‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Max Baer Jr. Revealed Why it Was ‘So Hard to Lose’ Role of Jethro Bodine

by Suzanne Halliburton

Jethro Bodine was such a delicious character on The Beverly Hillbillies. He was tall and handsome and so very earnest. And he was dumb as dirt.

You remember his math abilities, as he “cyphered” the equations out loud — Jethro’s “gozintas.” And he always was so career-oriented. He had a sixth-grade education and wanted to be a brain surgeon or a “double naught spy” or maybe a movie producer. The country said “Bless His Heart” and demanded more of Jethro Bodine.

Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro to backwoods perfection, delighted the millions of Americans who watched the Beverly Hillbillies from 1962 to 1971. He first got an acting contract because he looked like James Garner. Then he earned the role of Jethro when he was two years removed from college.

The Beverly Hillbillies was the sweet start of Max Baer’s acting career. He also had name recognition. His dad was the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world and veteran of about 20 movies.

Beverly Hillbillies Finished Off Baer’s Acting Career. But It Also Brought Him Great Wealth

But while the Beverly Hillbillies launched Baer’s acting career, it also basically finished it off, all before he hit his mid-30s. In 2015, Baer still was talking about his lack of acting jobs during an interview with a radio station in Minnesota.

“What do you do at my age, not a heck of a lot,’ the Beverly Hillbillies star said. “Plus, it was so hard for me to lose the Jethro character. That’s why I really couldn’t get any jobs after the series was over, not really.”

So Baer ticked off the stuff he could do. While Jethro Bodine was dim-witted — that was his charm — Baer sported a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Santa Clara University. He also used his writing talent and created projects for himself.

The site CelebrityNetWorth.com estimates Baer’s wealth at $50 million. And while he was typecast from the Beverly Hillbillies, he also made plenty of money off the show’s name.

Baer Created Own Movie Projects

Post Beverly Hillbillies, he starred in and raised money to produce the movie, Macon County Line. He said it cost about $120,000 to make and grossed $25 million at the box office in 1974. It held the record for highest-grossing movie per dollar raised until the Blair Witch Project broke it in 1999.

He and his partner also produced the movie Ode to Billy Joe. He bought the rights to a Bobby Gentry song and turned it into a movie starring Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor in 1976.

As a star of the Beverly Hillbillies, Baer also earned guest roles in shows like Love American Style and Fantasy Island. But he made his mark as a businessman.

And about the Beverly Hillbillies. He bought the license to the name and used it for hotels and slot machines. He also got into the realm of online gaming. So it paid big money to be Jethro. He’s done a lot of cyphering with his bank account.

Baer, who is 83, also is the last surviving cast member of the Beverly Hillbillies.