The Beverly Hillbillies is one of the most beloved shows in television history, and kept us watching and laughing for years, but it turns out there were plenty of secrets behind the scenes the producers never wanted the fans to see. We’ve got all the juicy details on your favorite hillbillies, so ya’ll better check it out!
Not the Critics? Choice
The long running show was a hit for a little over nine years. Fans really connected with simple country folk making a mess of things in snooty Beverly Hills. Critics, however, simply couldn’t see the appeal. Despite the show earning seven Emmy nominations over the years, critics still found it “strained and unfunny” and “painful to sit through”.
Despite their views, no one can argue with the series’ popularity and success, making it one of the most viewed shows on television. The studio tried to recapture the magic by making a film version in 1993, but the film got awful reviews and had only moderate earnings. The original spark just wasn’t there.
Actress Turned Politician
Nancy Kulp played the role of Miss Jane Hathaway on the show, as a love starved and perpetually single woman. She was a great actress, but had many other talents, she was also a teacher, linguist and aspiring politician.
Kulp had studied to become a publicist, but after her move to Hollywood, she found herself in front of the camera and not behind the scenes. After nine years on “The Beverly Hillbillies”, she quit acting and turned to politics, and ran as the democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives for Pennsylvania.
An Inexpensive Estate
Paul Henning, the creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, paid $500 to shoot in a mansion in Bel Air. The estate they used is known as the Kirkeby Mansion, which was built in 1933, and surrounded by manicured lawns and a sprawling garden.
This location became known as the fancy mansion the Beverly Hillbillies lived in after striking it rich. When the show finally wrapped, the mansion was sold to TV mogul and real estate developer, Jerry Perenchio. He tore down most of the house to construct an even bigger mansion and add underground parking.
Friends on Camera
Buddy Ebsen played the show’s comic lead, Jed Clampett. It turns out that Ebsen and cast mate Nancy Kulp did not have a very friendly relationship behind the scenes. Ebsen, who was not a fan of Kulp’s political views, even volunteered to help her opponent by starring in a radio ad against her.
Nancy ran as the democratic nominee for the House of Representatives in 1984, and lost to Republican Bud Shuster by a rather large margin. It was reported that Nancy was quite hurt by Buddy’s behavior, and was quoted saying that “He should have stayed out of it.”
Filmed at a Secret Location
Arnold Kirkeby, the owner of the mansion, was sadly killed in a plane crash only a few months before the series premiered. He was an American hotelier, art collector and real estate investor, and owned various properties.
His widow resided in the mansion and agreed that it could still be used to film the show, on the condition that its location would never be revealed. Despite the secrecy, over time fans found out where the mansion was, and they would wait outside the gates hoping to spot their favorite stars.
Sharon Tate In A Wig
Sharon Tate, an American model and actress, played a few parts in movies and TV in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, she is most widely known as a victim of the Manson Family murders in 1969. Sharon and husband, director Roman Polanski, were expecting their first child at the time of her death.
She had a recurring part on the show as Janet Trego, and appeared in roughly 15 episodes. During her appearances, Sharon would wear a brunette wig to make her less recognizable.
Striking It Rich
Just like Jed Clampett’s sudden financial windfall, “The Beverly Hillbillies” quickly became a huge hit, making stars of all participants, including the actors and producers. The not so clever but warm-hearted Clampetts won America’s hearts by keeping it real and not putting on airs.
All these lovable characters hit upon a recipe for success. At the beginning of the show, “The Beverly Hillbillies” made $25 million, and at the end the show, brought in more than $100. That is quite the accomplishment and a pretty great salary!
Plagued by Alzheimer’s
The banker on “The Beverly Hillbillies” made a lasting impact on fans. Every new millionaire needs some financial advice on how to manage their money. Raymond Bailey played the financially savvy Mr. Drysdale on the popular show.
Sadly, on the last two seasons of the show, Bailey began to exhibit early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In the last few episodes, his condition was quite apparent. Raymond Bailey was forced to quit acting not long after the show ended, and passed away in 1980, at the age of 75.
Shady Business Dealings
Jethro Bodine, who played Jed’s adopted nephew on the show, was a favorite amongst fans. He was played by Max Baer Jr., as dimwitted but good hearted. In real life, he was so savvy that he managed to sue CBS and win. He actually leveled five different charges against the TV industry.
It turns out that a restaurant chain was using the actor’s name and CBS knew about it, but for whatever reason they never shared the information with Baer. Instead, the network made some kind of secret settlement agreement, and Baer was quoted as saying: "It's not a secret deal; we just can't talk about it."
Two for The Price of One
Max Baer Jr. had no qualms about putting on a dress and playing his character’s twin sister, Jethrine Bodine. Which is a good thing, because the scenes with her were hysterical. Although he played both Jethro and his plain twin, Jethrine’s voice was done by Linda Henning.
Linda is the daughter of Paul Henning, the inventor of “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The skits are not only iconic,but also side splittingly funny. Remember, the show was still shot in black and white, which makes Max Baer Jr. one of the first male actors to play a woman’s role on television.
Allegedly, there was a bit of drama on “The Beverly Hillbillies” with Sonny really being Margaret Drysdale’s son from a previous marriage. Even though there is no real issue with this, the show always mentioned him as Sonny Drysdale, which wasn’t his last name.
Experts on the show know that Sonny’s last name was Adonis, after his father and Margaret’s first husband. It is unclear why the writers would include such a progressive twist, but not use it until much later seasons.
Animals On The Set
Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, there really is a raccoon on her back, but she’s still smiling. Elly May Clampett was known for keeping a wide variety of animals in the hillbillies’ mansion. It’s clear from this shot, that she felt very comfortable with all sorts of critters and not just ordinary house pets. The popular show featured everything from skunks to pigeons.
But Elly May wasn’t expected to charm the beasts by herself, there was a full-time animal trainer on set named Frank Inn. He took care of the furry friends and the cast really enjoyed having them around. Or at least the cats and dogs, not sure about the skunks and racoons.
Start Your Day Off Right
Did you know that Kellogg’s was one of “The Beverly Hillbillies” main sponsors? Doesn’t seem like they were trying very hard to hide this fact. After the opening credits and theme song, Jed Clampett is clearly pointing to something off-screen. The camera moves to show Kellogg’s Corn Flakes on a billboard.
As the theme song continues, it shifts into the famous slogan “K-E-Double L-O-Double Good. Kellogg’s best to you”. The show’s beloved characters were brand spokespersons for many years, as seen clearly in this ad.
You’d be surprised to learn that Max Baer Jr.’s real named is Maximilian Adalbert. That name sure sounds fancy! Baer is most famous for his role as slow, but lovable Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” But after the show wrapped, the actor felt like he was having a hard time finding other roles, especially ones where the character is something other than a good-hearted hick.
This is actually quite common in Hollywood, where actors can be pigeonholed into similar types of roles. After a number of similar opportunities, Baer decided to make a change and focused on writing, producing and directing, rather than acting.
The Ballad of Jed Clampett
The show had a catchy theme song, telling the age-old tale of rags to riches. The song was suitably titled, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” with lyrics performed by Jerry Scoggins and music by bluegrass duo, Flatt and Scruggs.
Even if you don’t know every single episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” by heart, you can probably hum along with the song about “Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.” The iconic tune even became a hit on the year the show debuted, and made it to number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
It's almost impossible to imagine Granny as anyone other than Irene Ryan, but initially, producers were considering experienced actress and voice sensation, Bea Benaderet, for the role. Astonishingly, they felt that Bea Benaderet was too large and busty to pass convincingly as roadkill eating Granny Moses.
The seasoned actress didn’t hold a grudge and apparently even recommended Irene Ryan, who was booked instantly after her wonderful screen test. Her audition can be seen as a bonus feature on the DVD extras.
Made to Be a Hillbilly
Lovers of 60’s movies are already familiar with Buddy Ebsen from classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In the film from 1961, he plays a character very similar to Jed Clampett. Due to his work in the film, Buddy Ebsen was offered the starring role in “The Beverly Hillbillies” one year later.
Ebsen played such a great hic, that this time we don’t even mind the typecasting. Who else could so wonderfully portray the miner turned millionaire that won over our hearts?
Although Buddy Ebsen had a successful acting, writing and music career after “The Beverly Hillbillies” was cancelled in the early 1970’s, he was considering retirement before the hit show even went on the air. He was actually thinking about quitting show business just before the series went into pre-production.
It’s clear that he had a change of heart, and the first episode named “The Beverly Hillbillies: The Clampetts Strike Oil” premiered in 1962. The crew finished work on the pilot in December 1961, and there was no stopping after that.
America just goes nuts for a beautiful blonde in a pair of jeans (also apparent from successful show “The Dukes of Hazzard”.) At the end of “The Beverly Hillbillies” first season, legendary jean makers Levi-Strauss, acknowledged that the gorgeous Elly May was good for business.
A brand executive even said in an interview that, “Donna Douglas had done more for the sale of blue jeans in one year than cowboys had done in a hundred.”
Just the Right Name
The show was originally supposed to be called “The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills”, but stringing the whole thing together as “The Beverly Hillbillies” just works a whole lot better. The only place the initial name appears is in the pilot episode. By episode two, the title was changed for the better.
We hope whoever came up with the new title at least got a raise or a promotion! They are definitely a part of the show’s success, and should be recognized for their contribution to the history of television.
Payment Fit for A Cowboy
John Wayne has basically been the first thing to pop into your head when someone says cowboy, since forever. Wayne did a cameo on the fifth season of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, in an episode called “The Indians Are Coming”.
The memorable scene shows Granny wishing that the famous cowboy would suddenly appear and help them fight the Indians (this was obviously a less politically correct climate). Suddenly, the infamous gun slinger does appear! The Hollywood rumor mill claims that Wayne was paid for his appearance with a fifth of bourbon. That is just plain cool.
The Show Lives On
Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine on the show, is the only member of the main original cast who is still alive today. He still has one dream he has not accomplished, regarding “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Baer wants to build themed restaurants and casinos across Las Vegas, Nevada, based on the show.
He has managed to land sub-licensing rights for slot machine and food items, so hopefully fans can continue enjoying the wacky characters for many years to come.
One Talented Family
Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma moved to Los Angeles in 1936. Both siblings were cast in a hit musical film, called “Broadway Melody”. The movie went on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, and won another for Best Dance Direction. It was clear that Buddy Ebsen was going to be a star.
His sister is still mostly known for “Broadway Melody”, although she did have a few more parts in other films and Broadway plays. A few years later, she retired from show business, had children and opened her own famous dance studio.
The hillbillies got around in a 1921 Oldsmobile 46 Roadster truck. The iconic car, which had become quite famous over the years, was donated to a museum in 1976, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations. The famous wheels were even shipped across the seas to England for some episodes that took place in Europe.
The expense was well worth it, because the famous hicks wouldn’t go anywhere without their jalopy. This picture shows all of the car’s very special accessories. Our personal favorite is the horn!
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Years prior to Buddy Ebsen’s successful portrayal of Jed Clampett, the actor worked on Broadway alongside Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. Strangely enough, he began work with Garland on her most famous role in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” as the Scarecrow, but when Ray Bolger was cast, he was given the role of the Tin Man.
Sadly, he had an adverse reaction to the metallic makeup and had to resign from the role. Although Buddy Ebsen blamed “The Wizard of Oz” for ongoing health troubles later in life, he actually outlived all the other main stars from the film.
A Man of Many Talents
Buddy Ebsen had a natural knack for show business with his many talents. He wasn’t only an accomplished actor, with dance credentials, but boy could he sing. So the natural next step after the success of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, was to find another place to let his inner hillbilly shine.
Ebsen began to put out country music songs with folksy undertones. Now it was clear, he could not only look the part, he could sound it too! His songs are warm and cozy, and add a homey feel to the country music scene.
Despite the major differences in hair and clothing trends since the 60’s, Donna Douglas’ innate beauty has always shined through. During her high school years, Douglas was an athlete and played for both the basketball and softball teams.
Before getting her big break in show business, she was crowned Miss New Orleans and Miss Baton Rouge. Donna Douglas won pageant after pageant, and it’s not very hard to see why. Not long after she was discovered, she became widely known as Elly May Clampett.
Never Too Old
It is never too late to make your dreams a reality, something which Irene Ryan took to heart after “The Beverly Hillbillies” came to an end. Although she was best known for her role as Granny and was offered a similar role on TV soon after the show was cancelled, Irene Ryan decided to decline.
Instead, she decided to move to New York and try out her skills on Broadway. Her success is a lesson for all of us that you are never too old to reinvent yourself!
Time To Say Goodbye
All good things must come to an end, even with a track record of incredible rating and adoring fans. The network decided to cancel “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1971, after nine successful seasons. CBS executive Fred Silverman felt that the show had lost its appeal and was no longer unique in its portrayal of rural life.
By then, the network was running similar shows like “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.” Due to the popularity of these competing shows also portraying small town life, the Clampett’s were no longer welcome.
We’re Number One!
It is almost impossible to imagine how excited the creators, actors, producers and crew became when “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which had only been on the air for three weeks, became number one in television ratings. This was the fastest rise to the number one spot in the history of television.
The wacky sitcom broke all kinds of TV records. It remained the number one rated show for a whopping two years, and stayed in the top 20 for an incredible eight seasons. Hats off to the hillbillies!
Too Little Too Late
Almost thirty years after the release of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, a movie spinoff came out in 1993. The show was an instant and lasting hit, so the movie would probably break box office records, right? Unfortunately, that was not the case.
It could be the long break between the series and the film, or having new actors play the beloved Clampetts. Regardless of the reasons, critics and audiences alike rejected the movie, and declared it as one of the worst films ever. The funny thing is, we really enjoyed the campy classic.
Dr. Granny M.D.
Folk remedies are still popular in almost every home, especially when there is a need to save some money on expensive medicine. This is especially true for a real hillbilly like Granny, who went by doctor on the show.
Her full title was actually Dr. Granny M.D., but instead of standing for Medical Doctor, the initials stood for Mountain Doctor, and she was one heck of a fine physician. It seems like a lot of her advice would be better for you than a lot of fancy prescriptions we get nowadays.
What's for Dinner?
Never mind their newfound millions, the Clampetts believed in saving when they could. The family often gathered to enjoy their dinner around the pool table. Why shoulder the expense of a fancy dining table, when you can use the billiard game, instead? That makes some sense we guess.
What makes things even sillier is that they decided the rhinoceros head on the wall was a billiard, and that is how the room got its name. Just when you think the Clampetts are onto something, they leave you shaking your head and laughing.
Fish Out Of Water
You’ve heard the expression like ‘a fish out of water’ before. It usually means that a person is in a situation that makes them feel out of their natural element. They don’t fit in with the people or the environment, which makes them stand out, hence the expression.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” was also referred to as a fish out of water. The first television show to ever be called such, due to the fact that it invented a whole new genre. The show really stood out, but in a good way, and the use of the expression in this case was meant as a compliment.
Just a Small-town Girl
Actress Irene Ryan was born in San Francisco, California on October 17, 1902, and died in Santa Monica, California, in 1973. Even though she was a native Californian, Ryan was a seasoned traveler due to her many TV, movie, radio and Broadway pursuits. Granny, on the other hand, lived a much more sheltered life.
On the show, she often talked about being born and raised in Limestone, Tennessee. These talks showed us just how good an actress Irene Ryan was, because we believed every word. The way Granny talks, and acts, is spot on for everything her character represents.
Best Episode Ever
Though opinions still differ even today, “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” was ranked as “The Beverly Hillbillies” most popular and successful episode in all of the show’s nine seasons. The episode was considered as having directly added fans to the show, and was also featured on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list in 1997, at number 62.
That is quite an accomplishment! The women on the show were a big part of the reason it was so great. The show would never be the same without these amazing actresses.
Elly May was Jed Clampett’s beautiful daughter. Despite her beauty, she preferred playing with critters to doing her nails and other girly pursuits. Mattel still decided to make her into one of three Barbie dolls, as part of their Classic TV Collection.
Although actress Donna Douglas felt flattered by the doll, she decided to sue the company for not getting her consent to produce it. The greatest issue was the use of an old black and white photo of her on the packaging. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.
If you have somehow missed this fact, the term ‘hillbilly’ is not very complementary, and usually refers to someone who is backward or not very smart. Although this was never really discussed on the show, Jed Clampett barely had any formal education.
Because he couldn’t attend much school, he is not very book smart. Fortunately, when he strikes oil, Jed Clampett uses his common sense and makes sound decisions about his newfound fortune.
From the Same Neck of the Woods
Die-hard fans of “The Beverly Hillbillies” may remember crooner Pat Boone’s appearance on the show. The pop singer played himself in one special episode. Boone happily agreed to be on the show, and had only one condition, he wanted to be from the same part of the country as Jed, Granny, and the other hillbillies.
What an enjoyable thing to see, famous singer Pat Boone hillbilling it up with the Clampett’s in front of the whole darn world. As if we needed another reason to love him.
Read The Fine Print
Showbiz is a tough industry, which is the reason actors, producers and even network executives need to know how to read legal documents or find someone who does. When “The Beverly Hillbillies” was cancelled after nine seasons, CBS bought the rights to the show, but somehow the network didn’t renew the rights for the first 33 episodes.
Their ownership is unclear, and these episodes are now available as public domain. That didn’t stop random people from releasing the first seasons on both DVD and VHS over the years.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. America as a whole was both stunned and inconsolable after his passing. Strangely enough, the eight episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies” that were aired after the assassination, are the highest rated episodes in television history.
It could just be a funny coincidence, but we believe that the country needed to escape the harsh reality for some simple laughs. There’s a reason it was one of the most popular shows of the decade.
The family truck, with Granny’s chair strapped to the top, and Jethro’s grinning face behind the wheel saddled down with everything but the kitchen sink, is a well-loved part of “The Beverly Hillbillies”. While they were cruising around, the Clampett’s were on the lookout for roadkill, which they would take home and cook.
The swanky truck was owned by their cousin Pearl. She loaned it to them to help move to California after striking it rich. It was very thoughtful of her to loan them her 1921 Oldsmobile.
Even these days, with emails and smartphones, wires get crossed. This was much more common in the 1960’s, when communication was still mostly done by mail. So, you can only imagine the kinds of mistakes TV networks had to deal with in those days. A Dutch company called NCRV aired what they believed was the last episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1966.
Although, the show was actually still immensely popular and going strong. The mistake wasn’t discovered until 1973. At that time, the show had ended and finished being broadcast all over the world. The Dutch, however, were in for a treat, because NCRV then aired the missing six years of episodes.
In 1962, “The Beverly Hillbillies” introduced us to Jed Clampett, a rich man who was true to himself despite receiving a massive fortune of $25 million. Taking into account inflation, that would be around $195 million dollars today.
Remember when we said that by the end of the ninth season the Clampett’s were worth more than $100 million? That would translate to about $583 million in 2017. Can you even imagine coming into that much money? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Where can we sign up?
As we mentioned before, Frank Inn was the animal trainer on the set of “The Beverly Hillbillies”, and he was in charge of the Clampett family pet. Duke, the beloved bloodhound, was a fixture in the Clampett house. Obviously, since he had been with Jed long before he moved to California, and had even been by his master’s side when they struck oil.
Talk about a man’s best friend! The way Duke’s fur folds and rolls all over is the cutest, but it also keeps him looking a bit sad and often befuddled.
It is a well-known fact that the Clampett’s kept their money at Milburn Drysdale’s Commerce Bank, on “The Beverly Hillbillies”. What is not so well known, is that the bank is named after a real bank in Kansas City, Missouri.
It turns out that Paul Henning, the creator of the hit show, lived right by the bank when he was a kid, and raised it up from obscurity. When you have your own hit show, you can use things from your own life, too.
Quite a Mouthful
In both movies and television shows, the names of characters are extremely important. The name gives insight into the character, and helps audiences to know what to expect. Sometimes leaving off a name makes it interesting.
It is unclear why, but the show’s creators decided to name Margaret Drysdale’s father Lowell Fahrquar. We’re not sure how to pronounce that last name, either. Now try and say it ten times fast. But seriously, you can’t go wrong with a Smith or a Jones.
We Are Family
“The Beverly Hillbillies” ran from 1962 to 1971. The popular show had an amazing run with nine terrific seasons and a whopping 274 episodes. Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, and Donna Douglas were the only three actors to star in every single episode of the show. It seems like Jed, his daughter Elly May, and his mother Granny, were the real backbone of the series.
Honestly, the connection between these three generations makes us a little jealous, especially in this rare photo of all three together while in character. (We suspect that Jethro was also in every episode, but the picture is still pretty great).
Jed Clampett...Writes Poetry?
Buddy Ebsen was not only an accomplished actor, he was also a published author. He released a novel by the name of “Kelly’s Quest”. You may have missed it, because the book came out years after he quit show business. The novel included a collection of poems about a young woman named Kelly, and her journey through life with all its highs and lows.
Despite the fact that nine different publishers rejected him, Buddy Ebsen decided to publish the book on his own. With its unique take on life, the book reached the number 3 spot on the LA Times paperback best-seller list, in 2001.
A Girl’s Best Friend
Both the original television series from the 60’s, and the movie remake from the 90’s, featured chimpanzees. As we’ve mentioned before, Elly May had a soft spot for animals. She kept two pet chimps named Skipper and Bessie.
There really is nothing cuter in the world than a chimpanzee in a cute little dress, which we believe is some shade of purple. After cats and dogs, these are probably the third cutest critters we’d want to play with on the set of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Beauty and brains, what a combination!
Here Comes Barnaby
Now, who does this actor from the notorious 1993 Beverly Hillbillies movie remind you of? Buddy Epsen appeared in the movie and he was still pretty darn good. But the actor wasn’t only a household name for his starring role as Jed Clampett, he also headlined another successful series, “Barnaby Jones.” Buddy Ebsen and Lee Merriweather starred in the detective series.
The duo played a father and daughter-in-law team who ran a private investigation firm in LA. The show was quite successful, and ran for seven seasons. Sadly, the legendary actor passed away at the ripe old age of 95 years old, in 2003.
A Bright Idea
The original concept for the show came to creator Paul Henning in 1959, while he was traveling through the south and visiting important locations in the Civil War. The whole thing hinged on transplanting someone from the rural south smack into an upper crust community.
His first thought was for the show to take place in New York City, but that was both complicated and expensive, and they decided to change the location to Beverly Hills. Paul Henning is also the man who brought two other hit shows to the world, “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres”.
Granny’s Beverly Hillbillies Cookbook
The show took Irene Ryan from a vaudeville player to a recognized Emmy Award nominated actress. She was best known for her portrayal of Granny Clampett, and Granny had more than her share of quirks. It’s easy to recall her cooking up her famous “vittles”, such as fried opossums.
Luckily, this is not one of the recipes in her popular cookbook, but it was the inspiration for a few delicious others. The cookbook had more than recipes, it includes pictures and character descriptions from the infamous series.
Granny Delivers A Whooping
If you watch any season of the show, you can always catch Granny knocking some sense into Jethro, repeatedly. The indomitable Irene Ryan admitted once in an interview that she was pleased every time hitting him was required in the script.
She also confessed that she put all her strength behind every single blow. Jethro was young and strong, but even he had to be feeling sore after more than a couple of takes!