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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Echoes of who shot JR
JR Ewing
JR Ewing had an impressive list of enemies
The question of who shot EastEnders' Phil Mitchell is compelling the nation, but back in 1980 people were asking a similar question: Who shot JR?

In 57 countries, 350 million people watched to see who gunned down the most notorious soap villain of them all - Dallas oil baron JR Ewing.

From the episode in March 1980 when he was shot, until the episode in November when the culprit was revealed, one question seemed to be on everyone's lips: Who really shot JR Ewing?

Ten gallon hats, t-shirts and posters emblazoned with 'I shot JR' logos could be found everywhere.

Special JR bumper stickers reportedly outsold those supporting Carter or Reagan during US election year, and the appropriately named TR Dallas had a number one hit in Ireland with 'Who Shot JR?'.

Closely guarded secret

In Britain, William Hill stopped taking bets on the outcome and the film canisters containing the crucial episode were accompanied by an armed guard from Los Angeles to Heathrow Airport.

Around 21.5 million viewers watched the episode screened on BBC One - a record viewing for a soap at that time.

Dallas skyline
The Dallas skyline of the opening episodes

Like his contemporary baddie, Phil Mitchell, JR Ewing had an impressive list of enemies.

His double dealing in the bedroom and the boardroom had made him a pariah even within his own family.

Prime suspect was his long suffering alcoholic wife Sue Ellen who he threatened to return to a sanatorium. Her lover Dusty was another suspect.

All of my life people have thought of me as Bing Crosby's daughter. Now they'll remember me as the person who shot JR

Actress Mary Crosby
Second favourite was Kristen Shepard, Sue Ellen's devious sister. JR had promised to marry her, but eventually told her in his inimitable way to get to hell out of town.

Such was the fever of speculation that even JR's mother, the demure Miss Ellie was not ruled out as a suspect - and neither was JR's saintly brother Bobby.

JR's business dealings made a swathe of enemies.

The long suffering Cliff Barnes, who JR cut out of a business deal, was yet another suspect. The Barnes family had a long running hatred for the Ewings.

JR also ruined a cartel of businessmen who invested in an Asian oil field.

Businessman Vaughan Leland promised to get JR "one way or the other" while Marilee Stone, whose husband Seth Stone committed suicide, also vowed revenge.


Behind the soap drama, there was a real life cliffhanger.

At the end of the series when JR was shot, even the actor Larry Hagman who played him was left in the dark about the outcome.

Hagman was locked in contract negotiations with the show's creators Lorimar in between seasons, while they deliberated about whether or not to kill him off.
Bobby Ewing (actor Patrick Duffy)
Even JR's saintly brother Bobby was a suspect

When filming started for the new series in June 1980, Hagman was visiting his waxwork model at Madame Tussauds in London.

Eventually Lorimar decided the character would return to the show.

So who did shoot JR? It was Kristen, but JR spared her because she was carrying his child.

Kristen was played by actress Mary Crosby who was grateful for her new found notoriety.

"All of my life people have thought of me as Bing Crosby's daughter. Now they'll remember me as the person who shot JR," she said after the show.

Viewers in the UK must wait just a little while longer to find out which EastEnders actor will gain a similar notoriety.

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See also:

05 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
EastEnders nailbiter reaches climax
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Soaps gunning for ratings
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