‘Beverly Hillbillies’: What Was Granny Actor Irene Ryan’s First Name?

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

A lot of stars use their full names or part of them in their careers. What was “The Beverly Hillbillies” star Irene Ryan’s first name?

She was born Jessie Irene Noblitt on Oct. 17, 1902, in El Paso, Texas, according to IMDb. Ryan would keep her last name from her first marriage to Tim Ryan. They divorced in 1943. Ryan married Harold Knox in 1946 and divorced him in 1961. Neither marriage produced children for The “Beverly Hillbillies” star.

Obviously, Ryan will forever be tied to her role as Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies” from 1962-71. She also made appearances in a couple of shows also created by Paul Henning, the man behind “The Beverly Hillbillies” on CBS. Ryan played Granny on “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres,” always able to find a way to connect Beverly Hills with Hooterville.

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Also Performed With Bob Hope On USO Shows

Ryan also would make appearances on the popular game show “Password” throughout her career.

She would be an important part of actor-comedian Bob Hope’s USO shows during World War II. Ryan would travel with Hope to entertain the troops, along with other celebrities. From 1948-50, she appeared on “The Bob Hope Show” on NBC Radio.

Despite her work with Hope, it was not until she started playing Granny that she received great acclaim. After “The Beverly Hillbillies” was canceled by CBS in 1971, Ryan was pitched an idea to keep playing Granny in another television series.

Ryan Lives Out Lifetime Dream, Performs On Broadway In ‘Pippin

But she put it off so she could go and live out a dream. Ryan co-starred with Ben Vereen on Broadway in “Pippin.” She earned a Tony Award nomination for her role, but Ryan’s health took a turn for the worse. Doctors discovered that she had an inoperable brain tumor.

She died on April 26, 1973, at 70 years old. But Ryan gave “The Beverly Hillbillies” fans lots of laughs and joy when the show originally ran on CBS and in reruns for decades.

Besides Ryan, other cast members on the CBS sitcom included Buddy Ebsen [Jed Clampett], Donna Douglas [Elly May Clampett], and Max Baer Jr. [Jethro Bodine]. During the show’s first season, actress Bea Benaderet appeared as Pearl Bodine. What’s interesting to note is that Benaderet had auditioned for the role of Granny. When Ryan showed up, though, for her audition, she knocked show producers off their feet.

They found their “Granny” in Ryan. It led to Benaderet playing the other role. But it wasn’t too much longer before she got top billing on “Petticoat Junction” as Kate Bradley, owner of the Shady Rest Hotel. This allowed Henning to give someone already in his world of actors another role in his shows.