‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Battled with Alzheimer’s Towards End of Show

by Joe Rutland
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While “The Beverly Hillbillies” remains one of classic TV’s popular shows, one of its stars was dealing with Alzheimer’s disease near its end.

Raymond Bailey played banker Milburn Drysdale throughout the show’s nine-season run on CBS. According to IMDB, in some of his final scenes, there’s evidence of the disease’s advancement. Bailey reportedly wasn’t able to work anymore after 1975 in show business, according to The Life and Times of Hollywood. He only stayed in touch with one cast member, Nancy Kulp, who played his secretary, Jane Hathaway, in the series.

He died on April 15, 1980, at 75 years old. “The Beverly Hillbillies” received great ratings yet poor reviews throughout its run on CBS. Yet Bailey, who came into the show with a plethora of stage, film, and TV credits to his name, would forever be connected with Mr. Drysdale.

Catch Bailey right here in his banker role from “The Beverly Hillbillies” that’s from an episode during its black-and-white era.

Here’s a little inside trivia tidbit for you, a great “Beverly Hillbillies” fan. Bailey wore a hairpiece throughout the show’s run. That’s right. Mr. Drysdale was really partially bald in real life.

But his role as an antagonist working with folksy Jed Clampett [Buddy Ebsen] and the entire Clampett clan is one for classic TV fans’ hearts to remember.

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Lead Actor Turns To Show In Time of Sadness

Years after “The Beverly Hillbillies” left network TV and was in reruns, Ebsen actually tuned in to help cheer him up at a low point.

It involves the death of former President Richard Nixon, who passed away on April 22, 1994, at 81 years old. This hurt Ebsen, who was a lifelong Republican.

In a 1995 interview with South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Ebsen’s wife Dorothy talked about how much he struggled.

Dorothy Ebsen says Buddy always would do his best to stay upbeat and positive. Yet Nixon’s death would be the rare exception.

“When President Nixon died, Buddy became very depressed,” she said. “But he came home from the funeral and played a tape of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and it cheered him up.”

Ebsen himself would live to be 95 years old before dying on July 6, 2003. Besides Bailey, Kulp, and Ebsen, other actors appearing on the show included Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer Jr. Paul Henning created “The Beverly Hillbillies” and would go on to create two more hit TV series for CBS, “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.”

Out of the “Hillbillies” original cast, only Baer Jr., who is 83 years old, remains alive. But the many times of watching the Clampetts deal with their wealth or adjust to life in Beverly Hills still draws fans to their TV sets.

Outsider.com