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‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Cast Young: See the Stars Before They Became the Clampetts

If you're wondering what they were like before they struck oil, now's your chance to find out

Take a successful television series — it really doesn’t matter the decade or whether you’re talking about a comedy or drama — and you’ll find an ensemble of actors who, as far as the television audience is concerned, will forever be known as those characters no matter what else they do. That being said, it’s nonetheless intriguing to see where they came from before assuming those parts, and that’s certainly the case with The Beverly Hillbillies cast young.

The Beverly Hillbillies ran on CBS from 1961 to 1972 and, in a nutshell, is about a poor family from the Ozark who strike it rich when they discover oil on their land. In response, they take their newfound wealth to Beverly Hills and embark on what turns out to be an hysterical culture clash where the supposed backwoods folk teach their neighbors a thing or two.

The Beverly Hillbillies cast, young or otherwise, consists of Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, Irene Ryan as Daisy May Moses, otherwise known as Granny, his mother-in-law; Donna Douglas as Elly May, only daughter of Jed and his late wife, Rose Ellen; and Max Baer, Jr. as Jed’s second cousin, Jethro Bodine, who calls him “Uncle Jed.”

So come and listen to the story of The Beverly Hillbillies cast young, and y’all come back now, ya hear?

Buddy Ebsen (Jed Clampett): The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

Born April 2, 1908 in Belleville, Illinois, Buddy Ebsen enjoyed a career that spanned from 1935’s Broadway Melody of 1936 to providing his voice in a 1999 episode of King of the Hill. Next to The Beverly Hillbillies, his most popular role was as detective Barnaby Jones, which aired on CBS from 1973 to 1980. Married three times, he had seven children and passed away on July 6, 2003 at age 95.

1935

Buddy Ebsen, comic dancer, is never too busy to help a friend. Here he is showing Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, MGM starlets, how to do a few of his famous dance steps. The young ladies are only thirteen.
Getty Images

Original Caption: Buddy Ebsen, comic dancer, is never too busy to help a friend. Here he is showing Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin, MGM starlets, how to do a few of his famous dance steps. The young ladies are only 13

1936

Comedian, dancer, and actor Buddy Ebsen dances with his fingers and his feet in this publicity still for the 1936 musical Born to Dance
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Original caption: Comedian, dancer and actor Buddy Ebsen dances with his fingers and his feet in this publicity still for the 1936 musical Born to Dance.

Shirley Temple and Buddy Ebsen teamed up for this performance of “At the Codfish Ball,” part of the 1936 move Captain January. The clip has been colorized.

1939

Buddy Ebsen in part of the costume for the Tin Man in 1939's The Wizard of Oz; he'd leave the project due to an allergic reaction to the makeup.
©MGM/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

In the photo above, Buddy Ebsen is adorned in part of the costume for the Tin Man in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz; he’d leave the project due to an allergic reaction to the makeup. The video beneath it, however, features his version of the character’s song, “If I Only Had a Heart.” In the end, Jack Haley would assume the part.

1944

Al S Hall, with Dewey Robinson, Buddy Ebsen and Henry Armetta, all film actors in Hollywood are viewed taking a break by participating in a game of baseball.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Al S. Hall with Dewey Robinson, Buddy Ebsen and Henry Armetta, all film actors in Hollywood, taking a break by participating in a game of baseball.

1955

Actor Danny Thomas poses with Buddy Ebsen and his wife at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles,CA in 1955.
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Actor Danny Thomas (star of the 1953 to 1964 The Danny Thomas Show, retitled Make Room for Daddy four seasons in) poses with Buddy Ebsen and his his second wife, Nancy Wolcott, at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California in 1955.

1956

Robert Wagner and Buddy Ebsen in 1n 1956 World War II drama Between Heaven and Hell.
©20th Century Fox/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

Robert Wagner and Buddy Ebsen in the 1956 World War II drama, Between Heaven and Hell. Says IMDbpro of the plot, “The spoiled rich son of a wealthy Southerner is changed by his experience in the Pacific during World War II.”

1961

Audrey Hepburn and Buddy Ebsen in the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's, based on the novel by Truman Capote.
©Paramount Pictures/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

Audrey Hepburn and Buddy Ebsen in the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, based on the novel of the same name by Truman Capote.

1962 to 1971

The cast of The Beverly Hillbillies (1962 to 1971), clockwise from Left: Irene Ryan, Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer, Jr. and Donna Douglas.
©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

The cast of The Beverly Hillbillies, clockwise from Left: Irene Ryan, Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer, Jr. and Donna Douglas.

Irene Ryan (Granny): The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

You may not know the name Irene Noblitt, but you certain recognize Irene Ryan (the last name coming from her first marriage, to Tim Ryan). She was born October 17, 1902 in El Paso Texas and en route to playing Granny performed in vaudeville with Ryan, and — known as Tim and Irene — starred in nearly a dozen short films produced by Educational Pictures between 1935 and 1937. Although the marriage fell apart, she kept performing, doing so on radio, in films and on television. Her first credited feature film role was in 1943’s Melody Parade and her last was 1960’s Desire in the Dust. Married twice, she died on April 26, 1973 at age 70.

1936

“The Wacky Family” is a short film from 1936 featuring Irene Ryan and first husband, comedian Tim Ryan. They were together from 1922 to 1942.

1944

This video is Irene Ryan from the 1944 film Hot Rhythm, singing the song “Happiest Girl in Town.”

1945

Publicity portrait of actor Irene Ryan (as 'Prudence') in the film That Night with You, 1945
, United StatUniversal Pictures/De Carvalho Collection/Getty Images

Publicity portrait of Irene Ryan (as ‘Prudence’) in the film That Night with You, 1945, which was actually her 10th movie role, although she was uncredited on three of them.

1946

American actress Paulette Goddard, Australian actress Judith Anderson, Austria-Hungarian actor Francis Lederer and American actress Irene Ryan on the set of 1946's The Diary of a Chambermaid, based on the novel "Le Journal d'une femme de chambre" by Octave Mirbeau, and directed by Jean Renoir.
United Artists/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

American actress Paulette Goddard, Australian actress Judith Anderson, Austria-Hungarian actor Francis Lederer and American actress Irene Ryan on the set of 1946’s The Diary of a Chambermaid, based on the novel Le Journal d’une femme de chambre by Octave Mirbeau. The film was directed by Jean Renoir.

1948

Margaret Hamilton, Irene Ryan, and Moyna Magill adjust their glasses in a scene from the film Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven, 1948: The Beverly Hillbillies cast young
United Artists/Getty Images

Margaret Hamilton (immortalized as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz), Irene Ryan, and Moyna Magill adjust their glasses in a scene from the film Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven, 1948.

1949

It’s only a brief moment in the film, but here’s a scene that includes Irene Ryan from the giant ape run-amok movie, 1949’s Mighty Joe Young.

1954

Dennis Day (L) and Irene Ryan on Day's TV show: The Beverly Hillbillies cast young
John Swope/Getty Images

Dennis Day (L) and Irene Ryan on 1954 to 1956’s The Dennis Day Show. Prior to that, Day had been a part of The Jack Benny Program.

1962 to 1971

Irene Ryan and Buddy Ebsen:'The Beverly Hillbillies' cast young
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Just a lighter behind-the-scenes moment between Irene Ryan as Granny and Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, circa 1965.

Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett): The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

Donna Douglas — born Doris Ione Smith on September 26, 1932 in Pride, Louisiana — never had any illusions about Hollywood, but certainly recognized the truth about herself as a person, which was something she never lost sight of (see the link to our profile of her below for more). When she was young, she considered herself a tomboy, though this didn’t stop her from competing in and winning beauty contests. One of them led to a role in a Paramount film called Career, and some television appearances. Seventeen of them, in fact, prior prior to joining The Beverly Hillbillies cast young, the most famous of which was the “Eye of the Beholder” episode of The Twilight Zone. Married twice, she had one son. Donna passed away on January 1, 2015 at 82.

1959

Her movie debut was in 1959’s Career, her main scene being the one in the video above. Nobody really knows about this one, but for Donna it must have been exciting to be in the same films as Dean Martin, Tony Franciosa and Shirley MacLaine. The plot is about an actor named Sam Lawson who is determined to break into Hollywood no matter what it takes.

1960: The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

There are so many classic episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, and this is certainly one of them. The clip above is her main scene in the episode “Eye of the Beholder,” which originally aired on November 11, 1960. If you haven’t seen the show, you might not want to watch the video as it definitely has spoilers.

1966

This one is admittedly a cheat, given that the film was actually released midway through the run of The Beverly Hillbillies. In truth, this was Donna’s only starring role in a film, and doing so with Elvis Presley seems like a pretty good mic drop as a movie performer.

1962 to 1971

Not much more needs to be said than this is a clip of Donna Douglas from an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Max Baer, Jr. (Jethro Bodine): The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

Maximilian Adelbert Baer, Jr. — more popularly known as Max Baer, Jr. — was born on December 4, 1937 in Oakland, California. His father was boxing champion Max Baer, and although he gave the sport a try himself, he didn’t last very long. His acting career didn’t begin until 1960, when he signed a contract with Warner Bros., that resulted in making 18 guest appearances on different television series prior to his signing on as part of The Beverly Hillbillies. As things turned out, he would end up doing much more — in entertainment and out — after the show concluded. He was married to Joanne Kathleen Hill from 1966 to 1971 and is 86 years old.

1938: The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

The boxer Max Baer with his wife and 6 week old son, January 20, 1938
Austrian Archives/Imagno/Getty Images

The boxer Max Baer with his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan, and 6-week-old son Max Baer, Jr. on January 20, 1938.

1960

Max Baer, Jr. arrested for pot possession in 1960.
Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images

IN 1960, Max Baer, Jr. found himself arrested. Reported The Los Angeles Times on April 30, 1960, “Max Baer, Jr., 22, who identified himself as the son of the late prize fighter, and two salesman were arrested yesterday in a Hollywood apartment on suspicion of possessing marijuana. Officers said they found several cigarettes thought to contain marijuana.”

1962: The Beverly Hillbillies Cast Young

Actor Max Baer, Jr attends a party in Los Angeles, California in 1962: The Beverly Hillbillies cast young
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Actor Max Baer, Jr attends a party in Los Angeles, California in 1962, the same year he began starring in The Beverly Hillbillies.

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