‘Beverly Hillbillies’: Why Elly May Actor Donna Douglas Turned Down Many Roles After Show Ended

by Joe Rutland

Donna Douglas of “The Beverly Hillbillies” could have had her pick of roles to play once the TV show ended, but she turned a lot down. Why?

“I’ve got no regrets about anything I turned down,” Douglas said in a 2013 interview with Senior Voice Alaska. “I sold real estate for a while, made a couple of record albums, and speak at churches, ladies groups, and schools around the country. My days are full and I’m very happy.”

While specific roles that she passed on are not mentioned by Douglas, she steered her life toward a more religious path.

Douglas reportedly found herself being typecast to mirror her Elly May Clampett role. That turned her off, sending her in the direction to be a gospel singer.

Douglas Makes TV Appearances Before ‘Beverly Hillbillies’

Before “The Beverly Hillbillies” came along and Douglas was picked to play Elly May out of 500 girls auditioning, she had guest-starring roles in TV shows. She appeared on shows like “Bachelor Father,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Route 66,” and “77 Sunset Strip.”

She also had movie appearances in “Career,” “Li’l Abner,” “Bells Are Ringing,” “Strangers When We Meet,” and “Lover Come Back.”

During her “The Beverly Hillbillies” run, the only movie she made was 1966’s “Frankie and Johnny” where she played opposite Elvis Presley.

Douglas was born and died in her native Louisiana. She died on Jan. 1, 2015, in Zachary, La., at 82 years old.

Elly May Actress Starts Her Career In New York City

When picking a place to start her career, Douglas didn’t really think about going out to Hollywood. She put her eyes on the East Coast, leading her to New York City.

“I was born outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And one day I told my folks, ‘I think I’ll go to New York,'” Douglas said in a 2013 interview. “I knew it was a place up there on the map. I didn’t have any modeling training really, only the most basics of how to sit down and stand up, but not the New York style of training.”

Her modeling career kicked off with a toothpaste advertisement, but the world of TV also came calling. Douglas appeared on “The Perry Como Show” and “The Steve Allen Show” during live ad portions of those shows. There was a time when TV shows did their own ads live on the air, not filmed or taped like today.

Donna Douglas remained focused on her career, eventually leading her to the role on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Yet she never forgot home or where she came from as a child from Louisiana.