‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Take a Behind the Scenes Peek at Max Baer Jr., Others on the Classic Show’s Set

by Joe Rutland
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“The Beverly Hillbillies” provided TV entertainment to millions of people with their crazy shenanigans. The humor still attracts viewers.

The show itself became a hit pretty quickly for CBS, mixing up corny humor with a plotline that makes sense to a point.

“The Beverly Hillbillies” ran from 1962-71, becoming one of the hit shows from the creative mind of executive producer Paul Henning. He also brought “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres” to the CBS network.

Clampett Clan Makes ‘The Beverly Hillbilllies’ Funny

Now when it comes to the Clampett clan, there are four main members who regularly appear on the show.

Who were the stars? Well, Buddy Ebsen had name recognition and played Jed Clampett. It was his rifle shot that led to having “Texas tea,” or oil, shoot up from the ground. Veteran actress Irene Ryan played Granny, whose down-home sayings and focus on “cookin’ vittles” proved hilarious.

Then the younger audience might have been lured in thanks to Max Baer Jr. and Donna Douglas. Baer, who is the son of boxing champion Max Baer, played Jethro, a rather less-than-smart young man. His search for love among Hollywood starlets or even trying to help out his “Uncle Jed” at the “cee-ment pond” proved quite funny. One episode called “The Garden Party” that aired in August 1963 shows Baer’s Jethro trying to hit it off with actress Janet Trego, played by the late Sharon Tate.

Baer would say after the series ended that playing Jethro typecast him from getting other roles. He actually found a lot of success as a director and film producer.

Douglas portrayed Elly May, an animal-loving, innocent blonde whose curves were not always hidden. She played the role up, whether Elly May was laying out by the pool in a bathing suit or having a fun time with animals. Douglas played the role as if she was a tomboy from the backwoods, filled with lots of energy yet maybe not a lot of street smarts.

From Mr. Drysdale To Sam Drucker, Others Helped ‘Hillbillies’

Besides the four main characters, other roles provided a lot of help to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the show’s success.

Character actor Raymond Bailey played banker Milburn Drysdale, who handled the Clampetts’ large bank account. He usually had his secretary Jane Hathaway, played by Nancy Kulp, nearby in the office or frantically driving Drysdale to the Clampett mansion. Their interactions with Jed Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies” are pure gold at times. Let’s not forget Sonny Drysdale, the charming son of Milburn, played to the hilt by comedian Louis Nye.

Additional roles highlighted on the show included Pearl Bodine, Jethro’s mom and Jed’s cousin, played by Bea Benadaret. Now Benadaret had auditioned for the “Granny” role that eventually went to Ryan. She would appear in a few episodes as Cousin Pearl.

One cannot forget Sam Drucker from Hooterville, played by Frank Cady, who would make occasional appearances on the show. He usually showed up on “Hillbillies” episodes where Granny or the Clampetts would visit Hooterville. That city wasn’t a central focus on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but it was important to story arcs during the show’s run.

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Offer Humor In Times of Sadness

It’s easy to dismiss this show as truly one that didn’t change the TV landscape. Yet viewers, especially in the weeks and months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, needed something light-hearted to watch. “The Beverly Hillbillies” happened to be one of those shows.

This show continues to run in syndication all over the world. Baer is the last remaining cast member alive after Douglas’ 2015 death.

People continue to laugh and love the antics of the show’s characters. “The Beverly Hillbillies” found a place in television history that’s not going to be forgotten.

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