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Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Farlow (maiden name Southworth; formerly Ewing) is a fictional character from the primetime CBS television series Dallas, a long-running serial centered on the lives of the wealthy Ewing family of Dallas, Texas. Created by writer David Jacobs, the character of family matriarch Miss Ellie was an important part of the show's structure and conflict. The dynamic role was originated by stage and screen actress Barbara Bel Geddes who was awarded both the Emmy Award and Golden Globe award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series.

Miss Ellie Ewing
Miss Ellie Ewing.JPG
Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie Ewing
Dallas character
Portrayed by
First appearanceApril 2, 1978
Digger's Daughter
Last appearanceApril 27, 1990
The Southfork Wedding Jinx
Created byDavid Jacobs
Dallas: The Early Years
  • Socialite
  • Shareholder in Ewing Oil
  • Southfork Ranch Co-Owner (1938–1982, 1988–1991)
  • Southfork Ranch Owner (1982–1988)
Donna Reed as Miss Ellie.jpg
Donna Reed as Miss Ellie Ewing

Half-way through the show's historic 13-year run, real-life drama impacted the character of Miss Ellie when, only days after filming wrapped for the 1982–1983 season, Bel Geddes was confronted with emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Consequently, the character of Miss Ellie went unseen until the 12th episode of the 1983–1984 season when Bel Geddes returned. Facing continued health issues, she was replaced by movie and television actress Donna Reed for the entire 1984–1985 season. In better health, Dallas producers asked Bel Geddes to return to the roll again for the 1985–86 season, where she remained through the character's final appearance in the 1989–90 season.

The character of Miss Ellie appeared on Dallas in a total of 300 episodes, 276 episodes played by Barbara Bel Geddes, and 24 episodes played by Donna Reed.

Miss Ellie's storylines focus on her family's troubles. As the matriarch of the Ewing family, she is portrayed as a strong and loving mother. Miss Ellie's marriage to oil baron Jock Ewing was central to the character for the first few years she appeared in the show, until his death in an episode in 1981, following the real-life death of actor Jim Davis.[1]

Character creationEdit


Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow is one of the original characters invented by the creator of Dallas, David Jacobs. Before the creation of the show, Jacobs originally had quite a different idea of what he envisioned the show to be. He wanted to create a television show based on "family issues and examining relationships at the middle-class level".[2] The production company, CBS, initially turned down his original idea, as they wanted something more "glitzy" to put on the air, with wealthier characters. After the success of Dallas, Jacobs' initial idea later became the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing.


Miss Ellie is the daughter of rancher Aaron Southworth (Hoyt Axton), who instills in her a fierce pride in her heritage, deep-seated courage, and a strong belief in the strength of family.

During the first half of the 1930s, Miss Ellie was the sweetheart of Willard "Digger" Barnes (David Wayne, Keenan Wynn). When the Great Depression hit, Miss Ellie's family came dangerously close to losing Southfork Ranch, and Miss Ellie began dating Digger's business partner and friend, Jock Ewing (Jim Davis), who had just begun making his fortune in the oil business and building Ewing Oil. On the day that her family was going to lose Southfork, Miss Ellie married Jock, as Jock was the only man in Dallas known to have enough money to save the ranch. While she initially married Jock to save Southfork and for Jock's dependability, she grew to love him and they remained married for well over 40 years until his death in a helicopter crash in 1982, although Jock's body was never found. The couple had three sons: J.R. (Larry Hagman), Gary (David Ackroyd, Ted Shackelford) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy).

As the years and decades pass, Jock builds Ewing Oil into one of the biggest and most powerful independent oil companies in Texas, and Southfork grew into a very successful ranch again under Jock's leadership. Jock takes over raising his eldest son J.R., showing him "tough love" and grooming him to be the heir of Ewing Oil, thus making him one of the most ruthless oilmen in the oil business. Miss Ellie has more influence on their second son Gary, who is Miss Ellie's favorite son, as Gary is more like the Southworths than the Ewings in loving ranching and the land over the oil business. Miss Ellie resents Jock's treatment of Gary, whom Jock considers weak, and Gary is regularly bullied by J.R., causing pressures which drive Gary to alcoholism, and to walk out on his family and baby daughter, Lucy (Charlene Tilton). Jock and Miss Ellie's youngest son, Bobby, is Jock's favorite son, and is spoiled by both Jock and Miss Ellie.

In 1979, Miss Ellie is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy, from which she fully recovers.

In 1980, she learns that ranch foreman Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) is Jock's illegitimate son from an affair with an Army nurse named Margaret Hunter in England during World War II. This revelation caused tension in Miss Ellie and Jock's marriage, as she felt that Jock had replaced Ray for their second son Gary. The tension almost leads Miss Ellie and Jock to divorce. However, they reconcile in 1981 and have a second honeymoon in Paris. Miss Ellie also accepts Ray into the family, though she is not his biological mother. Shortly thereafter, Jock goes to South America on a mission to help the U.S. government explore oil in the jungle.

In 1982, on his return, Jock is involved in a helicopter crash and is reported to have been killed, although his body is never recovered.

In 1983, Miss Ellie goes to court to overturn the terms of Jock's will, which set up a fierce and bitter competition between J.R. and Bobby for control of Ewing Oil. Miss Ellie loses the case after failing to convince the court that Jock was mentally incompetent at the time he wrote his will. Before Jock's death, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) leaves J.R., taking John Ross to live at the Southern Cross Ranch near San Angelo, Texas, the home of her new boyfriend, rodeo cowboy Dusty Farlow (Jared Martin). In an attempt to steal back John Ross, J.R. takes Miss Ellie on a visit, where she first meets Dusty's father Clayton (Howard Keel). Later, Clayton and she settle a problem caused by J.R. involving Clayton's refineries. When Clayton helps Sue Ellen as she reconciles with J.R., Miss Ellie and he become friendly and eventually start dating. In 1984, Clayton and Miss Ellie marry, despite the attempts of J.R. and Clayton's sister Jessica Montfort (Alexis Smith) to stop the wedding.

In 1986, a man named Wes Parmalee (Steve Forrest) claims that he is in fact her presumed late husband, Jock, who had actually survived the helicopter crash but underwent extensive plastic surgery which drastically altered his appearance. Miss Ellie is torn over whether to believe Wes' claims, and this puts a strain on her marriage to Clayton. Eventually, Miss Ellie tells her family that Wes told her that he was not Jock. In 1988, Ellie accepted her husband Clayton as co-owner of Southfork Ranch.

In 1990, Miss Ellie and Clayton go on a tour of the Orient. While overseas, Miss Ellie decides not to return to Dallas because she is tired of dealing with all the headaches and heartaches from J.R. and Bobby's lives. She deeds Southfork to her youngest son, Bobby.

Miss Ellie died in 2001 and is buried on Southfork.

Dallas (2012 TV series)Edit

When her son J.R. died in 2013, Bobby's new wife Ann revealed that Miss Ellie had cut J.R. out of her will because "he was not a rancher", which greatly angered a bitter J.R., and left Bobby with enormous guilt. A final part of her will gave half of Southfork to her grandson John Ross Ewing III, to Bobby's dislike.


  1. ^ "JIM DAVIS, ACTOR, 65, DIES; LED EWINGS IN DALLAS'". The New York Times. April 27, 1981. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  2. ^ Dallas: The Complete Story of the World's Favorite Prime-Time Soap, pp. 4–5

Further readingEdit

  • Curran, Barbara A. (2005). Dallas: The Complete Story of the World's Favorite Prime-Time Soap. Cumberland House Publishing. ISBN 978-1581824728.

External linksEdit