Obituary

Ken Kercheval: JR Ewing's bitter rival Cliff Barnes in 'Dallas'

28 April 2019 - 00:00 By The Daily telegraph


The actor Ken Kercheval, who has died aged 83, was best known for his 13 years playing Cliff Barnes, JR Ewing's rival in the immensely popular TV programme Dallas (1978-1991).
Kercheval proved entirely convincing as Cliff, the embittered lawyer, and his constant feuding with the boss of Ewing Oil, JR (Larry Hagman), was an essential element in the plot.
Driving Cliff was a searing hatred of JR that had its wellspring in family jealousy. To complicate matters, Cliff's attractive sister Pamela (Victoria Principal) was married to Bobby Ewing, JR's dashing younger brother, played by Patrick Duffy.
In real life, Kercheval and Hagman got on well with each other and were the only actors to appear in every single season of the show. They both returned for a spin-off in 1996, the TV movie JR Returns, and for the 2012 revival of Dallas, running to three series.
Kercheval was born in Wolcottville, Indiana, on July 15 1935.
His first love was the stage, and he eventually attended the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York, where he trained under the celebrated Sanford Meisner, whose other students had included Steve McQueen, Robert Duvall and Gregory Peck.
In his early 30s he began appearing in the TV soap operas that were recorded in New York at the time. They were called soap operas because their chief purpose was to advertise detergents.
Kercheval was a keen smoker and in 1994 a routine chest X-ray revealed a shadow on his left lung. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and two malignant tumours were removed.
He married four times - all the marriages were dissolved - and is survived by his seven children.
1935-2019
- © Telegraph Media Group Limited [2019]

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