. It is sort of like “Dirty Jobs” except the hillbilly version. I really enjoyed this series and Larry the Cable Guy is a good show host.

Here is just some of the things that Larry does on this season…Larry Makes Moonshine, Larry Goes to the Swamp, Larry Shoots Guns/Larry Gets the Horns, Larry Breeds Mules, Larry Races Dogs, Larry Gits a Gator, Larry Goes Trucking, Larry Is an Astronaut, Larry Rides with the Hells Angels and Larry Deep Fries Everything.

Larry seems to make fun of all these different lifestyles, jobs or hobbies but he does really seem to enjoy them overall. What I like about this volume of episodes the most is that there are no commercials, opening or ending credits. What this means is each disc, for a total of two, is just one 2 hour and 51 minute episode. It is work well when re-watching the series and make it feel like you are watching less and just keep watching.  I look forward to volume two of this season and hopefully season two.

Interview with Larry Kenney

Larry Kenney is known best for his role voicing Lion-O in the original “Thundercats” series.  Larry is also the voice of Count Chocula and Sonny, the Coco Puffs bird.  Larry is returing to “Thundercats” on July 29th for its reboot playing the character King Claudus, Lion-O’s father.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Larry about his voice work and what we can expect from the new “Thundercats” series.

Mike Gencarelli:  How did you get involved with “Thundercats?”
Larry Kenney:  Well, I’m a voice over actor and, like every other job you get in this business, you get a call from your agent.  I got a call from mine back in 1983.  He told me that, “tomorrow, at such and such a time you’ll go to such and such address and ask for this person.”  It was for a new cartoon series called “Thundercats” and I went in to audition.  When I got there all of the walls in the studio were covered with pictures of the characters.  They handed me a synopsis of what the series was about and also a brief synopsis of each character.  They said to pick a few characters you’d like to read for.  So I picked Lion-O and I also picked Jackalman and a couple others.  In voice acting it’s first come, first served so I waited until they called me in.  When they did they asked me what I thought Lion-O might sound like.  They gave me a little information…what his characteristics were.  And then you do what you do.  Whether it’s for a cartoon series or for Dawn detergent.  You do the audition and you leave.  When you’ve been doing this as long as I have you don’t sit around the house thinking, “gee, I hope I get it…I hope I get it.”  But you DO hope you get it. (laughs)  And then you either get a call from your agent in the next couple of days saying “you booked it” or you never get a call.  Fortunately I got the call.  And a couple of months later we started recording.

MG:  How was it working for the legendary Rankin/Bass team?
LK:  That was the first thing that struck me.  I didn’t know it was for Rankin/Bass until I got to the audition and saw the Rankin/Bass logo on the script.  I’m 63 years old and I grew up watching “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” with Burl Ives and  Fred Astaire in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman.”  They were classics.  At the time there were no animated shows being done in New York City.  Everything was being done out in California because of Disney and Warner Brothers.  In fact another one of my first thoughts was “wow, why are they doing it in New York?”  Then when I got the job I was glad they were doing it in New York.  (laughs)

MG:  What is your inspiration in creating the different characters?
LK:  Well, they wanted Lion-O to not be so “charactery.”  But they always wanted them to have a hint of animal (he speaks in Lion-O’s raspy voice)…of course he doesn’t sound like a lion.  My first thought…he was young when he started.  He was naive’ and kind of cocky.  So I went with a lot of vulnerability with him, but still authoritative.  I didn’t want him to come off like he knew everything, though he thought he did.  I mean the voice is really the same voice I’m using to talk with you.  Of course it’s a little more dramatic because it’s a television show.  But if I was just sitting here talking to you I’d say, “the sword of Omens come into my hand…I, Lion-O, command it.”   But on tv it’s (much more dramatic) “Sword of Omens…come into my hand!   I, Lion-O, command it!”  Interestingly enough I’m playing Lion-O’s father in the new series.

MG:  What can you tell us about that?  It’s right around the bend.
LK:  I know.  July 29th.  For King Claudus it’s really just Lion-O’s voice but older.

MG:  Was it a thrill returning to the series?
LK:  Being on an animated series is a great thrill for an actor.  You’re playing fantasy figures.  And every actor wants to play a villain.  Every screen actor wants to be in “Batman” and play the Joker.  It gives you the chance to really stretch…to be wild and crazy with the character.  First of all just doing an animated series is a lot of fun.  But what made it even greater is that it’s”Thundercats”…it’s SilverHawks and TigerSharks and Karate Kat.  And it’s the same cast…all the people I worked with.  We became a real close family over the years we worked together on the different series and they were a blast to work with.

MG:  “Thundercats” ran for 130 episodes.  How did you manage to keep the characters fresh?
LK:  It was easy for the actors because we only worked two days a month, two shows each time we worked.  We’d work a Thursday and a Friday in the middle of each month.  We’d only do four shows a month.  Now when the show was first sold we worked five days a week.  But once the show was on the air…after the first thirteen or twenty episodes, we actually had to take a break to allow the writers to come up with the scripts.  Because they sure hadn’t written 130 episodes at the beginning, only the initial thirteen or twenty six.  Once they sold those shows and we knew they wanted more..they needed the time to write the scripts.

MG:  You’re also the voice of Count Chocula and Sonny, the Coco Puffs bird.  How did those roles come about?
LK:  The exact same way.  I’ve been doing both of them for over 40 years.  Both of them have been long standing characters.  I grew up myself watching CoCo Puffs commercials.  It was exciting getting those jobs because they were something I watched when I was growing up.  In those two cases, though, they had established voices and they told each actor that they wanted us to come as close to the original voice as possible, because the kids were used to them.

MG:  What are your feelings on the possible new live action “Thundercats?”
LK:  Warner Brothers had announced a few years ago that they were going to do a movie.  Live with CGI. They hired a director and screenwriter, but they later decided to do another series. Who knows, if the series if a hit, and I think it will be, they’ll do a movie too!