Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Farlow (maiden name Southworth; formerly Ewing) is a fictional character, from the CBS soap opera Dallas, a long running serial centered on the lives of the wealthy Ewing family in Dallas, Texas. Throughout her run, the character remains an important part of the show's structure. Created by writer David Jacobs, the role was originated by screen actress Barbara Bel Geddes in the series pilot episode until her departure in 1984. After Bel Geddes left, she was replaced by movie and television actress Donna Reed, who would only play the part for one season. Bel Geddes returned at the start of Dallas's next season and remained in the show until season thirteen, when she wanted to retire from acting. The character of Miss Ellie was written out following Bel Geddes' departure. Bel Geddes appeared in all but two of the Dallas episodes for six seasons, and missed one third of the episodes at the beginning of the 1983-84 season, due to her recovery from her heart surgery.
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.
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". 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 would later become the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing. Bel Geddes was the first actress to sign on to star in the series. In Dallas: The Complete Story of the World's Favorite Prime-Time Soap by Barbara A. Curran, producer Leonard Katzman said that "at the time no one was looking for big-name actors". When asked what attracted her to the young serial, the actress said: "I needed a job and I needed to make some money."
Miss Ellie is the daughter of rancher Aaron Southworth, 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 Digger Barnes. 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, friend Jock Ewing, 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, and it was well known that Jock was the only man in Dallas with the 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 forty years until his death in a helicopter crash in 1982, although Jock's body was never found. The couple had three sons: J.R., Gary and Bobby.
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 favourite 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. Jock and Miss Ellie's youngest son, Bobby, is Jock's favourite son, and is spoiled by both Jock and Miss Ellie.
In 1979, Miss Ellie is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy and fully recovers.
In 1980, she learns that ranch foreman Ray Krebbs 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 in 1981 the reconcile, they have a second honeymoon in Paris. Miss Ellie also accepts Ray into the family, even 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 two of their sons, 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 Ewing 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. In an attempt to steal back John Ross, J.R. takes Miss Ellie on a visit, where she first meets Dusty's father, Clayton Farlow. Later, she and Clayton settle a problem caused by J.R. involving Clayton's refineries. When Clayton helps Sue Ellen as she reconciles with J.R., he and Miss Ellie become friendly and eventually start dating.
In 1984, two years after Jock's death, Miss Ellie marries Clayton Farlow, despite the attempts of J.R. and Clayton's sister, Jessica Montfort, to stop the wedding.
In 1986, a man named Wes Parmalee 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 between believing Wes' claims, and this puts a strain on her marriage to Clayton. Eventually, Miss Ellie tells her family that Wes told her that he wasn't 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 ranch to her youngest son, Bobby.
Miss Ellie died in 2001 and is buried on Southfork.
When her son J.R. died in 2013, it was revealed by Bobby's new wife Ann 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.