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News 26 Nov 12

Romanian 'Dallas' Fans Mourn Larry Hagman's Passing

Romania's many fans of the late US actor, Larry Hagman, remember the iconic TV series 'Dallas' as the symbol of the “American dream” in the Communist era.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

For many people in Romania the recent death of actor Larry Hagman has been an opportunity to remember how the oil-and-sex soaked TV show Dallas helped them to dream and endure the grim reality of the Communist regime.

Hagman, who died on Friday at age 81, portrayed one of television’s most beloved villains, oilman-robber J. R. Ewing.

The saga of a ranch-owning Texas oil family was broadcast from 1979 in over 50 countries worldwide, including Romania.

Dallas was the last Western show allowed in Romania as the country's former leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, thought it showcased all that was wrong with capitalism.

But Romanian viewers relished the change of tone from Communist propaganda, which was losing its force as the regime failed to deliver prosperity.

“Dallas was a real mass phenomenon in Romania. People were not interested in the tales of blackmail, bribery and adultery but mainly in the wealth, intrigue, and power struggles,” movie critic Irina Nistor recalled.

“Dallas was the image of the 'American dream' in Romania,” Nestor added.

“Dallas helped me to dream for a better life. I liked the glamour of the women, their hair styles, ways of life,” Catalina Popescu, a big fan of the series, said.

"I even started to dream of having a swimming pool of my own," she added. “For me, the death of Larry Hagman marks the end of an epoch.”

After Ceausescu and his wife were shot on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas - with a previously censored sex scene spliced back in - was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on TV.

Dallas continue to be extremely popular in Romania even during the 1990s, when new series made their appearance.

One of the new rich, Ilie Alexandru from Slobozia, 100km southeast of Bucharest, became famous when he built a copy of the Ewing family ranch.

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