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Actor Ken Kercheval (1935-2019)


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The veteran actor Ken Kercheval -- best remembered for his years as Cliff Barnes on the longrunning CBS series "Dallas" -- has died at the age of 83. He expired after contracting pneumonia at his home in Clinton, Indiana on Easter Sunday after a long bout with cancer. 

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Kercheval and Larry Hagman -- who played Barnes' arch-nemesis J.R. Ewing -- were the only "Dallas" regulars to stay with the series throughout its original run from 1978 to 1991.

At the heart of the series was the longstanding feud between the Barnes and Ewing families. Willard "Digger" Barnes (first played by David Wayne, and then by Keenan Wynn) always claimed that he was cheated out of a fortune by his former partner, the oilman and rancher Jock Ewing (played by Jim Davis). Digger Barnes also seethed over the fact that Ewing married his love interest Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Southworth (played by Barbara Bel Geddes and, for one season, Donna Reed).

The Barnes-Ewing feud spilled over into another generation. Cliff, who became an assistant district attorney, frequently tried to get the upper hand over the slick J.R., Jock Ewing's eldest son and the president of Ewing Oil. But J.R. usually found a way to outsmart his family rival. 


Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing (played by Patrick Duffy) stunned his family when he married Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal), Digger's daughter.


When a "Dallas" reboot began airing on cable station TNT in 2012, Kercheval returned for occasional episodes as Cliff during the series' three seasons.


Cliff Barnes, Ken Kercheval, you will always be in my heart. https://www.instagram.com/tv/BwpJRe4Hm55/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1fq2w1xeat1zo 


Julie Gonzalo Retweeted Dallas Fanzine

Rest In Peace Mr. Kercheval .. it was a pleasure to play your daughter.. #Dallas #CliffBarnes

Lost another great one that I had the honor of working with. Ken Kercheval was a legend from the Original Dallas and luckily for us he Returned to the new Dallas. Twas an honor Ken. RIP… https://www.instagram.com/p/BwqaJWXHrFR/?


#RIP Ken Kercheval, fine actor who played Cliff Barnes for years and years on 'Dallas.' "J.R. was coming after my **** all the time, so I always had to defend myself," he once said. "If I did something that wasn't quite right, it's because I had to."


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Really sad that this turned out to be the case. As you may know, yesterday there was some confusion online about whether the reporting on Ken's passing was accurate. Anyway, the rivalry between J.R. Ewing and Cliff Barnes was of course the most interesting and entertaining part of the show, and Ken and Larry played it all beautifully. Ken even appeared in one of the "I Dream of Jeannie" TV movies from two decades later (although Larry decided not to), with Barbara Eden's "Dallas" character helping solidify the mental connection between Larry Hagman's two most legendary TV shows.

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There was a lot of confusion over his death. It was reported on British sites yesterday. But then one of his sons claimed he wasn't dead.

Further inquiries resulted in verification from the mortician in Kercheval's home town that he was indeed dead and the actor's body was there. But the son continued to deny that Kercheval had died.

Some Dallas costars were confused, including Sheree J. Wilson, who tweeted he was dead then deleted her tweet. A few hours later she retweeted that yes, he was dead. The agent confirmed the death, then the Hollywood trades were reporting it this morning.

Audrey Landers posted a nice tribute to him earlier on Instagram, with photos of their two characters (Cliff and Afton) from their days together on Dallas.

It seems universally agreed that Ken Kercheval, a strong theater-trained actor, became typecast because of his role on the long-running primetime soap opera. But he did some of his finest work playing Cliff Barnes.

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14 hours ago, NipkowDisc said:

never cared for the character. cliff barnes was lucky JR was even willing to engage in mental combat with him and every word out of JRs mouth was an acknowledgement of how stupid cliff barnes was.

my town, folks

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J.R. turned the tables on Cliff one last time in TNT's "Dallas" reboot. Larry Hagman had reprised his signature role, but died on November 23, 2012. The series' writers bade farewell to J.R. by making him terminally ill. As a result, the always-scheming oil mogul had his right-hand man shoot him to death -- and then frame Cliff for murder.

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