By Lynette Rice
May 31, 2019 at 06:06 PM EDT
Everett Collection
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Fans spent eight months in 1980 wondering who shot J.R. Ewing (the incomparable Larry Hagman) in the third season finale of Dallas on CBS. Here, former Dallas writer Camille Marchetta recalls crafting the whodunit that still stands as one of the most memorable cliffhangers in TV history.

“One day we were all sitting around, deciding how we were going to end the season. [Executive story editor] Art Lewis has always credited me with saying, ‘Let’s just shoot the bastard.’ We were doing a show with massive numbers of people around, so to keep it a secret, we shot multiple endings. It was not even clear whether J.R. was going to die. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be that big of a deal, but then our offices were broken into by somebody trying to get ahold of the script! They didn’t find it. I was getting phone calls from friends in England [where Marchetta previously lived]. One called me to ask me who’d done it because the bookies in England were taking bets. When I was in London and I signed my name to checks, people would say, ‘Are you the writer from Dallas?’ That would never happen in the U.S. I knew I wasn’t going to tell anyone [about the outcome], and I assumed everybody else wasn’t going to tell. I was getting paid a pretty good salary, but there were people who probably could have used the money that was being offered by newspapers — but nobody told. I was just so impressed with all of us. The whole thing was just amazing.” —As told to Lynette Rice

A version of this story appears in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now, or buy your choice of two different Game of Thrones covers — Daenerys or the Starks. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 14
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  • 04/02/78-05/03/91
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