America’s Favorite Family: Secrets You Never Knew About The Beverly Hillbillies

Published on November 10, 2021
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Beverly Hillbillies aired in 1962 and it quickly became one of the most popular TV shows of its time. Although it was known for being a wild and wacky show, that was not always the case behind the scenes. Nancy Kulp and Buddy Ebsen played loving family members, but things were quite different in real life. Here’s some of the drama and secrets you never knew about this beloved show.

Cruising

The show always showed Granny’s chair strapped to the back of the family truck, with Jethro driving the whole crew around. Of course, everyone knows this scene, but did you know that the truck was actually owned by cousin Pearl?

Cruising

Cruising

Political Actress

Nancy Kulp played Miss Jane Hathaway on the show. She did a great job playing her role, but Kulp was also an aspiring politician, teacher, and linguist. After being on the show for nine years, she quit and decided to pursue politics. She ran as a democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania.

Political Actress

Political Actress

Cheap Estate

Show creator Paul Henning paid $500 to have the show be filmed at a Bel Air mansion. The home was called the Kirkeby Mansion and was built in 1933. The estate was the location that showed the beloved family living in was sold to Jerry Perenchio after the show wrapped.

Cheap Estate

Cheap Estate

Camera Friends Only

Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett, did not get along with fellow actress Nancy Kulp behind the scenes. He was not a big fan of her political stance, and even volunteered to participate in a radio ad for her opponent in order to try to hurt her chance of winning.

Camera Friends Only

Camera Friends Only

Sharon Tate’s Wig

Sharon Tate appeared on the Beverly Hillbillies as Janet Trego while wearing a brunette wig, which made her less recognizable. Sadly, she was a victim of the 1969 Manson Family murders.

Sharon Tate's Wig

Sharon Tate’s Wig

Strike It Rich

Just like the family on the show, the actors who appeared on the show found themselves suddenly quite wealthy thanks to the success of the show. When the show first aired, they brought in $25 million, and by the end of the series, they brought in $100 million total.

Strike It Rich

Strike It Rich

Alzheimer’s Kicks In

Raymond Bailey played banker Mr. Drysdale on the show. While filming the last two seasons, he began to show signs of developing Alzheimer’s. You can see how much it affected him as the show went on, and especially in the last few episodes.

Alzheimer's Kicks In

Alzheimer’s Kicks In

Shady Business Dealings

Max Baer Jr., who played Jed’s adopted nephew Jethro Bodine, was a fan favorite. Max became aware of the fact that a restaurant chain was using his name, and that CBS knew about it. He decided to sue CBS and he ended up winning.

Shady Business Dealings

Shady Business Dealings

Two for One

Baer Jr. also didn’t have any issue with putting on a dress in order to play Jethrine, Jethro’s twin sister. His voice was dubbed over by Linda Henning, who is the real life daughter of show creator Paul.

Two For One

Two For One

Hidden Scandal

Some alleged drama on the show took place when Sonny was purported to be Margaret Drysdale’s son. Experts claim that his actual last name was Adonis, not Drysdale, and the writers didn’t make mention of this until later seasons.

Hidden Scandal

Hidden Scandal

Animals on Set

The actress who played Elly May Clampett had to work with a lot of animals, including raccoons, pigeons, and skunks. She didn’t have a problem with this, especially since there was a full time trainer that was on set at all times in order to step in if needed and also train the animals.

Animals On Set

Animals On Set

Start the Day Right

Kellogg’s became one of the show’s main sponsors, and that was very clear. After the theme song and credits, Jed Clampett was shown pointing offscreen, with the camera following and showing a billboard with a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ad.

Start The Day Right

Start The Day Right

Typecasting

Max Baer Jr.’s real name was is Maximilian Adalbert Baer Jr. He’s best known for playing Jethro Bodine. After the show ended, he struggled to find roles due to the fact that he kept being typecast.

Typecasting

Typecasting

Jed Clampett’s Ballad

The show’s theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” told the story of the family’s rag to riches experience. Jerry Scoggins sang the theme and bluegrass duo the Flatt and Scruggs played the music. After the show’s premiere, the song rose to #44 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart.

Jed Clampett's Ballad

Jed Clampett’s Ballad

Granny Moses

Of course, it’s quite difficult to imagine anyone playing Granny but Irene Ryan. Producers initially considered casting Bea Benaderet. However, they ultimately decided she was too busty in order to play roadkill-eating grandma. Luckily, she didn’t take any offense.

Granny Moses

Granny Moses

Made for Hillbilly Life

Many people knew Buddy Ebsen from his role in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, where he played a role that was actually quite similar to Buddy. That’s probably why he was offered the main role in the Beverly Hillbillies just a year later.

Made For Hillbilly Life

Made For Hillbilly Life

Almost Retired

Despite the fact that Buddy Ebsen was very successful when the show ended in the 1970’s, he actually wanted to retire before the show officially ended. He wanted to quit show business entirely, but changed his mind and stayed until the show ended.

Almost Retired

Almost Retired

My Levi’s

Towards the end of the show’s first season, Levi Strauss, legendary jean company, realized that Elly May was great for business. The popularity of the character wearing these jeans helped them sell more jeans than cowboys ever had for 100 years.

My Levi's

My Levi’s

The Right Name

The show’s title was almost “The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills,” but ultimately the show creators felt that it was too long. Thus, The Beverly Hillbillies was chosen instead. You can actually see the alternate title in the very first episode.

The Right Name

The Right Name

Payment for a Cowboy

When most people think of famous cowboys, John Wayne typically comes up first. He had a cameo appearance in the fifth season of the show, in the episode “The Indians Are Coming.” A rumor said that Wayne was paid with a fifth of bourbon for his cameo appearance.

Payment For A Cowboy

Payment For A Cowboy

This Show Lives On

Max Baer Jr. is currently the only original cast member who is still alive. He still wants to fulfill his dream of opening casinos and restaurants in Las Vegas that are Beverly Hillbillies themed.

This Show Lives On

This Show Lives On

A Talented Family

Siblings Buddy and Vilma Ebsen moved to Los Angeles in 1936. They were initially cast in Broadway Melody, which was quite successful and nominated for many awards. It was clear from the onset that Buddy would become a star. Vilma had some more role but decided to retire and focused on having a family. She later opened a dance studio.

A Talented Family

A Talented Family

Iconic Wheels

The Beverly Hillbillies family made their way around town in a 1921 Oldsmobile Roadster Truck, which was quite famous. It was donated to a museum after the show ended and was even shipped to England for a for episodes.

Iconic Wheels

Iconic Wheels

Over the Rainbow

Before he appeared as Jed Clampett, Buddy worked with the likes of Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. He almost played the role of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, but the part later went to Ray Bolger, with Ebsen set to play the Tin Man instead. However, he was eventually replaced by Jack Haley.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow

The Man with Many Talents

In addition to acting, Ebsen had other talents that he capitalized on, including dancing and singing. After Beverly Hillbillies ended, he recorded country music.

The Man With Many Talents

The Man With Many Talents

Timeless Beauty

Before she played Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies, Donna Douglas played softball and basketball. She was also crowned Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans.

Timeless Beauty

Timeless Beauty

Not Too Old

After playing Granny, Irene Ryan proved that it’s never too late to accomplish your dreams. Though she was offered a similar TV role after Hillbillies, she chose to move to New York and try out acting on Broadway.

Not Too Old

Not Too Old

Say Goodbye

In 1971, CBS decided it was time to cancel the show after nine years. CBS executive Fred Silverman felt that the show lost its appeal and was not a unique way to portray rural life.

Say Goodbye

Say Goodbye

Number One

Just three weeks after the showed aired, it was clear that The Beverly Hillbillies was a huge success. It rose to the top spot after those three weeks, breaking TV records along the way.

Number One

Number One

Too Late

30 years after the show ended, a film adaptation was made in 1993. However, it did not do very well. Perhaps too much time passed since the show went off the air, but the show was critically panned, even called one of the worst films of all time by some.

Too Late

Too Late

Dr. Granny

On the show, Granny was often referred to as “Doctor Granny,” with her full title being Dr. Granny, MD, which stood for Dr. Granny, Mountain Doctor. It’s safe to say that she was certainly not a medical doctor.

Dr. Granny

Dr. Granny

The Dinners

Despite their newfound riches, the Clampetts still liked to do what they could to save money. They ate their dinners around the pool table, as they didn’t feel the need to buy a fancy new table when they already had a perfectly good table to use.

The Dinners

The Dinners

Fish Out of Water

Although the expression “fish out of water” usually refers to a situation where someone feels uncomfortable, the show was a fish out of water in that it invented a whole new genre. Even though it stood out, it was for a good reason.

Fish Out Of Water

Fish Out Of Water

Small Town Girl

Irene Ryan was born on October 17th, 1902 and was from San Francisco. She died in Santa Monica in 1973. The California native moved around a lot throughout her life. She played Granny, who was quite sheltered and spent the majority of her life in Limestone, Tennessee, until the family moved to Beverly Hills.

Small Town Girl

Small Town Girl

Best Episode

Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood is considered to be the most popular episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. It was even featured in and issue of TV Guide.

Best Episode

Best Episode

Hillbilly Barbie

Elly May was known for preferring to handle critters rather than partake in typical “girly” things like doing her nails. A Barbie doll version of her was made, and even though Donna Douglas was flattered, she actually sued Mattel for not asking her permission to use her likeness first.

Hillbilly Barbie

Hillbilly Barbie

Street Smart

Of course, “hillbilly” doesn’t have the best connotations. Jed Clampett did not have much of a formal education, but after striking oil, he made a fortune and used his common sense and street smarts to make his decisions, which usually worked out for him.

Street Smart

Street Smart

Same Neck of the Woods

The biggest fans of the show might remember when pop singer Pat Boone appeared on the show, playing himself. The one condition he made in order to appear was that he wanted to be portrayed as from the same town as the family.

Same Neck Of The Woods

Same Neck Of The Woods

The Fine Print

After the show was cancelled, CBS bought the rights to the show. However, the network did not renew the rights for the first 33 episodes, which means that they are available in the public domain.

The Fine Print

The Fine Print

Collective Comfort

When JFK was assassinated, it stunned the entire country. The 8 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies which aired after the tragic event were the highest rated in TV history. Perhaps it offered people comfort in such a confusing, painful time.

Collective Comfort

Collective Comfort

Cut Off At The Peak

Long before the internet was around, a Dutch TV station somehow got the idea that the show was canceled in 1966, when it was at its peak popularity. They didn’t realize their mistake until 1973, which was actually two years after the show really ended.

Cut Off At The Peak

Cut Off At The Peak

Critically Panned

Even though the show was so popular, many critics still did not like it. Many claimed that it was “strained and unfunny” and that it was “painful to sit through.” However, despite this fact, the show earned seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations.

Critically Panned

Critically Panned

Reveling In The Punches

One recurring gag on the show was Granny hitting Jethro over and over again. Irene Ryan quite enjoyed filming these scenes and reportedly hit Max very hard in real life.

Reveling In The Punches

Reveling In The Punches

Post Show Mansion

Paul Henning stumbled into the Kirkeby Mansion when looking for a location to shoot the shot. Even though he only paid $500 to use it, its value grew immensely after the show aired. It was sold after the show ended, but was eventually torn down.

Post Show Mansion

Post Show Mansion

Granny’s Real Age

For some reason, a rumor was started that Irene Ryan was not actually as old as she appeared on the show and makeup was used to alter hear appearance. However, in reality she was 31 years older than Donna Douglas. The cast thought that this rumor was really funny.

Granny's Real Age

Granny’s Real Age

The House

The mansion’s original owner, Arnold Kirkeby, died in a plane carsh before the show was even filmed. His widower agreed to let the show be filmed in the house as long as the address was kept secret. The secret somehow came out, and fans flocked to the location.

The House

The House

Branching Out To Bluegrass

Part of the reason why Buddy Ebsen decided to learn to play bluegrass was in order to make sure his character felt authentic. He learned instruments that were typical in Appalachian mountains music.

Branching Out To Bluegrass

Branching Out To Bluegrass

His Inspiration

While visiting Civil War battle sights in the South, Paul Henning came up with the idea for the show. He wondered what it would be like if someone who grew up in rural areas suddenly moved to an upper-middle class neighborhood. He considered having the show set in NYC but eventually settled on California.

His Inspiration

His Inspiration

Cashing In

Max Baer Jr. always dreamed of opening up a chain of casinos, hotels, and restaurants that were Hillbillies themed. He bought the rights to these businesses but after a lot of logistical disputes, nothing came out of it.

Cashing In

Cashing In

Incredible Ratings

Even though critics did not like the show, it had incredible ratings. Between 1962 and 1964, the show had about 57 million viewers on average. This was when there were just 190 million people living in the US, meaning it was 1/3 of the population that was watching.

Incredible Ratings

Incredible Ratings

Just As Opulent

The mansion in which the show was shot was very opulent. It had a piano organ room, waterfalls, and swimming pools, and spanned over 21,000 square feet total.

Just As Opulent

Just As Opulent

Museum Jalopy

The jalopy that the family used on the show was a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 Roadster. It is now housed in the Ralph Foster Museum at Missouri College’s College of the Ozarks. Paul Henning donated it in 1976 in honor of its Bicentennial celebrations.

Museum Jalopy

Museum Jalopy

The Rural Purge

Even though the show was a huge ratings hit, it was canceled during the “Rural Purge,” which referred to a time where executives felt that audiences were tired of this type of show and were more interested in more “sophisticated” ones like M*A*S*H.

The Rural Purge

The Rural Purge

Big Time Producer

After starring in Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr. became a producer. He did very well in this role, especially when he took low budget projects and made them into big budget returns, including Macon County Line.

Big Time Producer

Big Time Producer

Changed Character

When he agreed to play Jed Clampett, Ebsen had the condition that the character be changed from “just a dumb hick” to someone smarter. That’s why Jethro was created as a character.

Changed Character

Changed Character

The Family Fortune

During the beginning of the show, the Clampett family’s fortune was $25 million. After inflation, after the show ended, the family’s net worth would be about $583 million.

The Family Fortune

The Family Fortune

Line Of Cookbooks

Irene Ryan was an award winning actress, but she also loved cooking. She even released a line of Beverly Hillbillies themed cookbooks, all of which did very well.

Line Of Cookbooks

Line Of Cookbooks

Ebsen’s Cameo

Buddy Ebsen had a cameo role in the 1993 adaptation film of the show. He didn’t play Jed, but instead played detective Barnaby Jones, which Ebsen portrayed from 1973 until 1980.

Ebsen's Cameo

Ebsen’s Cameo

Actual Location

Even though the show was called The Beverly Hillbillies and was supposed to take place in Beverly Hillbillies, the mansion itself was actually located in Bel Air. When fans discovered the mansion’s location, they flocked to the house and made filming quite tricky.

Actual Location

Actual Location

Post Show Career

After a successful career in acting, Buddy Ebsen decided to pursue being a writer. He wrote a book called Kelly’s Quest, which was rejected by nine publishers before he published it himself. It became the #3 bestseller in 2001 on the Los Angeles Times paperback list.

Post Show Career

Post Show Career