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Barbara Bel Geddes, Miss Ellie Ewing of TV s Dallas, dies at 82 * New *

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Bel Geddes

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LOS ANGELES Barbara Bel Geddes, the winsome actress who rose to stage and movie stardom but reached her greatest fame as Miss Ellie Ewing in the long-running TV series Dallas, has died. She was 82.

The San Francisco Chronicle said she died Monday of lung cancer at her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home in Mount Desert, Maine, confirmed the death today, but owner Bill Fernald said the family asked that no further information be given out.

Bel Geddes, daughter of renowned industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1948 drama I Remember Mama and was the original Maggie the Cat on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Dallas came late in her career. She had retired to take care of her husband, Windsor Lewis, after he fell ill with cancer in 1966. He died in 1972.

Her earnings depleted by his long illness, she found work scarce for a middle-aged actress and said she was flat broke in 1978 when she accepted the role as matriarch of a rambunctious Texas oil family.

Though castigated by critics, Dallas hurtled to the top of the audience ratings and spawned copycat shows. Bel Geddes won an Emmy in 1980 as best lead actress in a drama series and remains the only nighttime soap star to be so honored.

Bel Geddes called Dallas real fun, but it was also marked by tragedy. In 1981, Jim Davis, who played Miss Ellie s husband, Jock Ewing, died.

It was like losing her own husband again, said Dallas producer Leonard Katzman. It was a terribly difficult and emotional time for Barbara.

In March 1984, Bel Geddes was stricken with a major heart attack.

Miss Ellie was played by Donna Reed for six months, then Bel Geddes returned to Dallas, remaining until 1990, a year before CBS canceled the show.

In 1945, Bel Geddes made a splash on Broadway at 23 with her first important role in Deep Are the Roots, winning the New York Drama Critics Award as best actress.

She announced to a reporter: My ambition is to be a good screen actress. I think it would be much more exciting to work for Frank Capra, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock or Elia Kazan than to stay on Broadway.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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