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Nov
24

Larry Hagman’s Radicalism from Jan B Tucker

Jan B Tucker Blog

To understand the mostly private political viewpoint of Larry Hagman, a longtime member of the California Peace & Freedom Party, you first have to look at the context of his mother’s career.  Mary Martin won Tony Awards for her Broadway appearances in South Pacific and Sound of Music.  Look at the times and the themes:  an attack on racism where she risked getting blacklisted and an explicitly anti-fascist movie.

The play was based upon James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.  Michener was a principled liberal and later served as Bucks County Pennsylvania Chairman of John Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1960.  When Kennedy won the state, Michener was Secretary to the Pennsylvania College of Electors convention.  When Mary Martin starred in the role of Nellie Forbush in 1949, it was not exactly without controversy, as explained in the Wikipedia Article:

The musical explores the theme of racial prejudice in several ways. Nellie struggles to accept Emile’s mixed-race children. Another American serviceman, Lieutenant Cable, struggles with the prejudice that he would face if he were to marry an Asian woman. His song about this, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, was criticized as too controversial for the musical stage and called indecent and pro-communist.[7] While the show was on a tour of the Southern United States, lawmakers in Georgia introduced a bill outlawing any entertainment containing “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.”[8] One legislator said that “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.”[8] Rodgers and Hammerstein defended their work strongly. James Michener recalled, “The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.”[8]

Now, here’s the song Wikipedia references, “You’ve got to be carefully taught“–

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

While Larry Hagman appeared in a military uniform in I Dream of Jeannie, he was a member of the Anti-Vietnam War Peace & Freedom Party

Larry Hagman joined many literary and entertainment industry members in joining the Peace & Freedom Party when it qualified for the ballot in 1967 in California.  Amongst others, California PFP members included:

Ray Bradbury
Jan Michael Vincent
John Saxon
Wally Cox
James Coburn
Berton Schneider (Producer of Hearts & Minds)
George Clayton Johnson (Screenwriter of the second most “Twilight Zone” series after Rod Serling)
Barbara Eden (used to throw Black Panther fundraisers with Larry at her pad)
Biff Rose (Comedian)
Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster, later Green Party gubernatorial candidate in New York)
Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen Jr. (Guitarist of Jefferson Airplane fame)
Calypso Joe (former Vaudevillian turned Anti-Vietnam War activist “General Hershey Bar”)

Peace & Freedom Party member Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing role ironically spawned “J.R. for President” buttons, bumper stickers, and T-Shirts as though his conservative business tycoon persona was real

Apparently afraid that he could risk blacklisting like his mother while portraying J.R. Ewing in the original Dallas series and basking in the popularity of the role that spawned “J.R. For President” bumper stickers throughout America, Hagman re-registered for a time as a Republican.  Later he re-joined the Peace & Freedom Party with his fame and fortune established to a point where he didn’t have to worry.

Anyway, with his death yesterday, the real Larry Hagman, the lifelong radical, will be missed by me, while others will be missing the J.R. Ewing that he really wasn’t.