‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Here’s Why Jethro Actor Max Baer Jr. Turned Down the Movie

by Taylor Cunningham

When The Beverly Hillbillies cast returned to the screen for a TV movie in 1981, Jethro actor Max Baer Jr. decided not to reprise his role. And the reason why is a bit surprising.

Apparently, Baer Jr. resented playing his rags to riches classic TV character, and he didn’t want to revisit that feeling in Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. Instead, it was a lesser-known actor named Ray Young who took the wheel as the Clampett cousin that year.

The main reason the actor despised Jethro was that he felt like the role caused him to be typecasted in Hollywood. Following the series’ end in 1971, his career fell flat. Baer Jr. only played in a handful of shows and made for TV movies before throwing in the towel in 1991.

“I couldn’t go into a producer’s office and say I wanted to play the part of a neurosurgeon or pilot,’’ he once told Fore Magazine. “As soon as I came on screen, people would say, there’s Jethro.’’

Max Baer Jr. disliked The Beverly Hillbillies so much that he refused to even watch the show. And it wasn’t just because his time as a celebrity ended with Jethro.

In 1993, the actor admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he hated seeing himself on screen in that particular series. So basically, he came out of his nine-year project completely unsatisfied.

“I thought I had a fat face, and I didn’t think I was ever any good, or good-looking,” he said. “When they did a reunion in 1981, I wanted no part of it.”

Max Baer Jr. Did Reprise His Role in ‘The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies’

However, somewhere between 1981 and 1993, Baer Jr. managed to make some sort of amends with his hillbilly roots. Because that year, he returned to his Beverly Hills mansion for The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies alongside his original castmate Donna Douglas.

Though, to this day, the actor still carries regrets for accepting his famous role. In a 2017 interview, he admitted that playing the character completely ruined his identity.

“I was born Max Baer Jr., the son of a great boxer,” Baer said. “And I’ll die Jethro Bodine. Period. I never really got the chance to be me.’’

Starring in The Beverly Hillbillies didn’t completely ruin Max Baer Jr.’s Hollywood career though. He moved on to produce a few movies, including Macon County Line in 1974, in which he also starred.

To make the film, he raised $120,000. And he played a Georgia sheriff who was out for blood after some men murdered his wife. The movie was incredibly successful. It made $25 million at the box office that year, which set a record for most money made per dollar spent. Baer Jr. held that record until 1999 when The Blair Witch Project surpassed his earnings.