Marcella 'Meg' Gallagher, 50, Actress And Model

Posted: June 09, 2000

Actress Marcella E. "Meg" Gallagher, 50, a native of Bryn Mawr, died of chronic liver disease May 27 in Santa Monica, Calif.

Ms. Gallagher was best-known for her work on the after-dark soap opera Dallas. From 1979 to 1981, she played the role of Louella, J.R. Ewing's secretary and one of the suspects in the infamous "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger.

One of 14 children, Ms. Gallagher graduated from Rosemont School of the Holy Child, where she competed in swimming and horseback riding, and attended Pine Manor College in Massachusetts.

She moved to New York City at 19, studied acting, and handed out perfume samples in Bloomingdale's before her modeling career took off. Her dazzling smile eventually landed her spots for Pepsi, Bayer, and Pearl Drops and Close Up toothpaste before she moved to the West Coast to give acting a try.

She landed the part on Dallas, but she paid the price: Close Up dropped her after deciding that her between-the-sheets activities with evil oil magnate J.R. Ewing caused her to lose her "all-American image," she told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1981.

She described her Dallas days as more on-the-job training than dream come true.

"If you blinked, you missed me. I said, 'Good morning, Mr. Ewing,' 'Good morning, Ewing Oil,' 'Would you like some coffee?' It was boring, but I learned. I learned camera angles, I learned my marks, I learned how to work with a group of people," she said.

She also developed a unique support system back home.

"All the nuns back at the Holy Child convent are rooting for me," she told The Inquirer in 1981. "They watch the show every Friday night and have really got a kick out of the way my part has grown. Come to think of it, I may just be the only actress in Hollywood with a convent for a fan club."

Her sister, Immaculata Gallagher Adams, described Ms. Gallagher as a "people person" who loved the excitement of Hollywood life - especially the thrill of being on a first-name basis with some of the most famous actors of the day. "When I went out to visit her, she'd be talking about 'George.' I'd say, 'George who?,' and she'd shush me and say, 'You never ask who in Hollywood!' "

Adams got to meet George (Hamilton, as it turns out) during that visit with her sister. And she remembered the time that Ms. Gallagher persuaded her Dallas costar Larry Hagman - J.R. Ewing himself - to call up their 91-year-old grandmother and chat with her about Lawrence Welk.

Ms. Gallagher also had small parts in Taxi and other television shows.

In the past three years, Ms. Gallagher worked as the publicity coordinator for Laura Corn, the author of books including 101 Nights of Grrreat Sex!

In addition to her sister, she is survived by her daughter, Grace, 3; a brother; and six other sisters. Ms. Gallagher was divorced.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, 31 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr.

Jennifer Weiner's e-mail address is jweiner@phillynews.com

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