‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Why Donna Douglas Sued ‘Barbie’ Maker Mattel

by Joe Rutland

Actress Donna Douglas loved playing Elly May on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Toymaker Mattel learns, though, not to toy with Douglas.

Let’s set the scene. Mattel, best known for making “Barbie” dolls, had received the rights under a licensing deal with CBS Corp. to produce an Elly May doll. This is according to a 2011 article from The Hollywood Reporter. This did not go over well with Douglas. She sued both companies over “engaging in the unauthorized use” of her name and likeness.

A settlement for an undisclosed amount of money was reached to drop the lawsuit. Douglas, at the time, was looking for $75,000 in her suit. Again, though, the settlement was done and that was that. “The Beverly Hillbillies” star was definitely a Tomboy on that show, playing with her “critters” while turning heads at the “cement pond.”

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Would Spend Time With Show’s Fans

Anyway, Douglas would make appearances at different fan conventions where she would sign autographs for “The Beverly Hillbillies” fans. She appeared to truly love the show’s fans, years after it left CBS.

Oh, the show, created by Paul Henning, ran between 1962-71 and would hold down the No. 1 spot in the Nielsen ratings during its run. Besides Douglas, other lead stars on “The Beverly Hillbillies” included Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Max Baer Jr., Raymond Bailey, and Nancy Kulp. Henning, who also created “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres” for CBS, would find a way to incorporate stars from those shows onto his other ones.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” remains as popular today in reruns as it did when first hitting syndication in the 1970s. Douglas, a Louisiana native, died on Jan. 1, 2015, in Zachary, La., at 82 years old. A lot of her life was spent dedicated to her Christian faith as a gospel singer. She also went into real estate after her show business career was over, too.

Speaking of Douglas and Baer, they were quite close to Ebsen. Baer, of course, played Jethro Bodine while Ebsen played Jed Clampett. They were among the last people to see Ebsen alive as both paid him a visit in the hospital prior to his death on July 6, 2003, at 95 years old.

Both actors had remained close to Ebsen, who also starred in the CBS private-eye show “Barnaby Jones” for eight seasons. But Baer recalls having a special relationship with his “The Beverly Hillbillies” costar.

With Douglas’ Death, Costar Max Baer Jr. Becomes Last Living Original Cast Member

Baer said Ebsen became a surrogate father to him during an interview with The Five Count radio show.

Ebsen took on the role “because my dad [heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer] had just died in 1959 and this is in 1962,” he said. “So he [Ebsen] just took over for my dad. He was the same age as my dad, born in about the same time. [Ebsen] knew my dad pretty well. So it was pretty easy for me, for Buddy and I to become close.”

With Douglas’ death, Baer remains the last living original member of the show’s cast at 83 years old.