Dallas chronicled the lives of The Ewings, a wealthy Texas Oil family. The show was the most popular nighttime soap opera of the 80’s and it produced legions of fans. The soap ended its thirteen-year run in 1991. A couple of the classic TV stars shined after Dallas, but others seem to have faded into obscurity.
Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing. Anyone alive in the 1980’s is hip to the question “Who shot J.R.,” and since the 80’s, the character went on to become a pop culture icon. Prior to Dallas, Larry Hagman was already established for the role of Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeanie. After Dallas, he had a memorable run as Burt Landau on Nip/Tuck.
Patrick Duffy portrayed Bobby Ewing. The character was crazy in love with his ever-suffering wife, and he constantly tried to do the right thing for everyone…boring! It did not really matter that Bobby Ewing was a drip, because Patrick Duffy was the resident hunk of Dallas. After the end of the show, Patrick Duffy went on to star in another successful TV series, Step by Step, alongside Suzanne Somers. Duffy is still somewhat active in front of the camera.
Ted Shackelford was Gary Ewing. Gary Ewing was disinterested in the oil baron scene, so he wandered over to Knot’s Landing and made a home there. Gary Ewing returned to South Fork occasionally, but he was primarily a main fixture on the previously mentioned cul de sac. Ted Shackelford was moderately active after Dallas, and he is currently appearing on daytime TV’s The Young and the Restless.
The role of Ellie Ewing (Miss Ellie), the matriarch of the Ewing clan, was portrayed by two well-established actresses of classic film and television, Barbara Bel Geddes and Donna Reed. Before Dallas, Barbara Bel Geddes was familiar to TV audiences by way of classic TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and one of The Master’s classic films, Vertigo, alongside Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. The actress officially retired after Dallas ended in 1991, and she never returned to the screen. Barbara Bel Geddes died of lung cancer in 2005.
Thousands of TV fans already knew Donna Reed from her classic TV show, The Donna Reed Show. Also, like Barbara Bel Geddes, Donna Reed starred alongside Jimmy Stewart in another huge Hollywood hit, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. When Barbara Bel Geddes decided to reclaim the role of Miss Ellie in 1985, Donna Reed was axed from the show. Donna Reed died of pancreatic cancer a year after her contract was terminated with Dallas.
Veteran actor Jim Davis had the role of Jock Ewing, the patriarch of the Ewing clan. Davis was a character actor who spent most of his career playing parts in westerns like Rawhide, Wagon Train, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. He appeared in nearly 200 roles since 1942. Jim Davis died of multiple myeloma (plasma cell cancer) in 1981 in the midst of filming for Dallas. Instead of replacing the actor, the writers weaved his character’s death into the storyline – Jock Ewing was killed in a plane crash.
Linda Gray portrayed Sue Ellen Ewing, the boozing, cheating wife to J.R. Ewing….incidentally, the boozing and cheating was in response to her husband’s constant infidelity and lack of interest. Before Dallas, Linda Gray was a model, it was Anne Bancroft’s role as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but it is Linda Gray’s legs in the famous theatrical release poster for the film. After Dallas, Linda Gray has been active in theater and television roles on shows like Melrose Place, Models, Inc., and the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
Victoria Principal played Pamela Ewing, the oh-so-sweet wife to Bobby Ewing. Pam had had a penchant for vigorous dreams (you had to be there…), and she was always in a beef with J.R. Ewing. Like Gray, Principal was a model before Dallas. After the show ended, she continued to act in roles on Providence, Jackand Jill and Titans and a host of Lifetimeish TV movies. She has also written three books about health and beauty and she created a successful skin care line, Principal Secret.
Charlene Tilton rounds out the primary Ewing family as Lucy Ewing, the saucy, vixenous daughter of Gary Ewing, and his wife Valene. Lucy was too hot to handle for her parents, and she wasn’t too cool about to slumming with them over at the cul de sac on Knot’s Landing. Instead, she hung out with her wealthy grandparents (Jock and Ellie Ewing) at the South Fork Ranch in Dallas. Before the show, Charlene Tilton had roles on iconic 80’s TV shows like Fantasy Island, Hotel, and The Love Boat. After Dallas, Tilton played bit parts on under the radar TV movies, TV shows, video clips and shorts.
It seems that most of the principal actors from Dallas fared well after the show ended – uhh… all except those who died, but those actors led full lives and had successful career beforehand. Ted Shackelford, and Linda Gray could probably stand a bit more exposure, but Charlene Tilton is the only true faded star of the bunch.