In the pilot episode of this beloved rags-to-riches sitcom, hayseed mountaineer Jed Clampett becomes an overnight multimillionaire when an oil-rich swamp is discovered on his property. With his newfound fortune, he uproots his family from their cabin in the Ozarks to a Beverly Hills mansion, and fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue — and thus The Beverly Hillbillies and their memorable cast or characters was born. (Fun Fact: Adjusting for inflation, the $25 million minimum payment the Clampetts were offered for their land would be equivalent to around $254 million today.)
When the show premiered in 1962, it was slammed by critics. But viewers disagreed, and the the Clampetts quickly rose to the top of the Nielsen ratings. At the peak of its nine-season run, around 60 million viewers were tuning in each week — nearly one-third of the US population at that time. Even the theme song, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” was a hit, reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot Country charts.
More than 60 years later, the show continues to reach new audiences through streaming services. So come and listen to a story… about the actors who made this show a beloved classic.
The Beverly Hillbillies cast and surprising facts
Here, catch up with the The Beverly Hillbillies cast, find out what they are doing now and learn some fun trivia along the way.
Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett
After rising to fame as part of a vaudeville act with his sister, Buddy Ebsen carved out a career in film and television, including roles in Davy Crockett, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He was known for his eccentric, loose-limbed style of dancing, which Walt Disney used as inspiration for animating Mickey Mouse in Disney’s Silly Symphonies and creating an early prototype of Disney ride animatronics.
After playing the family patriarch in The Beverly Hillbillies, Ebsen spent eight seasons as the titular detective on Barnaby Jones — a role he later revised as a cameo in the 1993 movie adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies. Ebsen passed away from pneumonia on July 6, 2003, at the age of 95.
Did you know?
Ebsen was the original Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. But a few days into filming, Ebsen had a severe reaction to the aluminum powder makeup and was rushed to the ER in respiratory distress. He recovered after a two-week hospitalization — but by then, the studio had replaced him with actor Jack Haley.
(Click through for 18 astonishing The Wizard of Oz behind the scenes revelations.)
Irene Ryan as Daisy May “Granny” Moses
As a 14-year-old aspiring actress, Irene Ryan left high school and lied about her age to join a stock company in California. She went on to perform in musical comedy, variety, and vaudeville shows before starting a popular radio program, “Tim and Irene,” with then-husband Tim Ryan.
Only 60 years old when she landed the role of Granny Moses, Ryan had to wear makeup to appear older. She says she was rarely recognized on the street — until people heard her talk and recognized Granny’s unmistakable voice.
After falling ill during a performance of Pippin on Broadway in 1973 — a role that earned her a Tony nomination — Ryan flew home to California where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She passed away the following month at age 70.
Did you know?
With no surviving heirs, Ryan left her fortune to the Irene Ryan Foundation, which has been awarding scholarships to student actors since 1972. To this day, the foundation awards sixteen regional and two national scholarships each year.
Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett
A former pageant queen from Louisiana — where she was crowned “Miss Baton Rouge” and “Miss New Orleans” — Donna Douglas was a relative newcomer in Hollywood when she was chosen to play the role of Jed Clampett’s daughter. Douglas credits her upbringing as a Southern tomboy with helping her to land the role — especially when she was asked to milk a goat at her audition!
After The Beverly Hillbillies ended, Douglas felt she was being typecast in provocative roles that didn’t align with her personal beliefs. She took a step back from acting, earned her real estate license, and recorded a few gospel albums. Douglas passed away on January 1, 2015 from pancreatic cancer.
Did you know?
In 2010, Mattel released the Classic TV Collection of Barbie dolls based on Samantha from Bewitched, Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, and Elly May Clmapett. But Douglas wasn’t thrilled with her Barbie moment — she sued Mattel for unauthorized use of her likeness.
Max Baer Jr. as Jethro Bodine
The son of a heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer Jr. played the simpleton son of Jed Clampett’s cousin Pearl. But in real life, he bore little resemblance to his dimwitted character — he served as a medical technician in the US Air Force, and later earned a degree in business administration from Santa Clara University.
Baer Jr. began acting professionally in 1960 and appeared in a handful of TV shows, including Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip. After The Beverly Hillbillies wrapped, he went on to co-write and produce Macon County Line, a low-budget indie that earned $35 million at the box office.
For years, Baer Jr. fought to open a Beverly Hillbillies-themed casino in Nevada, but proposals in multiple locations fell through. Now the only surviving member of the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer Jr. currently resides in Lake Tahoe.
Did you know?
Born and raised in Northern California, Baer Jr. listened to records by Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters before auditioning for the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies to master Jethro’s accent.
Raymond Baily as Milburn Drysdale
Raymond Bailey’s path to stardom was paved with perseverance. After moving to Hollywood as a teenager to pursue an acting career, he struggled to find roles. He briefly worked as a laborer at a movie studio, but was fired after sneaking into a scene. In the late 1930s, he got a few bit parts in movies before taking a break to serve in the Merchant Marines during World War II.
Bailey’s luck finally changed in the 1950s when he began landing character roles on shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, and Bonanza. In 1962, he was added to the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies as Milburn Drysdale, the uptight banker who tries to help the Clampett family adapt to life in the Hills.
Near the end of the final season, Bailey began experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. He retired from acting in 1975, and passed away on April 15, 1980.
Did you know?
Bailey was a jack-of-all-trades. While trying to gain his footing as an actor, he held jobs as a merchant seaman, a pineapple plantation worker…and even a banker!
Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway
After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in English and French, Nancy Kulp worked as a newspaper writer for several years before joining the US Naval Reserve. She stumbled into acting a few years later, when she moved to Hollywood to work in publicity and a director convinced her to try her hand in front of the camera instead.
Kulp appeared in a string of movies and TV shows —including A Star is Born, The Parent Trap, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — before landing the role of Drysdale’s secretary, Jane Hathaway.
She reportedly clashed with co-star Buddy Ebsen on set due to their differing political beliefs, and the bad blood continued after the show ended — when Kulp ran for the US House of Representatives in 1984, Ebsen taped an ad supporting her opponent.
Did you know?
The late actress Sharon Tate played Jane’s assistant, Janet Trego, in 15 episodes — one of Tate’s first credited roles as an actress.
Harriet MacGibbon as Margaret Drysdale
Before joining the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies, Harriet MacGibbon was an established stage actress who performed on Broadway and in regional productions throughout the country. She also studied the harp with a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and starred as Lucy Kent in the radio soap opera Home Sweet Home.
Throughout her career, MacGibbon was often cast as a high-society snob or busybody. She made guest appearance on several shows, including Bewitched and My Three Sons, before landing her memorable role as Milburn Drysdale’s status-obsessed wife. She passed away on February 8, 1987 in Beverly Hills.
Did you know?
Harriet’s great-grandfather, Dr. Elizur Deming, was an Indiana abolitionist who’s been recognized by the Ohio Historical Society as a leading Underground Railroad agent.
Bea Benaderet as Pearl Bodine
Before playing Jed’s cousin Pearl, Bea Benaderet enjoyed a prolific career as a radio and voice actress, best known for her role as Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.
A longtime friend of The Beverly Hillbillies show creator Paul Henning, Benaderet played a pivotal role in one of the iconic casting decisions. She originally tested for the role of Granny, but after seeing Irene Ryan’s audition, she reportedly told Henning, “There’s your Granny!” Benaderet also championed MacGibbon for the role of Margaret Drysdale.
In 1963, Henning created the show Petticoat Junction as a starring vehicle for Benaderet, and wrote her character out of The Beverly Hillbillies. While filming Petticoat Junction, Benaderet was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on October 13, 1968. Her husband, sound effects artist Eugene Twombley, died of a heart attack the day after her funeral.
Click through for more memories from the 1960s: