“The boys will take care of all business deals while we’re gone, punk.
Don’t worry about it.”
—Jock Ewing’s last lines on Dallas
Jim Davis was born in one of the smallest towns in the state of Missouri but made a name for himself in one of the biggest cities in the world. As a star on the TV show Dallas, he portrayed Jock Ewing, a wealthy oilman and the father of one of the most notorious TV villains of all time, J. R. Ewing.
THE EARLY YEARS
Marlin Davis was born on August 26, 1909, and grew up in the small town of Edgerton, which lies midway between Kansas City and St. Joseph. After high school, he stayed close to home by attending William Jewell College in Liberty. He still didn’t know what he wanted to do for a living after he left the school, so he bounced around with odd jobs like a tent rigger for the circus and a salesman for an oil company. The oil job eventually took him to California, where he again changed careers. This time it was for keeps as the bright lights of Hollywood put stars in his eyes.
RISE TO FAME
His tough midwestern upbringing gave him a rugged appearance and a steely persona, which were immediately noticed by talent scouts in California. He was 6’2″, good looking with piercing eyes, had the looks of a cowboy, and the gravelly voice to match. This was a perfect combination of characteristics that TV executives were looking for in the 1940s, as Westerns were the top draw in theaters.
Marlin landed roles that suited his persona, especially those of a frontiersman and cowboy, but also of the tough guy and villain. He appeared in dozens of movies and commercials before landing a big role in 1952, where he played a bad guy against one of the biggest stars of the era.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
The Big Sky was released in 1952 starring Kirk Douglas. Douglas’s nemesis in the movie was none other than the big guy from Missouri, Jim Davis. Davis starred as the conniving, evil, and murderous counterpart to Douglas’s good guy. The movie, and Davis in particular, received critical acclaim, which solidified him as one of the best character actors of the day.
Dozens of movie roles followed, but it wasn’t until 1978 when he would reach the pinnacle of his career. Davis landed the role of the family patriarch in the new drama Dallas. The prime time TV program turned out to be one of the biggest shows of all time, with tens of millions of people watching every week to see what happened at South Fork Ranch.
Davis played the role of Jock Ewing, the man who built an oil empire and made his family one of the richest in the world. He was perfect for the role and finally became a household name at the age of 63. Tragically, he only appeared on the show for two years, after he passed away in 1981.
Jock was such an integral part of the program that the producers didn’t know what to do with his character after he died. They first thought about replacing him, but instead sent his character to South America to drill for oil for a year so they could make a decision about what to do with his storyline. Producers ultimately decided that there was no way Davis could be replaced, so his character was killed off in a plane crash in the 1982 season.
*One of Davis’s most famous commercials was for Carnation Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer.
*His only child, Tara Diane, died at age sixteen in a car crash.
*He is buried with a picture of his daughter and actress Victoria Principal, who many say reminded him of his daughter.