‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Jethro Actor Max Baer Jr. Called Himself a ‘Real Idiot’ for Behavior in Early Days

by Chris Haney

Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies, once called himself a “real idiot” because of how much he partied in the early ’60s.

Decades after his time on CBS’ hit show The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer can look back and reflect on his role in the popular sitcom with a clear mind. Yet that wasn’t always the case.

During a 1993 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor and film producer revealed that he got high so often he barely remembered certain episodes. Years later, Baer says he enjoys life a lot more compared to his time on the show.

“I was a real idiot in the early ’60s,” Baer said in his EW interview. “I used to get high, which is another reason I’m only really seeing these shows for the first time. Now I even like myself, and I laugh like everyone else.”

For more than 20 years he couldn’t stand to talk about the show. From 1962 to 1971, Baer and the rest of The Beverly Hillbillies cast were part of one of the most popular shows on all of television. However, Baer looked at his role as simpleminded Jethro, and also himself in real life, with disdain.

“I could never watch. I thought I had a fat face, and I didn’t think I was ever any good, or good-looking. When they did a reunion in 1981, I wanted no part of it. But now that I’m 55 years old it’s not like playing Jethro is what’s going to cause anyone not to hire me as a leading man,” Baer said with a laugh.

He didn’t make it to the 1981 reunion. But in May of 1993, Baer joined co-stars Buddy Ebsen and Donna Douglas for CBS’ retrospective, The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Max Baer Jr Talks About the Difficulties Playing ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Character Jethro

In 1962, Max Baer Jr. earned the role of Jethro on a new show called The Beverly Hillbillies. But he had some issues adapting to his character. Baer grew up in Oakland, California, and therefore had nothing close to the southern drawl that was needed for Jethro. In addition, the actor was actually very intelligent – the exact opposite of Jethro Bodine.

“When you play a role like Jethro, it’s for other people to judge because it’s pretty hard to be subjective or objective about yourself. You just do the best you can with the material that you’re given, and then you try to add to it [with your performance] as much as you possibly can. But in the end, it’s the audience who has the final say,” Baer explained.

Although it was tough for Baer to dumb himself down to play Jethro, he managed to deliver exactly what the audience wanted from the lovable character.

“You have to give a good performance,” Baer added. “You have to perform well. And, in my case [with Jethro], if I have made the people laugh, and even if they can laugh at my expense, it’s okay. I don’t care. They can laugh with me or at me. It doesn’t matter, just as long as they laugh. Because if I can make them laugh, then I believe that my performance was a successful one. I can’t evaluate it as to what degree of success it was. But I can say it did what it was supposed to do.”