Raymond Bailey, who found fame as Milburn Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies, died 41 years ago today, April 15, 1980, of a heart attack. He was 75.
Bailey, according to this obituary at the time, was born in San Fransisco, and he had planned to become a banker. But after a friend told him he had the looks to be an actor, he headed south to Los Angeles. But he found no luck there. So, he moved to New York after but again struggled to find work.
He made ends meet by working on farms, taking seasonal jobs, and, after serving as a Merchant Marine in World War II, decided to give acting another try. He moved back to Hollywood.
This time he was much more successful, finding several small roles in film and television. He had small parts in several large TV productions such as Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Perry Mason. He also appeared in several films such as The Incredible Shrinking Man, No Time for Sergeants, and Vertigo.
Raymond Bailey Joins ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’
But it wasn’t until his turn as greedy banker Milburn Drysdale in 1962’s The Beverly Hillbillies that he found fame. Always trying to swindle the Clampetts in hopes of collecting more of their wealth, Drysdale was the fool and foil to his “uncivilized” neighbors.
Drysdale, who handled the Clampetts’ large bank account, would spend most episodes demanding his secretary Jane Hathaway, played by Nancy Kulp, help get him to the Clampetts to stop some of their shenanigans. Like planting crops into their plush lawns.
Bailey was a beloved fixture on the show for nine seasons and nearly 300 episodes. Though late in the show’s run, he began to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, it was reported. He is clearly unwell in some scenes, and the show had to be written around him on occasion.
He only had two more small roles after the show ended. Bailey was too unwell to work after 1975, and he split his time between his houseboat and condo. Kulp, his put upon assistant in The Beverly Hillbillies, remained close with Bailey in his final years.
His wife survived him.