What are some interesting facts about the classic tv show The Beverly Hillbillies?
The Beverly Hillbillies, one of the most popular American sitcom television shows of all time, had quite a bit going on behind the scenes. Here are some of the more interesting facts about the making of this classic program.
The ironically free story of the richest family from the countryside. The entire first season of The Beverly Hillbillies and the first nineteen episodes of the second season are actually in the public domain, which means that they can be redistributed by anybody. The reason for this is that CBS, the network who broadcast the show, neglected to renew their copyrights. Because of this, the first 55 episodes have been unofficially released on home video through many low-budget labels. In the majority of these copies, the original theme music has been replaced by generic music due to the theme song not being in the public domain.
Speaking of the theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” which was performed by Jerry Scoggins, Lester Flat, and Earl Scruggs, actually charted very well when the show debuted in 1962, reaching a peak spot on the charts at #44. The opening tune introduces the premise of the show each episode, informing the audience about how a “poor mountaineer” discovered oil on his property, leading to a prosperous future for him and his family. The only catch is that oil is usually found nowhere near mountains.
“Is that you, John Wayne? Is that me?”
Legendary Western leading man John Wayne made his cameo appearance in Season 5, Episode 20, “The Indians Are Coming,” which originally aired on February 1, 1967. Now the really interesting part is how the movie star was apparently paid. When asked how he should be compensated, Wayne responded, “Give me a fifth of bourbon - that’ll square it.” Oh John, you could have made so much more for your estate on royalties!
Masculine cowboys like John Wayne couldn’t make jeans as desired as the gorgeous Elly May Clampett. Levi Strauss was a large sponsor for the show, and after the first season aired an executive for the company was quoted as saying that Elly May’s actress Donna Douglas “had done more for the sale of blue jeans in one year than cowboys have done in a hundred.” We just wish that they had used all of that extra profit to make an Elly May signature style!
The real life bank of the DrysdalesThe show’s “Commerce Bank” in Beverly Hills, owned by Mr. Millburn Drysdale, was a reference to the real life Commerce Bank of Kansas City, Missouri. We know this is definitely the inspiration, as show creator Paul Henning grew up in nearby Independence, Missouri. This is why the Clampett family was from the Ozarks, as Henning was familiar with that area of his home state.
Real Life Cast Feud
Buddy Ebsen, who starred as series lead Jed Clampett, and Nancy Kulp, who played Mr. Drysdale’s secretary, Jane Hathaway, never seemed to get along. Their arguments off-camera mostly involved politics, as the two of them were on fairly opposite ends of the American political spectrum. This feud even carried past the tenure of the show, when Nancy ran for political office in 1984. Running unopposed as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District, Kulp was taking a page out of then-President Ronald Reagan’s book of making the move from Hollywood to Washington. Kulp was originally the favorite to defeat her Republican opponent Bud Shuster. But thanks to a radio campaign from Buddy Ebsen against his former Hillbillies co-star, Shuster ended up taking the election in a nearly 2-to-1 ratio of the votes. Buddy Ebsen and Nancy Kulp were fairly resentful of one another late into life, but Ebsen privately expressed remorse for the radio campaign, and the two reconciled shortly before Kulp passed away in 1991.
What’s that she’s driving?
Miss Jane Hathaway’s car seemed to do a lot of changing not just between seasons, but even between shots as well. In the first two seasons, there were many scenes in which Hathaway would drive a 1962 Plymouth convertible in establishing shots, and then a cut to a close-up would show her driving a 1963 or 1964 Dodge. While Miss Hathaway did make the switch to exclusively driving a Dodge in later seasons, this mistake is an obvious one to those car lovers out there.
Jethro’s lasting impact
Max Baer Jr.’s portrayal was so iconic of Clampett cousin Jethro Bodine in the public eye that it followed the actor for the rest of his career. Not only was the character of Jethro on an endless career search, but so was Baer. He found acting after The Beverly Hillbillies frustrating as he was continually typecast as the jovial idiot. He even had plans to open a casino themed after the show, which was to be named “Jethro’s Mansion and Casino”, but it never came to fruition. As of June 2019, Max Baer Jr. is the only surviving major cast member from the show.
Max Baer Jr. famously played not just Jethro, but also his twin sister, Jethrine Bodine. Although he was the physical portrayal of Jethrine, the voice for the character was actually provided by Linda Henning, the daughter of series creator Paul Henning.
The Rural Purge
As an attempt by CBS to shift their focus towards urban and suburban audiences, many rural-themed shows were cancelled by the network in the early 1970s, despite their lasting popularity. Programs such as Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and Gunsmoke were given the axe to make room for new productions like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family. Green Acres actor Pat Buttram famous said of the purge, “CBS canceled everything with a tree - including Lassie.” The Beverly Hillbillies aired its final episode on March 23, 1971 as a result of this major programming change.
An official “Granny’s Beverly Hillbillies Cookbook” was published in 1994, providing fans with over 300 recipes that took inspiration from the show. Included are some humorous recipes that call for the use of squirrel, possum, or groundhog, but also some personal recipes from the cast members themselves.
How old is your son now?
Actor Louis Nye, who played Sonny Drysdale, was actually only 8 years younger than actress Harriet MacGibbon, who played his mother, Margaret Drysdale. Thankfully, the wardrobe and makeup departments did a solid job of making the actors appear more believable as a mother and her son.
Paul Henning’s original concept of the show had the family living in New York City, but it was eventually changed to the Beverly Hills as shooting in New York was both too expensive and impractical. The Clampett family did eventually make it to The Big Apple in 7th and 8th episodes of Season 8, titled “The Clampetts in New York” and “Manhattan Hillbillies.” And let’s be perfectly honest: The Big Apple Hillbillies just wouldn’t have been nearly as good of a name for the show in hindsight.