For all practical purposes, “The Beverly Hillbillies” is wholesome TV. Buddy Ebsen, though, had a lot of differences with Nancy Kulp.
Ebsen, who starred as Jed Clampett, had issues with Kulp, who portrayed Jane Hathaway, that involved political and social issues.
On-screen, Clampett is the oil-striking hillbilly who brought his family from Tennessee to Beverly Hills, Calif. Hathaway is the accountant who worked closely with banker Milburn Drysdale, played by Raymond Bailey. They play their roles well, mostly having Clampett get the laughs while Hathaway plays it straight to Drysdale’s bluster.
The deep divisions between Buddy Ebsen and Kulp off-screen were due to their own political beliefs. Ebsen was a lifelong conservative Republican while Kulp was a liberal Democrat. Their differences and discussions might have started off rather quietly and calmly, but usually ended up with one another screaming and yelling.
Buddy Ebsen Didn’t Like Politics Of Co-Star Nancy Kulp
“The Beverly Hillbillies” lasted nine seasons on CBS, routinely finishing among the Top 20 shows during its run. The show’s popularity might have played a role in each person’s response to the cast. That was not the case. In years after the show ended, cast members would recall the bitter disagreements Buddy Ebsen and Nancy Kulp would have on the set.
After a pretty solid career in acting, Kulp wanted to try her hand in the political world. In 1984, she ran as a Democrat for the Ninth Congressional District seat in a then-Republican-controlled House of Representatives in her home state of Pennsylvania. Kulp reportedly ran a solid campaign even though the seat was in Republican hands for 12 years.
Polls didn’t favor Kulp at all. They pretty much consistently showed her in a long race against incumbent E.G. Shuster. Kulp would lose to Shuster, but that wasn’t the worst part. It seems that Buddy Ebsen, even though he knew Kulp was on a losing road, had to get his two cents in on Kulp’s race. Ebsen, to be clear, was not a resident of Pennsylvania at all.
He recorded radio and television commercials for Schuster, saying about Kulp, “You’re too liberal for me–I’ve got to go with Bud Schuster.” Ebsen put all of his support behind Schuster even though Ebsen had been a lifelong resident of California.
Ebsen Support For Kulp’s Opponent Hurt Her Personally
Kulp didn’t hide her disappointment in Ebsen’s behavior, saying she “was speechless at such a betrayal and something so needless and cruel.” Kulp did reach out and seek help from some of her celebrity friends in California to help her campaign.
Did they ever reconcile their differences? Both Kulp, who died in 1991, and Ebsen, who died in 2003, said they did yet never appeared in public together after the election.
While real-life situations can blunt the view people might have of both Kulp and Ebsen, the roles both played on “The Beverly Hillbillies” remain popular. If you listen close enough, then probably avid “Hillbillies” fans can hear Irene Ryan, who played Granny, call out to “Miss Jane” or “Jed.”
Again, “The Beverly Hillbillies” was wholesome TV viewing during a time when the United States was involved in a war. Social and political strife ran deep. People wanted to escape from reality, and that half-hour show offered a weekly getaway into the life of the Clampett clan.