The "Who Shot J.R.?" episode shown in November 1980 was watched by 83 million people in the United States and over 300 million worldwide. In America, it was the highest rating for a single episode of a television series until the finale of M*A*S*H beat it in 1983.
Originally, the show was intended as a starring vehicle for Victoria Principal due to the fact that Pam would act as a buffer between the Ewings and the Barnses. J.R. would have been more of a supporting character, however, the producers were so impressed by Larry Hagman's portrayal of the immoral J.R. that he immediately was bumped up to be the show's main character.
In the mid 1980s, Linda Gray was briefly fired from Dallas after asking for a pay rise and requesting that she be given a chance to direct episodes like Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy. However, Larry Hagman threatened to leave the show because he didn't feel they could have JR without Sue Ellen.
The house used as the "Southfork Ranch" house was an actual Texas residence called Duncan Acres, owned by Joe R. Duncan (or J.R. Duncan). When the show became popular, tourists from all over the world visited the house day and night. The Duncan family was forced to sell the house and it is now a museum devoted to the show.
When Steve Kanaly was talking about leaving the show due to his character's lack of development, it was Larry Hagman who came up with the idea to make the Ray Krebs character the illegitimate son of Jock Ewing in order to get Kanaly to stay
Spinoff show Knots Landing (1979) was actually created first, but the producers were unable to sell it. They developed Dallas instead and when that became a success, and the network asked for a spinoff, they were able to dust off the Knots Landing idea.
In several of the early episodes of the series, Lucy and Ray were often portrayed as lovers. However, when it was revealed that Ray was Jock's illegitimate son, and therefore Lucy's uncle, his affair with Lucy was never mentioned again.
Originally, Linda Gray's Sue Ellen really didn't have a part, so it was up to her and Larry Hagman to improvise their scenes in the background. Fortunately, Leonard Katzman and others saw their work in the dailies of the episodes and Sue Ellen's character was fleshed out.
When Patrick Duffy was asked to return to the show in 1986, his wife told him that the only way it could happen is if his character had actually died in a dream. This led the producers to decide that Bobby Ewing's death (in addition to the entire 1985-86 season) was just a dream that Pam Ewing had.
Several actors including Charlene Tilton and Jim Davis were filmed firing the gun that shot J.R before it was decided who would be the shooter. The gun is on display at the real Southfork Ranch site in Dallas.
In May 1981, Delta Burke landed the role of Katherine Wentworth but she was forced to turn down the part because she was contractually obligated to the then-yet-to-be-picked-up series Filthy Rich (1982), which was a spoof of "Dallas".
Producers originally planned to bring back Jock Ewing's character, but fans were against having anyone play Jock Ewing except Jim Davis. Steve Forrest appeared on the show as Wes Parmalee, claiming to be Jock Ewing, but it was revealed that he was not.
Jenilee Harrison has the distinction of playing the only character to be killed off twice. Jamie Ewing Barnes was killed off the first time in the last episode of the "Dream Season" when she was blown up in her brother's car. The second time came midway through the next season, when she was killed while rock climbing in Mexico. Though the second death didn't occur on camera.
Morgan Fairchild played Jenna Wade, Bobby's childhood sweetheart, in a 1978 episode. When Jenna was seen again for two episodes in 1980, she was played by Francine Tacker as Fairchild was busy working on her own series Flamingo Road (1980). In 1983, with Flamingo Road now canceled, the producers approached Fairchild to reprise the role but she declined feeling that she did not want to return to a small role. However, the producers decided to recast the role with Priscilla Presley and the character became a series regular for five years. Fairchild later claimed that her mother never forgave her for turning down a role in her favorite soap.
In Season 10, JR attempts to weaken OPEC's influence over the price of oil by hiring a group of mercenaries to blow up several oil fields in the Middle East. This storyline is loosely based on Texas businessman Ross Perot's mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1979.
Barbara Bel Geddes is only nine years older than Larry Hagman, though they played mother and son. Hagman is 18 years older than Patrick Duffy, who played his younger brother, though we assume them to be only a few years apart in age.
Barbara Bel Geddes left the show in 1984 due to the producers not agreeing to her demands for a pay rise, and Donna Reed took her place the following season. When Bel Geddes decided to return in 1985, Reed was fired. Reed sued the producers of the show for breach of contract, who settled with her for an undisclosed sum of money. Ironically, Reed died (of cancer) in January 1986, mere months after she left the show which meant she would not have been able to continue for the duration of her contract anyway.
The series was a huge success in the UK where it was shown by the BBC for its entire run. However, the BBC ran into contractual problems with the show's international distributor, Worldvision, on more than one occasion. In 1981, Worldvision attempted to renege on an agreement with the BBC and raised the price tag per episode, assured in the knowledge that the BBC's main rival ITV was planning to buy the series. Litigation ensued but the matter was settled out of court and the series remained at the BBC. Then in early 1985, the problem resurfaced when the ITV company Thames Television "poached" the series by entering into a contract with Worldvision behind the BBC's back. A protracted legal battle ensued, made worse by the fact that not all stations in the ITV Network were prepared to show the series. As a countermeasure, the BBC temporarily halted transmission of the current (1984-85) season midway, as a way of sabotaging ITV's planned screening of the next season (1985-86) later that year. Although the BBC finished screening the 1984-85 season in July 1985, it took until early 1986 for the matter to be resolved. The series ultimately stayed with the BBC who began screening the next season in March 1986.
Barbara Bel Geddes was living in New York when cast for the series. Throughout the making of the series, Bel Geddes would fly home to New York and back every weekend and on other breaks to be with her family.
Several references were made during the show's run about Clayton Farlow having a past history of singing. Of course, Howard Keel, the actor who portrayed Clayton, was famous for his powerful bass-baritone singing voice.
Barbara Bel Geddes appeared in over 250 episodes of the series. She missed the first 11 episodes of the 1983-84 season after having quadruple bypass heart surgery in March 1983. However, in 1984, she decided to leave the show altogether after producers declined her request for a payrise. She was replaced in 1984 by Donna Reed. However, following Patrick Duffy's exit in 1985, producers offered Bel Geddes a salary increase if she would return to the role. She accepted and Reed was fired, for which she promptly sued the production company. Bel Geddes returned as Miss Ellie for the 1985-86 season and stayed until the end of the 1989-90 season.
Patrick Duffy had wanted the lead role in the 1986 series Heart of the City (1986). When Robert Desiderio was given the part (with a young Christina Applegate playing his daughter), Duffy decided to return to Dallas. Heart of the City lasted only 13 episodes while Dallas remained on the air for several more seasons. Desiderio later appeared in a recurring role in the Dallas spin-off, Knots Landing (1979).
Larry Hagman admitted that his alcoholism and boredom with the routine of playing the same role for so long inclined him to drink heavily at work, consuming as much as five bottles of champagne a day. Hagman claimed that despite this his tolerance was such that he never missed a day's work or spoiled a take for being drunk.
Victoria Principal claimed in interviews that she left Dallas in 1987 because she was unhappy with the show's writing and that she felt she has played the role for too long and wanted to move on. Other sources claimed that she had asked for a substantial salary increase after seeing her co-star Patrick Duffy return to the series with a huge payrise, but that she had asked for more money than the show's budget could afford to pay her.
Over the first 8 years, internal, creative conflicts between executive producer Philip Capice on one hand, and Larry Hagman and the writers, most notably Leonard Katzman, on the other hand, had increased, finally resulting in Katzman leaving his position as producer of the show at the end of season 8. Although Katzman was to continue writing for the show during season 9, albeit to limited degree, as "creative consultant", the fact that neither Lewis nor Paulsen returned for season 9, meant that Dallas was faced with not only a new production team (joining executive producer Philip Capice and associate producer Cliff Fenneman were James H. Brown as producer and Peter Dunne as supervising producer) but also an all new team of writers (headed by Dunne, executive story consultant Joel J. Feigenbaum, and story editors Hollace White and Stephanie Garman).
Long before the show started, Larry Hagman knew Charlene Tilton's real-life family, when her divorced mother was mentally ill, and wasn't raised without her father, therefore, Hagman replaced her real-life father.
The producers of Knots Landing were so mad that the Dallas producers didn't consult with them before their big "Dream Season" reveal that they did not honor it. While Dallas basically "un-did" Bobby's death from the 1984-1985 Season, and basically ret-conned out that whole year; Knots Landing did not. So in the Knots Landing universe Bobby in fact died never to be resurrected again.
Cathy Podewell was picked for the role of Cally Harper Ewing, J.R.'s young "trophy wife" in the last three seasons after Larry Hagman was impressed with her performance in an episode of Growing Pains (1985).
Loosely based on George Stevens' Giant (1956) starring James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor about a bunch of competing Texas Oil Barrons. Larry Hagman's "JR" character is loosely based on James Dean's "Jett Rink" character (or JR for short.)
Dallas was essentially an elaborate set up for the Knotts Landing Spinoff. The producers approached CBS with the show idea for Knots Landing. They said no; they would rather have something sent in Texas with dueling Oil Barrons. So Dallas was born; all as an elaborate spring board for the spinoff Knots Landing which was launched a year later through the Gary Ewing character. (Gary was mentioned even in the pilot because the Dallas producers knew they would be launching a sequel show later.)
Morgan Fairchild originated the role of Jenna Wade (before Priscilla Presley took over for the role full-time a few seasons later.) The producers approached her about playing the role permanently but she turned them down saying the role was too small. Later when Jenna became Bobby's girlfriend and a regular cast member Fairchild said she regretted this decision.
Everybody except Larry Hagman came back, at the beginning of the show's 4th season, when the "Who Shot J.R.?" media was building around, because Hagman was involved in contract negotiations, holding back his return. Holding out for a higher salary, Hagman did not appear in the first episode of the show until the final few minutes. Producers were faced with a dilemma whether to pay the greatly increased salary or to write J.R. out of the program. Lorimar Productions, the makers of the series, began shooting different scenes of Dallas which did not include Hagman. In the midst of negotiations, Hagman also took his real-life family to London, England for their July vacation. He continued to fight for his demands and network executives conceded that they wanted his character to stay on the show.
In almost the same situation as its spin-off Knots Landing (1979), the year before, and at the end of the series' tenth season, David Jacobs and Leonard Katzman, had decided to go into a different direction of this show, consequently, Susan Howard and Victoria Principal were let go, due to corporate downsizing, before Steve Kanaly, who was prefaced with that same situation, at the end of the following year, as well.
Larry Hagman's former I Dream of Jeannie (1965) co-star Barbara Eden played Lee Ann De La Vega, a millionaire hellbent on revenge against J.R., in a five episode story arc in the final season (1990-1991). At the end of the story arc, she reveals that her surname is actually Nelson, a reference to Hagman's character Tony Nelson in I Dream of Jeannie (1965).
Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) are the only actors to appear in 300 or more episodes of the series: Hagman appears in all 357, Duffy appears in 328, Kercheval appears in 327 and Gray appears in 308.