Larry Hagman dies at 81; TV's J.R. Ewing
Jeannie was played by Barbara Eden, who complicates the life of uptight Nelson after he aborts a mission on a desert island and unleashes her character — a magical and alluring genie — from a bottle.

“I liked the premise of ‘Jeannie,’ “ Hagman wrote in his book. “It was good, wholesome, escapist fun, with a healthy dose of sexual tension.”

When many television shows were switching to a color format, “Jeannie” debuted in fall 1965 in less expensive black and white because it wasn’t expected to succeed. When it became a hit on NBC, the next four seasons were shot in color.

The network “finally woke up and realized what they had bought,” Sheldon later recalled, “a show about a beautiful, half-naked girl, living [unmarried] with a man, saying, 'What can I do for you, Master?’ “

On the set, Hagman clashed with director Roger Nelson and drove his colleagues crazy with tantrums, destructive behavior he later attributed to perfectionism. Nelson wanted Hagman fired after 10 episodes but instead the director was replaced.

“I expected everyone to be excellent every day. I was trying to be producer, writer, cameraman and sound man,” Hagman told People in 1980. “Eventually it got to me, and I had my breakdowns.”

He said it took $40,000 worth of therapy for him to essentially learn to be calmer.

When asked for the secret to starring in two hit TV series, Hagman would reply: “It’s been 20% hard work, 80% luck.”

“A lot of life comes down to that,” he once wrote.

Larry Martin Hagman was born Sept. 21, 1931, in Fort Worth. At the age of 16, his mother married lawyer Ben Hagman, and she had her son at 17.

His parents soon divorced, and by 1933 Martin had set off for Hollywood without Larry.

“We’re more like brother and sister than mother and son,” Hagman told The Times in 1981.

He was largely raised by his maternal grandmother in Texas and Los Angeles until she died when he was 12.

For a year, he lived in Connecticut with his mother but clashed with her husband and manager, Richard Halliday.

Placed in a series of boarding schools, Hagman was often a disciplinary problem and started drinking at 15, he later wrote.

Drawn to the notion of being a cowboy, he spent the last two years of high school living with his father in Texas and working summers in the oil fields. Hard labor made the ease of acting all the more appealing, Hagman later said.

At Bard College in New York, he studied theater arts but dropped out after a year and turned to summer stock.

In the early 1950s, he moved to England to take a small role in a production of “South Pacific” that starred his mother.

Abroad for five years, he spent four of them in the U.S. Air Force. Stationed in London, he produced entertainment shows for the military. He also met Maj (pronounced “My”) Axelsson, a Swedish clothing designer he married in 1954.

Upon returning to New York, Hagman starred on Broadway in the late 1950s in “God and Kate Murphy” and other plays.