Dallas: The Beginning

Dale Midkiff and Molly Hagan in Dallas: The Early Years (1986)

Aaron Southworth (Hoyt Axton) had promised Willard 'Diggers' Barnes' (David Marshall Grant) father that when he passed away he would not only keep an eye out for his boy but give him a plot of land on Southfork. But Willard being a drunk and in love with Aaron's daughter Ellie (Molly Hagan) makes a drunken fool of himself one night and ends up running away, jumping the train which is where he meets Jock Ewing (Dale Midkiff). Together along with Jock's brother Jason (David Wilson) they work as riggers on the oil fields in Texas where Digger's nose for finding them oil makes them rich. But Digger's love of drinking whilst Jock being an honourable man leads to a wedge being driven between them especially when having made a name for himself Digger takes Jock back to Southfork to meet Ellie and her family who are struggling and on the verge of losing the ranch as Aaron does not want to drill on their land.

"Your daddy stole my daddy's land", some thing along those lines is what Cliff Barnes always yelled at J.R. when ever they locked horns as well as Barnes claiming that it was 'Digger' Barnes who was behind the oil business and without him Jock would have had nothing. I am sure there were more accusations made including J.R. claiming that Digger was a no good drunk who squandered his money away. Well if you can come across it and have 3 hours to spare "Dallas: The Early Years" answers all these questions about where the Ewing Barnes feud all began.

David Marshall Grant in Dallas: The Early Years (1986)

Now I am not going to go in to detail about what happens because there is lot of parts to this 3 hour made for TV movie but on top of learning exactly what happened to the plot of land which Cliff Barnes frequently claimed Jock stole we also learn all about Digger being an irresponsible drunk whilst Jock was an honourable man even if it cost him to be honourable. We also have romantic revelations from Digger having been in love with Ellie when they were growing up to Jock having been married before he wed Ellie. I really could go on because whilst "Dallas: The Early Years" is not any means a complicated movie it creates a full back story for Jock, Digger and, as we knew her, Miss Ellie. It even gives us some scenes which feature J.R., Bobby, Cliff and Pamela as children which are kind of amusing.

So that brings me to the acting and I have to say that Dale Midkiff had a thankless task as Jim Davis was so distinctive as Jock Ewing that to try and deliver a younger version was nigh on impossible. But what Midkiff and the writers achieve is to establish that Jock was honourable, in fact he was so honourable that he would rather lose money than do something dishonest, whilst also being a championing of the underdog. Fairing better is David Marshall Grant who brings the lack of patience and anger of Cliff Barnes but makes his father the alcoholic J.R. claimed he was. But for me it is Molly Hagan who makes "Dallas: The Early Years" as she delivers, the look and spirit which makes you believe that this is a young Miss Ellie and who is protective of Southfork because of her father and his love for the ranch.

What this all boils down to is that "Dallas: The Early Years", whilst far from perfect, is a brilliant drama which delivers the wonderful back story to the Ewing Barnes feud. In fact whilst I was sceptical about it before watching I have now watched it three full times as it is that entertaining.

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