‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Max Baer Jr. Used Andy Griffith for Inspiration on Accent

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

Max Baer Jr. recalled in 2017 that a risky decision to listen to Andy Griffith helped him land the part of Jethro Bodine for the “Beverly Hillbillies.”

The lone surviving cast member of the hit show told Fore Magazine that he also listened to Griffith and late comedian Jonathan Winters for Jethro vocal tips after claiming he had laryngitis. The show producers let him do his audition later, but not before he got into a bit of trouble.

The magazine mentioned he got sloshed with Granny (Irene Ryan, who played in every show). While wobbly, he bumped into the door after Uncle Jed (Buddy Ebsen) ’s audition and apologized to the door. Cameras caught the moment.

According to IMDb, Baer claimed he only auditioned for the role of Jethro for fun and never expected to get the part. Supposedly, he won the part mainly because of his grin

The CBS show ran from 1962 to 1971.

Henning Remembers ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Actor’s Audition

Show creator Paul Henning said Baer “had a wonderful humor about him.” Henning recalled seeing the actor and thinking he would be a big, threatening man. But when he saw him close up, Henning said he remembered his “wonderful, silly grin.”

“You couldn’t be afraid of him,” Henning added. “Your heart went out to him.”

The show creator said the show was so “fortunate” to cast Baer.

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Would Have Punched Out Opie

While he appreciated Andy Griffith, “Beverly Hillbillies” star Max Baer Jr. wasn’t very fond of the actor’s on-screen son, Opie Taylor. Ron Howard played that role.

In the same interview with Fore Magazine, Baer talked about Ron Howard’s 2005 film “Cinderella Man.”

The movie portrayed the actor’s father and famed boxer Max Baer Sr. The father was the world heavyweight champion of boxing for a year from 1934-1935. Senior even killed a man in 1930, knocking him out in the ring during the competition.

The film showed Baer Sr. as unsympathetic after the accidental death. In reality, however, the boxer temporarily suspended and quit the sport due to the tragedy. When Baer Sr. found his way back to the ring after a year of suspension, he was reluctant to fight aggressively. But he still posted a 30-4 record for six years. He retired in 1941 from fighting but died at age 50 in 1959. 

That means Senior never saw his son on the “Beverly Hillbillies” as it started in 1962.

Howard’s movie had Russell Crowe starring as boxer James J. Braddock. Braddock challenged Baer for the title. After 15 rounds, Braddock defeated Baer by decision.

Baer Jr. said the movie reflected his father in a bad light. He didn’t appreciate the director and the lead actor, saying, “if Howard and Crowe were sitting here, I’d hit them.”