‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Buddy Ebsen Was Friends with Co-star’s Dad Before Show

by Josh Lanier
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Long before Buddy Ebsen struck it rich on The Beverly Hillbillies, he was close with one of his co-star’s dads. Ebsen, who was an actor long before the show aired in 1962, made friends with a heavyweight champion boxer. That boxer’s son would end up playing the dim-witted, but loveable Jethro on the beloved show.

According to ScreenRant, Buddy Ebsen was friends with Max Baer Sr. for years. Baer Sr. was the heavyweight champion in 1934 and one of the biggest stars of the sport at that time. Baer Sr. died in 1959, three years later his son would land a role with Ebsen on The Beverly Hillbillies. Ebsen became a surrogate father of sorts to Baer Jr.

“(Ebsen) was the same age as my dad, born in about the same time,” Max Baer Jr. told Five Count Radio. “He knew my dad pretty well. So it was pretty easy for me, for Buddy and I to become close.”

Baer Sr. won the heavyweight title in 1934. But he’s mostly remembered for one of the darkest moments in boxing history. In 1930, Baer fought Frank Campbell in San Fransisco. Five rounds in, Baer killed Campbell with a punch to the head in the fifth round, SFGate reported. Though a grand jury acquitted Baer of any wrongdoing, the death plagued his career. And it haunted him for the rest of his life.

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” Baer wrote years later. “But that is the one I wish I could take back. I’ll regret it as long I live.”

Max Baer Sr. is the villain in the Ron Howard movie Cinderella Men. The film follows James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) as he takes the title from Baer in 1935.

Max Baer Sr.’s family said the portrayal was unfair.

“All these people under age 50 are going to think my dad, Max Baer, is a total pig,” The Beverly Hillbillies star Max Baer Jr. told SFGate in 2005. “My dad was scatterbrained. He was a bizarre guy, a wonderful guy with a kind heart, a great sense of humor, and a weakness for the ladies. It’s OK to say my dad was a party animal of his era. But he was not the rude, cold-hearted ogre in the movie.”

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Remembers His Friendship With Ebsen

During their nine seasons together on The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr. and Buddy Ebsen grew close. That was mostly thanks to their weekly lunches where they would run lines for the show over a few martinis.

“He had some little places he would take me to and sometimes at lunch, he had a little guy named George George who would come over and cook for him in his dressing room,” Baer Jr. recalled. “And he’d invite me up to his dressing room and have lunch with him.”

The two remained close until Ebsen’s death in 2003. Baer Jr., now 83, is the last surviving star of The Beverly Hillbillies.

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