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American Art

At Home with Actor & Collector Patrick Duffy

Patrick Duffy on the Collection that ‘Dallas’ Built

In the 1980s, long before streaming made nearly any television show instantly available, you and 83 million other fans had to wait an entire summer to see the resolution of shocking cliffhanger on Dallas: Who shot J.R? Premiering 40 years ago and reigning supreme for 14 prime-time seasons, Dallas depicted the endless dramas of the oil-rich Ewing family on their bucolic Southfork ranch. Watching the show with my mother on Friday nights was a highlight of my young life. While most viewers loved to hate the unscrupulous J.R Ewing, a career-defining role for Larry Hagman, I much preferred Bobby, the altruistic Ewing brother, played by Patrick Duffy. Southfork wasn’t an easy place to be good, but Bobby never stopped trying.

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THE CAST OF DALLAS. ARCHIVE PHOTOS / STRINGER / GETTY IMAGES.

When I learned that Sotheby’s had been entrusted with the sale of American art from the collection of Patrick Duffy and his late wife, Carlyn, all my Dallas memories came back—the now iconic theme song, the hard-edged 1980s glamour of female leads Linda Gray and Victoria Principal, and the gentle nobility of Bobby, whose death in the show’s 8th season was reversed by a shocking plot twist, revealed in a now-infamous shower scene at the end of season 9.

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MITRA AMESTOY INTERVIEWING PATRICK DUFFY.

When my crew and I went to film Patrick on his Oregon ranch just before the 40th anniversary of Dallas’s premiere, I must admit that I felt some fan-girl excitement. In our video, Patrick gives a tour of the property and opens up the gallery that housed the art collection he and his wife assembled over three decades. Below are some behind-the-scenes moments from our afternoon with Patrick Duffy.

•    We filmed the video at the Duffy family’s 600-acre ranch near Medford, Oregon. The lovely yet unassuming home is set at the end of a long drive, secluded from main road. A river runs behind the house and the herd of elk that frequently pass through were in a field nearby. Patrick explained that the elk stick around because there is no hunting on his property. He was, however, quick to point out that the salmon and steelhead in the river don’t fare nearly as well.

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A DUFFY FAMILY PHOTO ALBUM.

•    When we arrived for our 7am call time, Patrick had a pot of coffee waiting for us, with mugs lined up neatly nearby. It was barely 40 degrees but the sun was starting to peak over the mountains in the distance. A flock of wild turkeys meandered on the front lawn. They later grew visibly suspicious when we launched our drone camera.

•    After our crew grabbed some sunrise shots, Patrick gave us a tour of the property, explaining how it has changed since he first visited it in 1989 on a fishing trip with late actor Larry Hagman, who was one of his closest friends.

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PATRICK DUFFY AND LARRY HAGMAN. CBS PHOTO ARCHIVE / CONTRIBUTOR / GETTY IMAGES.  

•    The Duffys’ collection was assembled with great love for art and for each other. When the couple left Los Angeles to make the Oregon ranch their primary residence, they realized that they would need more space for their art, converting what had been a parking structure into a gallery.

•    In looking around the gallery it was hard not to notice that in some way each work of art seemed to represent a frozen moment in a longer narrative. During the interview I asked him if he thought that, as an actor, he was drawn to works of art that seem to depict a story and he said absolutely, and that he and his wife never tired of discussing what they thought was happening in their paintings.

Patrick could not have been a more gracious and generous interview subject. At the end of our day, we drove to the small airport in Medford to catch a flight to LA. In the car we continued to chat about his life with his wife and it was so clear that they shared genuine happiness of a kind that often eluded Bobby Ewing on TV. I was glad to know that for Patrick and Carlyn Duffy it was a reality.

Mitra Amestoy is a senior vice president and Sotheby’s worldwide director of video production.

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