Dallas has gone down in history as one of the most popular soap operas of all time. People still remember where they were when J.R. got shot and fondly look back on the incredible cast, namely the character J.R. Ewing himself, played by Larry Hagman. The ruthless oil baron made for some seriously entertaining television that made Dallas a worldwide phenomenon. But it should come as no surprise as Hagman was made for the camera. His mother, after all, is widely regarded as one of the most memorable leading ladies in the world of musicals -- Mary Martin.
Mary Virginia Martin was originally from Weatherford, Texas where she grew up inspired to perform by watching people like Bing Crosby and Ruby Keeler. Though she briefly attended finishing school at Belmont in Nashville, she dropped out at the age of 17 after welcoming her first child, Larry Hagman, with her husband at the time. Mary went through a bit of an identity crisis after moving in with her parents and becoming a wife and mother at such a young age. Her life was suddenly night and day from what she had envisioned for herself. She ended up attending a dance school in California, opening her own dance studio in Texas, and ultimately leaving her family behind to fully pursue singing and dancing in Hollywood professionally. According to Larry, as a child, he was primarily raised by his mother's mom, whom he called Nanny.
"My mum, the actor Mary Martin, had me when she was very young, just 17, and she didn't know what had hit her," the actor explained to The Guardian in 2012.
"She had met my father, Preston Hagman, when she was 14, and they got married when she was 16 and my father was 21. She has always wanted to perform and was ambitious - suddenly being a teenage mother didn't suit her. Luckily for us all, Nanny was there to look after me."
Eventually, Larry moved in with his mother and her new husband after Nanny passed away, Richard Halliday, who was also his mother's manager. The couple welcomed a second child together, a daughter named Heller. Larry and Richard didn't get along well at all which caused a bit of a rift in his relationship with his mom that would last years.
"When I was 12, I had to move in with Mum and Richard, and it didn't really work. I was miserable and eventually decided to move back to be with my dad, who I barely knew. He was a tough lawyer and typical Texan man. He wanted me to hunt, shoot, fish, learn how to box - do all the manly things that boys did in those days.
"After Richard died, when I was about 30, things got easier between my mother and me. A couple of times we fell out and didn't talk for a while. My wife, Maj, helped build the bridge on one occasion and my daughter Heidi on another. We got on very well in the end, and I was with her the day before she died."
Mary Martin ended up becoming a New York Broadway musical sensation known for starring as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Maria Von Trapp in Rodgers and Hammerstein (Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II)'s The Sound of Music, Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, and Peter in Peter Pan. She also appeared in Cole Porter's Leave It to Me!, One Touch of Venus, Legends with Carol Channing, Pacific 1860, I Do! I Do!, The Skin of Our Teeth, Lute Song, Hello, Dolly!, as well as in the West End in London. She's an Emmy and Tony Award winner and even received the Kennedy Center Honors. She performed everywhere from Los Angeles to San Francisco to national tours and even touring throughout Asia. The woman just couldn't be stopped.
Mary was in a slew of films as well like Love Thy Neighbor, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, Birth of the Blues, Star Spangled Rhythm, and Main Street to Broadway. Regardless of his troubled relationship with his mother growing up, we have a feeling that all of that exposure to film sets helped Larry in the long run when he decided to pursue acting as a career. He did after all go on to become a beloved TV actor known for starring on I Dream of Jeannie throughout the 60s before he landed the role of J.R. on Dallas.
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