‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Before Elly May, Donna Douglas Joined the Nelsons on ‘Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet’

by Joe Rutland
Photo by John Paul Filo. ©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While “The Beverly Hillbillies” made Donna Douglas a star, she also appeared on other shows like “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”

It’s probably hard to believe, Outsiders, that the actress so connected with playing animal-loving Elly May could be acting in any other show. But Douglas had to prove her worth as an actress before “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

In 1960, Douglas appeared in an episode for the ABC sitcom titled “Painting the Sorority House.” The main theme of this episode was around Rick, played by Ricky Nelson, and his fraternity brothers painting their girlfriends’ sorority house.

‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Played A Sorority Sister Named Donna On Nelsons’ Show

Donna Douglas played a sorority sister named, wait for it, Donna in this episode. The sitcom, which starred real-life couple Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, also featured their two sons, David Nelson and Rick. Pop music fans will remember Rick (or Ricky) for his hits “Travelin’ Man” and “Poor Little Fool” during this time.

After this appearance, Douglas would keep going to auditions for TV work. Movie producer Hal B. Wallis saw her on an episode of CBS’s classic variety show “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He placed Douglas in movies like “Li’l Abner,” “Career,” and “Lover Come Back.”

But Douglas found her way to Paul Henning, who was working on a new sitcom for CBS. It happened to be “The Beverly Hillbillies” and Henning ended up hiring Douglas. She stayed with the hit CBS sitcom for all nine of its seasons.

Once Douglas left the show, she went on to work in real estate and even became a Gospel singer.

But “The Beverly Hillbillies” has been a mainstay of syndicated TV for nearly five decades. The show was among the Top 20 in Nielsen ratings for eight of its nine seasons. Its first two seasons saw the show finish No. 1 overall in the Nielsens. Who can forget Elly May being pursued by romantic Sonny Drysdale, played by comedian Louis Nye?

Old Jethro, played by Max Baer Jr., would try and get the better of Elly May in a tug-of-war or a tussle. The sad thing is (well, sad for Jethro) he usually ended up getting hip-tossed or something worse by her.

In reality, Baer and Douglas remained close for years. When she died in 2015, it made Baer the last remaining regular cast member from “The Beverly Hillbillies” to remain alive.

She also stayed close to Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett on the rural comedy. Douglas reportedly was a friend of Ebsen’s for 32 years up until he died.