The Beverly Hillbillies
Who would’ve thought that a television sitcom about backwoods hillbillies who strike it rich could become so popular? “The Beverly Hillbillies” certainly caught America’s imagination from 1962 – 1971, spawning numerous spin-offs and even a major motion film. Let’s take a look to see what made the show so special.
Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen, is an Ozark mountaineer who discovered oil on his land, or rather swamp, after shooting at a rabbit while hunting. A surveyor for the OK Oil Company realizes the size of the oil field, and the company pays him a fortune for the right to drill on his land.
Move to Beverly
Clampett, a widower, decides after some prodding from his sister Pearl, to take his daughter Elly May, his mother-in-law (known as Granny), and his more than dim-witted nephew Jethro, with him to Beverly Hills to live the good life and see what the rest of the real world is like. The pilot for the show was originally called “The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills.”
Buddy Ebsen Then
As Jed Clampett, Buddy Ebsen was probably the most chilled-out television father in history. His only real concern was to make sure his beautiful daughter Elly May would have plenty of opportunities to find a man, and that his nephew received a good education and job. On the side, he gets to find a cool lady friend once in a while to hang out with, but hey, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Jed? Fact: Buddy was seriously considering retirement after his last movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, when the creators of “The Beverly Hillbillies” saw him in the movie. They begged Ebsen to consider the part of Jed, and after reading the script Ebsen agreed. The rest became television history.
Buddy Ebsen Later
Ebsen, born in 1908, started out on Broadway as a dancer, and quickly progressed from there. He’s been cast in everything from the scarecrow and the tin man in The Wizard of Oz to the iconic Davy Crockett to Doc Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Jed Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies” to private detective Barnaby Jones. He even became a best-selling author at the age of 93. Ebsen died on July 6, 2003, of complications from pneumonia.
Irene Ryan Then
As Daisy “Granny” Moses, the feisty, moonshine making mother-in-law of Jed Clampett, actress Irene Ryan really had the character nailed down. Granny was in charge of the “Big House,” as she sometimes called their mansion. She was also always on the lookout for a man for Elly May, Jed’s daughter. Granny was as tough as nails, and I’m sure any Marine would be proud to serve with her by their side.
Irene Ryan Later
Irene Ryan’s character of Granny became one of the most beloved characters on television. Ryan was already established as a vaudeville, radio and movie actress, and “The Beverly Hillbillies” was the icing on the cake. She’s been nominated for Emmy as well as Tony awards. Fact: People were always surprised when they saw her without the “Granny” makeup, only then realizing that she really wasn’t that old, as pictured below. Ryan died April 26, 1973, of stroke and brain tumor complications. She was 70.
Donna Douglas Then
The role of Elly May Clampett went to actress Donna Douglas. Elly May is the only child of Jed and Rose Ellen Clampett. Rose Ellen died when Elly May was just a child, and her character is only mentioned once during the entire run of The Beverly Hillbillies. Although extremely beautiful, Elly May is a tomboy at heart who seems to be blessed with superhuman strength, and the ability to communicate with animals, but can’t cook a meal to save her life, with her family cringing at the very thought of her cooking for one of her dates.
Donna Douglas Later
Donna stayed busy after Beverly Hillbillies ended with gospel singing, earning her real estate license and acting in a film with Elvis. She also played in a string of television shows through the years from “Night Gallery” to “The Twilight Zone” to the motion picture adaptation of the Beverly Hillbillies. Douglas died of pancreatic cancer on January 1, 2015. She was 82 years old.
Max Baer Jr. Then
Max Baer Jr. wasn’t even supposed to be “Jethro Bodine.” He only showed up to the studio because he was driving his roommate to “The Beverly Hillbillies” audition. When he got there, he decided to give the audition a try. Strangely, he never had to speak a word during the audition. All he had to do was chase a bird around the room. The creators were so impressed with his facial expressions they hired Max to play the part of Jethro Bodine, the hillbilly with the “sixth-grade education.” The rest is history.
Max Baer Jr. Later
Max claims he was forever typecast as “Jethro Bodine.” It took three years for him to find work after “The Beverly Hillbillies” ended. Actually, he found the work himself; he invested $100,000 into a movie he wrote called “Macolm County Line.” In 1974, the motion picture made Max over 35 million dollars — at the time, the highest dollar per capita gross of any movie in history. Max was well on his way. These days he builds casinos under the Beverly Hillbillies brand after acquiring the rights from CBS. He is the only survivor left from the main cast.
Nancy Kulp Then
Nancy Kulp, who went by the nickname “Slim,” played Miss Jane Hathaway, Mr. Drysdale’s super loyal secretary. “Miss Jane” was forever keeping Mr. Drysdale out of trouble and taking care of things from the back end. She was considered family by the Clampetts and she had a terrible crush on Jethro Bodine throughout much of the series. Strangely enough, Kulp had never considered being an actress; she went to college for production, but was later convinced by directors George Cukor and Billy Gordon to work in front of the screen and not behind.
Nancy Kulp Later
Kulp had many interests, from linguist (Masters Degrees in English and French) to Broadway and television shows after “The Beverly Hillbillies” ended, and even politics. Although she had been married and divorced before, at the age of 67 she came out as a lesbian. Nancy died at the age of 69 from cancer.
Raymond Bailey Then
Raymond Bailey played banker Milburn Drysdale on the series. Milburn is the epitome of the greedy banker, eternally talking about money and how to make as much of it as he could. Jed Clampett was his largest deposit holder, and Milburn’s mission was to make sure it stayed that way. A stack of crisp bills always revived Milburn if he was having an anxiety attack. Fact: Bailey worked in a bank for some time as a young man, but said that “it wasn’t the life” for him.
Raymond Bailey Later
Raymond had a tough go at trying to be an actor. The first few years there was no demand for him, but starting around 1938 his career took off and never really stopped. He played in numerous television shows and films. He started working less and less as he was experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s during the last episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies, but always kept in touch with Nancy Kulp after the show ended. He died of a heart attack on April 15, 1980, at the age of 75. Fact: Bailey wore a toupée during the entire run of Beverly Hillbillies.
Harriet E. MacGibbon Then
Harriet E. MacGibbon portrayed Mildred Drysdale, the Boston raised-to-be-snobbish blue-blood wife of Milburn. It seems she can’t stand the Clampett’s and their way of life, but of course, since they are her husband’s largest shareholders she has no choice but to make a passing attempt to keep the peace with them. Harriet does a simply outstanding job of playing Mildred. Most other characters Harriet played throughout her career are similar to Mildred Drysdale.
Harriet E. MacGibbon Later
Harriet had quite a long career on stage before deciding to turn to television and film acting. She also studied voice, piano, and harp. She had a wonderful stage presence. Fact: Dr. Elisha Deming, her great-grandfather, was very active with the Underground Railroad, helping escaping slaves both before and during the Civil War. Harriet died on February 8, 1987, at the age of 81.
Beatrice “Bea” Benaderet Then
Playing the character Pearl Bodine, Bea Benaderet portrayed the widowed mother of Jethro and Jethrine Bodine. The well-meaning mother was always put at odds with Granny to great effect. Pearl was always falling in love with one man or another. Fact: Pearl’s husband named Fred died in a fishing accident when Jethro was just a baby.
Beatrice “Bea” Benaderet Later
Bea was a character actor of great magnitude, with her acting specialty being voiceovers. She voiced a very large assortment of Warner Bros. cartoon characters including “Granny” from the “Tweety” series for nearly twenty years to “Betty Rubble” from “The Flinstones.” Her “Beverly Hillbillies” character Pearl disappeared after one year on the show, because she was offered the starring role in the spin-off “Petticoat Junction.” She died during the run of “Petticoat” due to cancer at age 62 on October 13, 1968.
“Petticoat Junction” first aired in September 1963. It was a spin-off of the massive popularity of The Beverly Hillbillies. It follows the lives of the characters in and around the Shady Rest Hotel. Bea Benaderet starred in the series as proprietor of the hotel, Kate Bradley, who along with her family members’ help ran the hotel in the town of Hooterville. The show had massive success, running from 1963-1970, even after the death of Bea Benaderet in 1968. Fact: Jack Bannon, who played several different characters on the show, is the son of Bea Benaderet.
Green Acres is The Place to Be
Yet another spin-off, “Green Acres” was created and first aired on September 15, 1965. The series, starring Eddie Albert (Oliver Wendall Douglas) and Eva Gabor (Lisa Douglas) centered around the lives of a Manhattan lawyer and his socialite wife who return to Hooterville to start a simpler life. Misadventure ensued, and the series became another instant hit. The series ran from 1965-1971. Fact: The series wasn’t canceled due to poor ratings, but rather to what’s known as the “rural purge” conducted by CBS. Fact 2: Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor were buried only yards apart in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
The Clampett Mansion Then
The magnificent home that housed the Clampett Family is known as The Kirkeby Mansion. The mansion was commissioned in 1933 for the tidy sum of two million dollars, which was simply unheard of in 1933, by super-wealthy engineer Lynn Atkinson. It was alleged that the mansion was a surprise for Atkinson’s wife Berenice.
The Clampett’s Mansion Later
The completed estate boasted ten bedrooms, twelve baths, 21,523 square feet of living space, a copper roof, walnut paneling, several Baccarat chandeliers, a 150-foot waterfall, gold-plated doorknobs and bathroom fixtures, a pipe organ, an orchestra stage, an elevator that ran seventy feet below ground, underground tunnels that led from the home to the pool area, and a landing pad for “autogyros” as they were called in the day. When Atkinson brought his wife there under the pretense of a party they were to attend, she took one look at it and said “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in a place like that. It’s so opulent.” The Atkinsons never moved in. The place was sold years later to a Mr. Kirkeby, who later rented to the creators of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
The truck used in the series is a modified, cut-down 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 Roadster. It was created by Hollywood customizer George Barris, who found a 1921 Olds behind a feed store in nearby Fontana, California. He didn’t even have to touch the finish, as it was well worn already. The vehicle is currently housed in The Ralph Foster Museum, on the campus of the College of the Ozarks.
Hillbillies Stage Show
“The Beverly Hillbillies, The Musical” started in Indiana on July 13, 2014. Based on the TV series, the Clampetts’ trials and tribulations start to unravel when two crafty con artists cook up a scheme to fool overnight millionaire Jed Clampett out of his not-so-hard-earned millions. The chaos continues as nephew Jethro faces relationship problems, daughter Elly May has growing-up pains, and Granny just wants to go back to the simple, butter-churnin’ life she knows and loves. Despite watching his “black gold” turn into blackmail, Jed remains calm because, in the end, he knows that a country boy is always quicker than a city slicker.
Facts about Max Baer Jr.
Max loves drinking eggnog and lounging about in the sun. He also apparently hates wearing suits. Max earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Santa Clara University and minored in philosophy. He had already known Buddy Ebsen through his parents since he was a kid. He also credits Buddy Ebsen as his mentor and best friend.
Irene “Granny” Ryan Facts
Irene’s gravestone actually has the name “Granny” on it. She played the same character (Daisy Moses) on three different series: “Mr. Ed,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Petticoat Junction.” Although she played Buddy Ebsen’s mother-in-law on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” she was actually six years younger than Ebsen. Ryan could easily walk down the street undisturbed because without her “Granny” makeup she was unrecognizable to most people.
Buddy “Jed” Ebsen facts
Buddy was the original Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, but he got sick from the aluminum makeup and had to drop out of the film. During the last two years of his life, Buddy recorded a CD of original and re-recorded songs. As a joke, Buddy appeared in The Beverly Hillbillies Movie as another of his famous characters – Barnaby Jones.
Beverly Hillbillies Facts
Granny sometimes called herself “Dr. Granny, M.D.” The “M.D.” part stood for “Mountain Doctor.” Jane Hathaway’s middle name was “Nancy.” The show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” which was sung by Jerry Scoggins with music by Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs, was a number one hit for three weeks on the Billboard country singles charts in 1962.
Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song lyrics
Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed Then one day he was shooting for some food, And up through the ground come a bubbling crude (Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea)
Well the first thing you know old Jed’s a millionaire Kin folk said Jed move away from there Said California is the place you oughta be So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly (Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars)
Well now it’s time to say goodbye to Jed and all his kin They would like to thank you folks for kindly dropping in You’re all invited back again to this locality To have a heaping helping of their hospitality (Beverly Hillbillies, that’s what they call ’em now, Nice folks Y’all come back now, ya hear?).
Some of Granny’s vittles, or meals, including delectable items such as possum shanks, (possum anything really), catfish and apricot-gumbo soup, Southern-fried muskrat, hog jowls, gizzards smothered in gristle, smoked crawdads, goat tripe, stewed squirrel, ham hocks, and turnip greens, were the stuff of legends. But I always wondered if Elly May, an avid animal lover, would eat the food?
The bloodhound dog (played by Stretch) was named “Duke.” He belonged to Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), and traveled to Beverly Hills with the family. Duke acted more like a cat, and did nothing but sit around their mansion and sleep all day. Lamenting, Jed said “There’s a dog who could trail a butterfly through a rain storm. Now he couldn’t smell cabbage cooking.” When Stretch turned 13, he was replaced on the show by a younger bloodhound.
Clampetts and Weapons
Not that they could ever get away with it now, but the Clampett family probably had just about every conceivable gun imaginable during the series’ run. They also had hat pins (courtesy of Granny), derringers, 12-gauge shotguns, small and large axes, knives, and just about anything else you could think of. But it seemed very natural for them to have the weapons, based on their history.
Clampett Net Worth
In one episode, around four years into the series, it was revealed that Jed Clampett was worth over ninety-six million dollars. In today’s terms, that would be something crazy like four hundred million dollars. By the end of the series, he would’ve been a billionaire. Texas tea is sounding mighty good about now!
Critics of The Show
Critics constantly hounded the show for one reason or another, be it they thought it was in poor taste, or the thought that it wasn’t humorous to have uneducated people culture clashing with the rich. Time magazine even wrote thatthe show used “the lowest form of humor.” Sometimes the critics just don’t get it: The viewing audience realized that it was pure and simple sartorial humor. All the critiquing in the world didn’t stop the show running for nine years, becoming the top-ranking show for two of those, and receiving seven Emmy nominations during that time. Fans and critics don’t always think alike, and probably never will.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” had too many guest stars to name here, but some of the most memorable are Sharon Tate, Phil Silvers, Roy Clark, Pat Boone, Soupy Sales, Alan Reed, Shirley Mitchell, Fred Clark, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Gloria Swanson, Jim Backus, and Frank Wilcox. Talk about a blockbuster television lineup!
Clampett Home Locations
The Kirkeby Mansion was the main home of the Clampett family throughout the series and was mainly used for establishing exterior shots. The Kirkeby Mansion went on the market in the mid-1980s with an asking price of $27 million dollars. It was purchased by TV executive named Jerrold Perrenchio in 1987, for $13.7 million. The Kirkeby mansion was also used as the location for the Jerry Lewis motion picture Cinderfella (1960). The show also relocated to England for a few episodes and used the 600-year-old Penshurst Castle in Tunbridge, Kent for its set location. The castle had been the host to King Henry VIII in the early 1500s, who dined with its owner and then had him beheaded.
All Good Things Come to an End
The hit show was canceled in 1971. Still riding the hugely successful formula that made it what it was, the show was a victim not of poor ratings, but of what’s called the “Rural Purge.” Basically, CBS was under pressure to produce more “ethnic” programming for a wider and younger viewing audience. As a result of the abrupt cancellation, “The Beverly Hillbillies” cast and the crew weren’t able to film any kind of finish for the series.
The Non-Grand Finale
The sitcom ended with a rather typical episode: Jane falls for a handsome bird watcher, the bird watcher is really a con-artist who’s after Elly May’s money, Elly runs off to Las Vegas and almost gets married to the con-artist. The con-artist loses out. Not exactly a grande finale.
Praise and Awards Aplenty
With 274 episodes, a chart-topping number one theme song, Emmy Award, Golden Globe and many other nominations, a stage play and a major motion picture, those hillbillies have done quite well for themselves. Some of the show’s episodes are still considered to be some of the best and highest rated ever. Add to that multiple successful spin-off shows, and you have a rare combination that just can’t be beat.