Gayle Hunnicutt Dies: ‘Dallas’ Actress Who Made A Name For Herself In British Film And TV Was 80

Gayle Hunnicutt, whose best-known work came as Vanessa Beaumont, the mother of J.R. Ewing’s illegitimate son, in the final three seasons of Dallas, has died per multiple U.K. reports. Hunnicutt died last Thursday at a hospital in London, according to her ex-husband Simon Jenkins. She was 80 years old.

That Hunnicutt would find fame playing Vanessa Beaumont, a Brit, on a TV show called Dallas was a bit ironic for a woman born in Fort Worth. But it was entirely sensible given that the actress spent much of her career in British TV and movies, even marrying the be-knighted Jenkins before returning to work in the U.S.

Her TV career began with a role on the shortlived small-screen adaptation of Mister Roberts and included roles on The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart and in Marlowe opposite James Garner.

In 1970, Hunnicutt met and later married David Hemmings, who himself was already a major star on the heels of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up. The duo moved to England, where her career took off. They co-starred in two horror films, Fragment of Fear in 1970 and Voices in 1973. That same year, she played opposite Roddy McDowell in The Legend of Hell House.

After divorcing Hemmings in 1975, Hunnicutt wed journalist Simon Jenkins in 1978. Jenkins was knighted for services to journalism in the 2004. The duo divorced in 2009.

During her time in the U.K., Hunnicutt starred in a television adaptation of Henry James’s The Golden Bowl and as Tsarina Alexandra in the miniseries Fall of Eagles. She also played Annabelle West in The Return of the Saint. Her other on-screen sleuthing included embodying the formidable Irene Adler opposite Jeremy Brett in the TV series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in 1984.

Throughout the ’80s, she appeared on American TV staples such as Taxi, Matt Houston and Fantasy Island before she found her way into the final three seasons of David Jacobs’ Texas-set juggernaut.


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