‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: How Old Was Donna Douglas When She Portrayed Elly May Clampett?

by Joe Rutland
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Actress Donna Douglas definitely would turn heads while playing Elly May Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” But do you remember how old Douglas was in her debut?

When the show debuted on Sept. 26, 1962, Douglas was 30 years old. “The Beverly Hillbillies” hit CBS’s network lineup on the same day as her birthday.

Elly May proves to be quite fond of animals or, as she would call them, “critters.” Numerous episodes will have Douglas, who died on Jan. 1, 2015, playing with skunks, possums, or other animals. She definitely reflected a Tomboy energy and would become the center of attention for a number of suitors.

Obviously, Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett was one of the show’s main stars. Irene Ryan played Granny, Max Baer Jr. played Jethro Bodine and, of course, there’s Douglas. “The Beverly Hillbillies” might not make it in modern-day network television, but it was a red-hot hit out of the gates.

The show would find itself among the Top 20 in the Nielsen ratings in eight of its nine seasons on CBS. Twice, “The Beverly Hillbillies” would end up as the season’s No. 1 overall TV show. It produced unique, crazy storylines that sometimes involved Raymond Bailey, who played banker Milburn Drysdale, and Nancy Kulp, who played his secretary Jane Hathaway.

Donna Douglas, who actually was a native of Louisiana, was married twice and had one child. After the series ended, she turned her attention toward working in real estate. Douglas also was a woman who truly believed in her Christian faith, becoming a gospel singer as well.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” put Douglas in prime position to be seen, along with the others, in reruns forever. When she died in 2015, it left Baer Jr. as the final original cast member to be still alive. The son of heavyweight boxer Max Baer, he’s still around at age 83.

Jethro Actor Shares Unique Perspective Around His One-Time Costar

Speaking of Baer Jr., he shares a rather unique perspective about Douglas during his time with her on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“But Donna was always sweet,” Baer Jr. said during a 2015 interview with The Five Count radio show. “I have one thing I remember about her and I told other people the same thing. In all the years that I knew her, I never heard her swear ever.

“She would go ‘golly-gee-darn,’ ‘dang,'” Baer Jr. said. “She’d whistle. ‘Son of a gun.’ She never used four-letter words at all. Never did.”

One can suspect her lack of using curse words might have to do with her faith. It also might have to do with simply the kind of person Donna Douglas was as herself.

Yet Elly May remains one of television’s most iconic characters, entertaining new generations of TV viewers all the time.

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