‘Beverly Hillbillies’: Like Elly May Clampett, Donna Douglas Left the Deep South for a Big City

by Matthew Wilson

Like her “Beverly Hillbillies” character Elly May Clampett, actor Donna Douglas ended up leaving her Southern hometown for the big city. Only instead of California and Beverly Hills, Douglas stayed on the East Coast.

Douglas left her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for New York City. She was going to pursue a modeling career in the Big Apple in 1957. And for the most part, she succeeded further than she ever dared dream. Back in her home state, Douglas spent her time playing sports like softball and basketball. But she also entered into beauty contests. In 1957, she won both “Miss Baton Rouge” and “Miss New Orleans” as well.

“I was born outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And one day I told my folks, ‘I think I’ll go to New York,’ Douglas said in a 2013 interview. “I knew it was a place up there on the map. I didn’t have any modeling training really, only the most basics of how to sit down and stand up, but not the New York style of training.”

Douglas kick-started her modeling career working for a toothpaste advertisement. But she also appeared on “The Perry Como Show” as a Letters Girl as well. She followed that up with an appearance on “The Steve Allen Show” as the Billboard Girl. Douglas soon captivated the attention of the local press, who referred to her as Miss By-line, given her frequency in the press.

Donna Douglas and ‘Beverly Hillbillies’

But Douglas’s crowning achievement of her career was when she starred on the sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Douglas turned to acting after being on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the 1950s. A producer cast her in the film “Career” opposite Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. She later starred alongside Rock Hudson and Doris Day in “Lover Come Back” and Elvis Presley in “Frankie and Johnny.”

During the 1950s and 1960s, Douglas ventured into the realm of television as well. She made guest appearances in a number of hit programs at the time including “The Twilight Zone” and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” as well.

After the guest appearances, Douglas’s most notable role came on “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1962. Douglas ended up playing Elly May Clampett on all nine seasons of the series. The sitcom quickly became the No. 1 TV show in America during its first two seasons. And it made Douglas a star.

After the show ended, Douglas also found work as both a children’s book author and a gospel singer as well. Douglas passed away in 2015 but her work on the show is still remembered and rejoiced by fans.