‘Bonanza’: One ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Actor Made Special Cameos on the Iconic Western Series

by Keeli Parkey

A few years before he became famous for his role on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” one actor made a special appearance in another classic show. That series was “Bonanza.”

And, that actor was Buddy Ebsen. He played Jed Clampett on the popular sitcom from 1962 until 1971. His appearance on “Bonanza” took place three years before his tenure as a “hillbilly” began, according to MeTV.com.

The year was 1959 and Ebsen was cast as Sheriff Jesse Sanders on “Bonanza.” His episode was titled “The Sisters.” According to IMDb.com, Sheriff Sanders has an encounter with the character Adam Cartwright. Adam was famously played by Pernell Roberts on the Western drama.

Their conversation involves a duel Adam had taken part in. The character John Henry, played by John Stephenson, managed to fire first at Adam, but he missed. Adam then gives him a warning. Should John ever say anything negative to Sue Ellen Terry, played by Fay Spain, Adam will kill him. Adam aims his gun at the sky and fires, then he leaves.

Buddy Ebsen’s character appears later in the episode as the drama escalates. Adam was put in jail, but later escaped and went to the sheriff’s home. There is a surprise at the end of the episode. You’ll just have to watch it to find out. Let’s just say that there is a good reason why Ebsen was not on another episode of “Bonanza” until 1972.

That 1972 episode was titled “The Saddle Stiff.” In this episode, he played the character Cactus Murphy. Cactus was once a ranch hand on the Ponderosa. However, Ben Cartwright, who was played by Lorne Greene, fired him. Cactus doesn’t think Ben is capable of doing his job. Ben sets out to make a point.

Before He Had Roles on ‘Bonanza’ and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,’ Buddy Ebsen Was a Dancer

Before he appeared on “Bonanza” and “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Buddy Ebsen started his entertainment career as a dancer. He appeared in vaudeville and on Broadway early in his career.

During the mid-1930s, Ebsen and his sister, Vilma Ebsen, took part in a screen test with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). The test went well and Buddy and Vilma were cast in the film “Broadway Melody of 1936.”

Ebsen’s career in dancing and film also included an appearance alongside one of the most famous child stars in film history. That star, of course, was Shirley Temple. The film was “Captain January.” It was released in 1936.