The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971)
Paul Henning recalls his reason for choosing Ebsen to play Clampett: "I had seen him on TV and I couldn't imagine anyone else doing the role," he says. "I was fortunate to have him, because he became the cornerstone of the show."
Ebsen became famous as Jed Clampett, an easygoing backwoods mountaineer who strikes oil and moves with his family to Beverly Hills, California, in the long-running, fish-out-of-water CBS sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. Aside from the top-billed Ebsen, principal cast members included Irene Ryan as Jed's mother-in-law, Daisy Moses, also known as Granny; Max Baer Jr. as Jed's dimwitted nephew Jethro Bodine; Donna Douglas as Jed's only child, the curvaceous, critter-loving Elly May Clampett; Raymond Bailey as Milburn Drysdale, a bank president who oversees the Clampett fortune; Harriet MacGibbon as Mrs Margaret Drysdale and Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway, Drysdale's secretary.
Although scorned by critics, The Beverly Hillbillies attracted as many as 60 million viewers between 1962 and 1971 and was several times the highest-rated series on television. The show also spawned similar Paul Henning-produced rural sitcoms such as Green Acres and Petticoat Junction, which were eventually linked in crossover episode arcs. The Beverly Hillbillies was still earning good ratings when it was cancelled by CBS (because programmers began shunning shows that attracted a rural audience). One episode, "The Giant Jack Rabbit", was the highest-rated half-hour on television to that time and remains[when?] the most-watched half-hour sitcom episode.
Not all was harmonious among cast members on The Beverly Hillbillies set, especially between the politically conservative Ebsen and the more liberal Kulp. Said Douglas, "They had a different view, so they had some heated discussions about that. They would go at it for weeks." In 1984, Kulp unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from Pennsylvania. To her dismay, Ebsen supported her Republican opponent, incumbent Representative Bud Shuster, going so far as to tape an ad for Shuster that labeled Kulp as "too liberal". Ebsen claimed she was exploiting her celebrity status and did not know the issues.
Baer (the sole surviving member of the cast) said about Buddy Ebsen, who was the first to be cast on The Beverly Hillbillies: "The key to Buddy Ebsen's character is the reason why Paul Henning casted Buddy as Jed Clampett; integrity and honesty." He also added, "Buddy told me a funny story one time, where he was at Madison Square Garden (this was back in the 1930s). My dad was supposed to fight. Buddy was sitting there, waiting and down near ringside. All of a sudden, this guy comes in, and he sits down next to him, he's got a robe on it and everything. But my dad was just real easy, just like nothing was going on, just sitting there in his robe and his shorts and Buddy was very excited because of the fact that (A) My dad sat down there and (B) Years later, the coincidence that he would star in the series with his son.
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.