‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Why Jethro Actor Max Baer Jr. ‘Could Never Watch’ Show for Two Decades

by Mark Long

Being a television star is a funny thing: Your career is dependent on people liking you that you almost never meet. And even if they like you, that doesn’t mean you’ll like yourself. And that’s why Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” couldn’t watch the show for over two decades.

“I could never watch. I thought I had a fat face, and I didn’t think I was ever any good, or good-looking,” Baer told Entertainment Weekly in 1993. “When they did a reunion in 1981, I wanted no part of it.”

Fans of the show would find that revelation heartbreaking. Baer was ruggedly good-looking, and the laughs generated thanks to his dim-witted but good-natured character Jethro make up for any real or perceived flaws.

Then again, Baer’s “perspective” at the time may have played a part too.

As he also admitted to Entertainment Weekly: “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.”

Smarter Than a Box of Rocks

Any actor will tell you: It’s hard to play dumb. But it’s easy to get typecast when you play an iconic character. Once “The Beverly Hillbillies” ended in 1971 and other roles didn’t materialize, Baer moved on to other lucrative ventures.

Baer made the transition to writing and producing financially successful movies including “Macon County Line” and “Ode to Billy Joe.” The latter movie, based on a Bobby Gentry song, was one of the first times a song’s title and lyrics were used to drive a film. Since then, over 100 movies have copied this formula.

In the 1990s, Baer moved into the gambling business. He obtained licensing rights to “The Beverly Hillbillies” to make a line of branded slot machines released in 1999. In the video below from 2012, he unveils the newest Millionaire Mile edition. Still cracking jokes, he says he needs the money to buy sleeves for his shirt.

With the death in 2015 of Donna Douglas, who played Elly May, Baer is the last surviving cast member of the hit show. By all accounts, he’s going on and feeling strong … and fans hope he continues to live life large.