On the Beverly Hillbillies, Donna Douglas played Elly May Clampett, the gorgeous, critter-loving young woman who’d rather “wrassle” and play baseball with the boys rather than date them.
Elly May was anything but the proper lady. In real life, Donna Douglas, who portrayed Jed Clampett’s only child, was kind of like her Beverly Hillbillies character. But unlike Elly May, she did have impeccable manners.
Back in 2013, Douglas was doing publicity for her new cookbook, which whisked her Beverly Hillbillies nostalgia with some actual recipes shared by her favorite people.
The book was called Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood. Douglas collected recipes from some of her famous friends, including Buddy Ebsen, who played her Beverly Hillbillies dad, Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller and Valerie Harper, aka Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Beverly Hillbillies Had Social Graces, Douglas Wondered What Happened to Everyone Else
In a 2013 interview, she bemoaned the country’s collective lack of manners. She wrote a chapter addressing it. It’s called Hollywood Social Graces.
“Etiquette was taught in the South, but I’m afraid it’s a thing of the past now,” Douglas said. “Social graces are lacking all around us, people are rushing all the time, and no one sits and visits any longer.”
It’s almost as if Douglas is channeling, so many years later, the last part of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.
“Well now it’s time to say good bye to Jed and all his kin. And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin in. You’re all invited back next week to this locality , to have a heapin, helpin of their hospitality. Hillbilly that is. Set a spell, Take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear?”
Douglas Said She Grew Up Playing Like Elly May
Douglas was southern, through and through. She was born in Pride, Louisiana. That’s right outside Baton Rouge in the central part of the state. Her given name was Doris Ione Smith. And she said she grew up playing like Elly May.
“Elly was a slice out of my life,” she said. “I was raised a tomboy, with one older brother and all male cousins,” Douglas said. “So I grew up swinging from vines and playing softball. I was getting ready for Jethro long before we ever met! I still adore Elly May and we have a lot in common, with the same interests and values.”
Post Beverly Hillbillies, Douglas still dabbled in acting. She earned her real estate license. She toured as a gospel singer. And she wrote children’s books. At age 52, she enrolled in Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Okla. She graduated two years later with an emphasis on children’s literature.
Sadly, Douglas died on New Year’s Day, 2015 of pancreatic cancer. She was 82.
Max Baer Jr, who played Jethro, is the last surviving member of the main cast of the Beverly Hillbillies.
“She was Elly May until the day she died,” Baer told the website RumorFix when Douglas died. “When I saw her for autograph signings or other gatherings, she always dressed the same with pink or blue” and of course those signature pigtails.”