HomeEntertainment‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Two Chance Encounters with Entertainment Legends Saved Buddy Ebsen’s Career

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Two Chance Encounters with Entertainment Legends Saved Buddy Ebsen’s Career

by Keeli Parkey
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Before he was cast as Jed Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” actor Buddy Ebsen’s career had hit a very low point. In fact, according to Sun-Sentinel.com, a high-profile Hollywood agent told him that retirement was the way to go.

That happened in 1953. That agent was Bill Morris of the famous William Morris Agency. Ebsen, however, would not be deterred and he decided to keep working at his career.

“I was stubborn. I inherited that from my mother. She used to tell me, never, never, never quit,” Ebsen said in 1995.

It turns out, his mother’s advice was on point. After Morris told him to quit the business in 1953, two “chance encounters” helped the future “The Beverly Hillbillies” star get his career going in the right direction.

The first of these came when Ebsen went to visit Nunnally Johnson at this home. Johnson was respected for both his work as a screenwriter and a director. His screenwriting credits included “The Grapes of Wrath.” He was also the director of “The Three Faces of Eve.”

During the visit, Johnson took a good look at Ebsen, then asked him, “Are you as tall as Gregory Peck?” Ebsen told Johnson he believed he was. With that, the actor landed a job.

“Three days later I was working in Germany with Peck in the picture ‘Night People.’ It was pure chance,” Ebsen said.

Walt Disney Was Part of Second Important Chance Encounter for Buddy Ebsen of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

The second of the chance encounters that helped Buddy Ebsen of “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame get his career back on track involved the legendary entertainment icon Walt Disney.

For part of this story, you have to flashback to the mid-1930s. Ebsen was rehearsing for the film “Broadway Melody of 1936.” During rehearsals for this film, which also included his sister Vilma Ebsen in the cast, Ebsen wore a sweatshirt that had Mickey Mouse on it.

As luck would have it, Mickey Mouse’s creator Walt Disney saw Ebsen wearing that sweatshirt.

“I’m convinced he remembered that and put me on his favored list,” Ebsen said of Disney.

Flash forward to 1955. Disney hired Ebsen to play a sidekick in Davy Crockett. Things got even better for Ebsen after that as Disney gave him a long-term contract.

With his career back on track, Buddy Ebsen eventually came to the attention of Paul Henning. Henning was the creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The year was 1961 and Henning decided Ebsen was the man to play the lovable Jed Clampett on his new show.

“I had seen him on TV and I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the role,” Henning said about Ebsen. “I was fortunate to have him, because he became the cornerstone of the show.”

The Beverly Hillbillies aired from 1962 until 1971. After that, Ebsen went on to star in the television series “Barnaby Jones.” He passed away in 2003.