Boomer TV Trivia: The Beverly Hillbillies
Q1. Which female cast member of popular baby boomers series The Beverly Hillbillies (Donna Douglas, Nancy Kulp, Bea Benaderet, Harriet E. MacGibbon) was originally considered for the role of Daisy “Granny” Moses, until actress Irene Ryan screen tested?
Q2. Who is the only surviving cast member of The Beverly Hillbillies today?
CBS’s The Beverly Hillbillies was on-air for 9 seasons, from September 1962 (first episode above) to March 1971, and was ranked the #1 series of the year it’s first two seasons. The Beverly Hillbillies was cancelled after a less successful 9th season which saw it fall from 18th place the year before, to 33rd place. Around the same time, CBS cancelled all of their rural programs, including two spin-offs from The Beverly Hillbillies creator and writer Paul Henning – Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.
Irene Ryan as Granny and Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies circa 1970. (Photo: CBS Television eBay | Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
The Beverly Hillbillies actor and series star Buddy Ebsen began his entertainment career as a dancer before turning to acting. He already had a long list of stage and movie credits – he played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939) – and was in his 50+ years when he began playing backwoods Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.
After The Beverly Hillbillies ended, baby boomer fan favorite Buddy Ebsen starred in another long-running, popular television series – Barnaby Jones (1973-1980). A father of 7, married and divorced twice before he married 40-years-younger third wife Dorothy Knott in 1985, Buddy Ebsen was a nonagenarian senior when he died at 95 in 2003. Ebsen was survived by wife Dorothy and six children.
Scene-stealing actress Irene Ryan was a frail-looking 60-year-old when she began playing Daisy “Granny” Moses, the mother-in-law of Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. Ironically, actor Buddy Ebsen was only 6 years younger than Ryan. Irene Ryan had been married and divorced twice before she was cast as Granny; Tim Ryan (m. 1922-1942), and Harold E. Knox (m. 1946-1961), and had no children. She was a senior citizen when The Beverly Hillbillies ended. Ryan was nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work in the first and second season of the show. Irene Ryan was a single septuagenarian senior citizen in 1973 when she was nominated for Tony Award for her role in the Broadway musical Pippin the previous year. Ryan died from a heart attack in April 1973.
On and off-screen pet-loving actress Donna Douglas, who played Jed’s daughter Elly May Clampett, was an octogenarian senior citizen when she died at 82 in January 2015.
Right, Nancy Kulp as Miss Jane Hathaway and Jim Backus as the bank Chairman on The Beverly Hillbillies in 1963. (Photo: CBS Television eBay | Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
Actress Nancy Kulp, who played Miss Jane Hathaway, was 41 when The Beverly Hillbillies started. By the time the series ended, Kulp was entering her 50+ years. Nancy Kulp would go on to run for public office as the Democratic nominee for her home district in Pennsylvania, in a 1984 U.S. House of Representatives election. She was upset when former co-star Buddy Ebsen endorsed her Republican opponent; Ebsen felt Kulp was too liberal.
Despite playing a spinster on The Beverly Hillbillies, in real life Nancy Kulp had married Charles Dacus in 1951; they subsequently divorced in 1961, just before The Beverly Hillbillies began airing. Nancy Kulp co-starred with Arte Johnson (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) in the TV special Ver-r-r-ry Interesting (1971).
In an 1989 interview Nancy Kulp told the interviewer that instead of asking her if she was a lesbian, to ask her if she thought opposites attracted. Her answer to this question? “I’m the other sort – I find that birds of a feather flock together.” Nancy Kulp was a senior citizen when she died at age 69 in 1991.
Banker Milburn Drysdale was played by 55+ actor Raymond Bailey when the series started in 1962. His wife Mrs. Drysdale was portrayed by actress Harriet E. MacGibbon.
By the time The Beverly Hillbillies was going off the air in 1971, Raymond Bailey was a senior citizen and had begun to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, rendering him unable to work after 1975. Baily was survived by his wife Gaby George when he died at age 75 of a heart attack in April of 1980.
Raymond Bailey in 1965 circa The Beverly Hillbillies. (Photo: TV Scout / Miami Herald eBay | Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
A1. Although actress Irene Ryan played Daisy “Granny” Moses on The Beverly Hillbillies, it was 55+ actress Bea Benaderet who was first considered for “Granny”. Benaderet ended up laying Jed Clampett’s cousin, Pearl Bodine. Benaderet starred in the The Beverly Hillbillies spin-off TV series Petticoat Junction, and appeared on the other spin-off – Green Acres – as Kate Bradley, the Shady Rest Hotel owner. Benaderet was 62 years old when she died in 1968.
A2. Max Baer, Jr., who played Jed’s son Jethro Bodine, is now a 78-year-old septuagenarian senior citizen, and the only surviving cast member of The Beverly Hillbillies.
The son of 1930’s heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer, Max Baer Jr. was not the thick-headed person he portrayed as Jethro on the series.
Max Baer, Jr. graduated with a BA in business administration and in addition to acting, he pursued interests in business and development after The Beverly Hillbillies ended.
Right, Max Baer Jr. in 1962. (Photo: CBS Television eBay | Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)
Baby boomer Anita Hamilton lives in Hamilton, Ontario with her family and 3 mini-dachshund minions. She’s a lifelong voracious reader who enjoys researching and has extensive experience in sales, marketing and copy writing. Senior City was inspired when she had difficulty finding local housing, products and services online for her elderly parents.