‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Why Jed Clampett Actor Buddy Ebsen Once Called Television an ‘Actor Killer’

by Joe Rutland
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Buddy Ebsen apparently wasn’t a big fan of television even though “The Beverly Hillbillies” made him a household name.

Back in 1964, Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett on the hit CBS comedy, made his true feelings about television and how it affects actors known.

“There’s no doubt about it, television is an actor killer,” he said in an interview with the Akron Beacon-Journal. “We work too hard and use too much material. If I could un-invent anything, it would be television. No foolin.’ But we’re stuck with television and have to make the best of it.”

Ebsen Had TV Work Prior To ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

That’s a pretty amazing statement from Ebsen, who was the star of one of television’s top shows at the time.

Maybe some context might help, too. Before starring on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Ebsen played George Russell, the sidekick to Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett in the “Davy Crockett” movies for “The Magical World of Disney” TV shows.

A lot of Ebsen’s career before television was spent on the stage and in movies. Ebsen is famously tied to “The Wizard of Oz” yet for a sad memory.

Ebsen was hired to play “The Tin Man” role, but the aluminum dust makeup affected his health. The reaction was so severe that Ebsen was hospitalized and had to decline the role.

Despite Hatred For Medium, It Helped Make Him A Star

Television, though, helped make Buddy Ebsen and his career. He obviously didn’t like the medium one bit.

After “The Beverly Hillbillies” was canceled by CBS in 1971, Ebsen took a little time away. He took on the lead role in “Barnaby Jones,” which ran for eight seasons on CBS. Ebsen played the lead role as a private detective with the one-time “Batman” character “Catwoman” Lee Meriweather in a supporting role.

Ebsen, though, admitted that he was tired of playing that role as the series ended. He never did a regular TV series role for the rest of his life.

In his heart of hearts, Buddy Ebsen was a song-and-dance man as well as a movie actor. In the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Ebsen plays Doc Golightly, the older husband of Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly character.

Ebsen died in 2003 after a long, successful career.

For a man who admittedly would “un-invent television,” Buddy Ebsen found himself making a good living off of it.

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