Beverly Hillbillies, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71, CBS) was the brainchild of Paul Henning, the cracker-barrel surrealist also responsible for Petticoat Junction, The Real McCoys, and, notably, Green Acres. Certainly the most popular sitcom in television history, and quite possibly the most successful network series ever, it ran for over 200 episodes, clocking in as the top-rated show of its premier season, and remaining in the top ten throughout its nine-year tenure. Individual episodes almost always placed in the Nielsen Top 20, and on occasion rivaled the ratings of Super Bowls.

As explained in the opening montage and cadenced theme song, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) is an Ozarks mountaineer who, through epic fortuity and sheer ineptitude rather than the Protestant work ethic, falls into unfathomable wealth with the discovery of oil beneath his worthless Arcadian scrub oak. When a roving petrochemical concern gets wind, they buy him out for $25 million, whereupon town sophisticate Cousin Pearl (Bea Benaderet) convinces him fabled Beverly Hills might provide: (a) a suitable beau for his daughter Elly May (Donna Douglas) and (b) career opportunities for his wayward nephew Jethro Bodine (Max Baer, Jr.). Taking their cue from The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck via John Ford), they load up the truck and move to Beverly--replete with a rocking chair up top to house Granny (Irene Ryan), the family's reluctant matriarch.

Despite his mystification at the newfangled trappings of luxury, and the craven depths to which almost everyone around him sinks, Jed remains a bastion of homespun wisdom--very much the Lincolnesque backroads scholar. Virtually recycling his George Russel character, the sidekick in Disney's Davy Crockett series from the mid-1950s, Ebsen eventually carried the Lincoln conceit over into his private life, authoring a stage play in 1966 titled The Champagne Generation, in which he starred as the late president. (When Nancy Kulp, the birdwatching Vassar grad Miss Jane Hathaway, ran for a Congressional seat from Pennsylvania in the early 1980s, she only lost when Buddy Ebsen, a lifelong Republican, stepped in to actively campaign against her.)

Despite the silliness of much of its humor, The Beverly Hillbillies managed to bolster its credibility among its core audience with a kind of hillbilly authenticism. Bluegrass avatars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were enlisted for the theme song, which quickly became a number-one hit on country-western charts, and they frequently appeared on the show as themselves (long before their music was spot-appropriated for its native exoticism by Bonnie and Clyde). Cousin Pearl was a textbook recreation of Grand Ol' Opry mainstay Minnie Pearl, and Roy Clarke was an occasional guest before inheriting the show's constituency with his 20-year stint as host of Hee Haw. Even the series name was taken from a bluegrass band of the 1930s. And of course, the characters of Jethro, Elly Mae, and Granny seemed to borrow more than casually from Li'l Abner, Daisy May, and Mammy Yokum, respectively.

Yet turning up in the fall of 1962 as they did, the paradigmatic arrivistes, the Clampetts seemed to mirror almost perfectly another eccentric clan of uninvited backwoods arrivals, one which was thrust into the national spotlight--decisively and distastefully--with the Kennedy assassination. Suddenly, instead of glamorous Brahmins dictating the national agenda, we had Texas crackers straight off the farm (whose political fortunes could be traced back to Texas Tea of their own). And long before Lyndon Johnson was known for his consummate political savvy and rattlesnake ruthlessness, he entered the popular culture as a national embarrassment, remembered and endlessly ridiculed for turning off the lights in the White House to save electricity, or showing an incredulous nation his gall bladder scar.

By extension, the show became in certain quarters something of a public embarrassment as well, emblematic of the nation's having slipped another notch into pandering anti-intellectualism--a pervasive "bubbling crude" which stained all in its wake. By the time television had caught up with the changing times--the fall of 1971--youth culture and its built-in consumer demographic looked far more appealing to advertisers on the professional rut, and The Beverly Hillbillies, while still vastly successful, was caught in the same network purge which claimed Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, and rural mainstays such as Mayberry RFD and Henning's own Green Acres. This is the same changing of the guard which ushered in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, and, ostensibly, social realism and the death of the 1960s. A Made-for-Television movie appeared on CBS in 1981, without Baer, and the series was later remade as a feature film in 1993 by the makers of Wayne's World, but neither did justice to the original.

-Paul Cullum

CAST

Jed Clampett......................................... Buddy Ebsen

Daisy Moses (Granny)................................ Irene Ryan

Elly May Clampett............................... Donna Douglas

Jethro Bodine......................................... Max Baer,Jr.

Milburn Drysdale................................ Raymond Bailey

Jane Hathaway......................................... Nancy Kulp

Cousin Pearl Bodine (1962-63).............. Bea Benaderet

Mrs.Margaret Drysdale (l962-69)....... Harriet MacGibbon

Jethrene Bodine (1962-63)...................... Max Baer, Jr.

John Brewster (1962-66)..........................Frank Wilcox

Edythe Brewster (1965-66)..................... Lisa Seagram

Jasper DePew (1962-63)............................Phil Gordon

Ravenswood, the butler (1962-65)..............Arthur Gould

Porter Marie, the maid (1962-63)............... Sirry Steffen

Sonny Drysdale (1962)................................ Louis Nye

Janet Trego (1963-65)...............................Sharon Tate

Lawrence Chapman (1964-67).................. Milton Frome

Studio Guard (1964-66)............................. Ray Kellogg

John Cushing (1964-67)............................Roy Roberts

Dash Riprock (nee Homer Noodleman)(1965-69) .........................Larry Pennell

Homer Cratchit (1968-71)......................... Percy Helton

Elverna Bradshaw (1969-71)...................... Elvia Allman

Shorty Kellems (1969-71)............ George "Shug" Fisher

Miss Switzer (1969-70).............................. Judy Jordan

Helen Thompson (1969-71).....................Danielle Mardi

Miss Leeds (1969).............................. Judy McConnell

Susan Graham (1969-71)....................... Mady Maguire

Gloria Buckles (1969-71)...................... Bettina Brenna

Shifty Shafer (1969-71).............................. Phil Silvers

Flo Shafer (1969-71)........................ Kathleen Freeman

Joy Devine (1970-71).............................. Diana Bartlett

Mark Templeton (1970-71)....................... Roger Torrey

PRODUCERS

Paul Henning, Al Simon, Joseph DePew, Mark Tuttle

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

216 Episodes

CBS

September 1962-September 1964   Wednesday 9:00-9:30

September l964-September 1968   Wednesday 8:30-9:00

September 1968-September 1969   Wednesday 9:00-9:30

September 1969-September 1970   Wednesday 8:30-9:00

September 1970-September 1971   Tuesday 7:30-8:00

FURTHER READING

Marc, David. Demographic Vistas: Television in American Culture. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.

_______________. Comic Visions: Television Comedy and American Culture. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Marc, David, and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy to L.A. Law, America's Greatest TV Shows and the People Who Created Them. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Story, David. America on the Rerun: TV Shows That Never Die. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol, 1993.

Highlights
Paul Henning on ending cigarette ads on The Beverly Hillbillies
01:56
Paul Henning on the idea for The Beverly Hillbillies
06:36
Custom car designer George Barris on his work on The Beverly Hillbillies
03:36
Stanley Frazen on how he came to be the editor on The Beverly Hillbillies with Paul Henning
Editor Dann Cahn on editing The Beverly Hillbillies
01:40
Who talked about this show

Howard Anderson, Jr.

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Howard Anderson Jr. on creating the opening titles for The Beverly Hillbillies
00:49

George Barris

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Custom car designer George Barris on his work on The Beverly Hillbillies
03:36

Dann Cahn

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Editor Dann Cahn on editing The Beverly Hillbillies
01:40

Roy Clark

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Roy Clark on guest starring on The Beverly Hillbillies
03:55

Robert Dickinson

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Robert Dickinson on being in awe watching a special of The Beverly Hillbillies being taped
00:46

Stanley Frazen

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Stanley Frazen on how he came to be the editor on The Beverly Hillbillies with Paul Henning

Paul Henning

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Paul Henning on creating The Beverly Hillbillies
09:08
Paul Henning on creating the characters of and casting The Beverly Hillbillies
10:26
Paul Henning on shooting the pilot and early production on The Beverly Hillbillies
03:09
Paul Henning on producing, promoting, and audience reaction to The Beverly Hillbillies
08:13
Paul Henning on the writing process, a typical production week, and the laugh track on The Beverly Hillbillies
07:53
Paul Henning on ending cigarette ads on The Beverly Hillbillies
01:56
Paul Henning on color production, legal aspects, and his writing philosophy on The Beverly Hillbillies
08:48
Paul Henning on the theme songs to Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Petticoat Junction
03:30
Paul Henning on the cancellation of The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres  
01:27
Paul Henning on writing 1981's Return of the Beverly Hillbillies
01:35
Paul Henning on having no involvement with 1995's The Beverly Hillbillies movie
00:53
Paul Henning on a picture with writers and the cast from The Beverly Hillbillies
01:21
Paul Henning on a picture with the casts of The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction
03:59

Frank Inn

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Frank Inn on acting as animal trainer for The Beverly Hillbillies
08:48
Frank Inn on the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies
04:03
Frank Inn on The Beverly Hillbillies creator Paul Henning
03:22
Frank Inn on working with the various animals on The Beverly Hillbillies
03:03
Frank Inn on the bloodhound that is seen in the opening of The Beverly Hillbillies, and on how he came to work for Petticoat Junction
04:18

Sheila Kuehl

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Sheila Kuehl on guest-starring on The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction  and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
04:50

Gene LeBell

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Gene LeBell on his stunt work for The Beverly Hillbillies
01:14

Carroll Pratt

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Carroll Pratt on providing laugh track for Green Acres, Bewitched, Beverly Hillbillies, My Three Sons, and I Dream of Jeannie
04:26

Joseph A. Wapner

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Joseph Wapner on appearing on Beverly Hillbillies
00:29

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