‘Beverly Hillbillies’: When and How Did Jane Hathaway Actor Nancy Kulp Die?

by Joe Rutland
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Nancy Kulp added a hilarious touch to “The Beverly Hillbillies” in her role as Jane Hathaway. Yet when and how did Kulp die?

Kulp died on Feb. 3, 1991, from cancer at 69 years old. That’s according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

She played Hathaway, secretary to Commerce Bank president Milburn Drysdale [Raymond Bailey], for all nine seasons “The Beverly Hillbillies” was on CBS.

The New York Times said Kulp originally wanted to become a journalist as she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Florida State College for Women.

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star First Worked for MGM Publicity Department

But she found herself joining then-husband Charles Dacus in Hollywood, where she worked in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s publicity department. It was director George Cukor, though, who put the idea in Kulp’s head about being an actress. In 1951, the same year she went to work for MGM, Kulp made her screen debut in “The Model and the Marriage Broker.”

Soon, Kulp found herself busy with film and TV appearances. Film work included roles in “Sabrina” and “A Star Is Born.” TV work included roles on “The Bob Cummings Show,” “Perry Mason,” “I Love Lucy,” and “My Three Sons.”

In 1962, Kulp landed “The Beverly Hillbillies” role of Hathaway. She played a pretty straight-laced character who, at times, would show her forlorn love side on the show. Kulp was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role in 1967. As we mentioned earlier, she stayed with the show through its cancelation in 1971.

Kulp Ran For Public Office in 1984 But Lost To Republican Opponent

Kulp, though, was quite active politically in her life. It even caused stress on “The Beverly Hillbillies” set between herself and star Buddy Ebsen. Kulp was a Democrat; Ebsen was a Republican. Their political arguments were so vitriolic that they upset some of their co-stars, too.

She ran in 1984 as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in the 9th congressional district of Pennsylvania. Kulp was born on Aug. 28, 1921, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Her opponent was Republican Bud Shuster and the district was predominantly Republican, too. Ebsen, though, thought it would be a good idea for him to publicly support Shuster against his former co-star.

Kulp lost the election and, needless to say, was hurt by Ebsen’s actions. Reportedly, before Kulp died, they both reconciled with one another.

People who watch “The Beverly Hillbillies” reruns all over the world get the chance to see Kulp in her role as Jane Hathaway. That would not have happened if she wasn’t in the right place at the right time. Still, her vast career in movies and television showed her ability to adapt as an actress.

She will be remembered by classic TV fans from generation to generation.

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