'Dallas' matriarch Barbara Bel Geddes dies, aged 82

Bel Geddes will be remembered as the only person who could tame JR in the 1980s series. But she had achieved earlier acting success, appearing in the first production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958 and making her name in Hitchcock's Vertigo.

Bel Geddes, daughter of an industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1948 drama I Remember Mama.

Her career was revived when, aged 56, she won the role of Miss Ellie. She had retired from acting to take care of her husband, Windsor Lewis, after he fell ill with cancer in 1966. After his death in 1972, with her earnings depleted by his long illness, she joined the Texas oil family in 1978.

Bel Geddes won an Emmy in 1980 as best lead actress. She 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 and was forced to leave for a year to have heart surgery. Donna Reed took over her role. After returning, she stayed until the end in 1991.

Retiring from acting when the show came to the end of its run, Bel Geddes lived by a lake in Maine, writing children's books and designing stationery. She also lost a £9m lawsuit against her agent which left her bankrupt.

The Jordan-Fernald funeral home in Mount Desert, Maine, confirmed the death yesterday but said her family had asked that no further information be given out at this stage.

Early in her stage career Bel Geddes married Carl Schreuer, an electrical engineer, and they had a daughter, Susan. By her second marriage to Windsor Lewis she had a daughter, Betsy.