Facts About The Backward Country-To-City Series The Beverly Hillbillies

In 1962, CBS introduced the Clampetts, a country family who moved to Beverly Hills, California after striking gold on their Ozark hills property. The Beverly Hillbillies was a phenomenon, becoming one of the most-watched series in television history. But what happened behind the scenes was a bit different than what people were viewing onscreen.

From Buddy and Nancy not really liking each other to the show originally being set on the opposite coast, here are some little-known facts about The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Title Was Different For The First Episode

The Title Was Different For The First Episode
CBS
CBS

The title The Beverly Hillbillies is very well-known. So it might be interesting to learn that it wasn’t the original name of the series. Anyone who watched the pilot episode “The Clampetts Strike Oil” saw something called The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills.

Thankfully, after that first episode, the producers changed it to the title people know today, something that’s a bit less of a mouthful and more clever.

Max Baer Jr. Sued CBS For Using His Character’s Name

Max Baer, Jr
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After The Beverly Hillbillies was canceled, actor Max Baer Jr. bought the rights to his character, Jethro, from CBS. Fast-forward a few years, and the actor sued the network for breach of contract.

According to Baer Jr., CBS made a secret deal with the restaurant chain Jethro’s BBQ. He didn’t exactly like the fact that the network was cashing in on his character’s name without his knowledge so he sued them.

The Hillbillies Almost Moved To New York

The Hillbillies Almost Moved To New York
CBS
CBS

Considering the title of the series is The Beverly Hillbillies, it’s hard to imagine the show being located anywhere but Beverly Hills, California. But when they were first scouting locations, New York was the top spot.

In the end, creator Paul Henning thought filming in New York was going to be way too expensive. So, the country folk headed to California. They were able to do an episode in the Big Apple, though!

CBS Made A Copyright Mistake

CBS Made A Copyright Mistake
CBS
CBS

It might have come to the attention of fans of The Beverly Hillbillies that the show runs on networks other than CBS. This is because this particular network made a mistake, forgetting to renew the copyright on the first 55 episodes.

That means that while CBS owns the rights to the other 219 episodes, those 55 are public domain and can be played on any channel that feels like bringing a country-to-city plot to their screen.

Buddy Ebsen Made The Writers Re-Work Jed

Picture of actors
CBS
CBS

Actor Buddy Ebsen was more than happy to portray Jed Clampett, the patriarch of the family who was pretty much illiterate and the textbook definition of a backwoods country guy. And while that characterization was all well and good with Ebsen, he did draw a line.

Ebsen didn’t want to character to be seen as outright stupid. He made the writers go back into the script and rewrite the part, giving Jed a bigger brain to work with.

Donna Douglas Sued Mattel Over An Elly May Barbie

Donna Douglas
CBS
CBS

In 2010, Mattel toy company released a series of pop culture Barbies, including one that looked like The Beverly Hillbillies character Elly May. Complete with curly blonde pigtails, a plaid shirt, and hair ribbons, the doll had an uncanny likeness to actress Donna Douglas.

Well, Douglas didn’t appreciate their efforts, suing the toy company for not asking her before using her character’s picture on the front of the Barbie box. The lawsuit was settled in 2011.

Nancy And Buddy Weren’t Exactly Buddies

Buddy Ebsen Made The Writers Re-Work Jed
CBS
CBS

While Nancy Kulp’s character Miss Jane Hathaway has a soft spot for the Clampett family, the actress did not have fond feelings for Buddy Ebsen, aka Jed Clampett. The two constantly butted heads, especially if the topic of politics came up.

Many cast members have said that the two would start off in a calm and collected conversation, but it would quickly turn into a yelling match with some name-calling!

Max Baer Jr. Played Two Characters

Buddy Ebsen Made The Writers Re-Work Jed
CBS
CBS

On The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr. is best known for portraying Jethro Bodine, the Clampetts’ cousin who wants nothing more than to further his education and get a job. Interestingly, Jethro isn’t the only character the actor embodied.

In 11 episodes of the first season, Baer Jr. ditched his Jethro persona, donned a wig, and dressed in full-on drag for the character of Jethrine, Jethro’s twin sister. The two rarely appear on screen together.

Jethrine Was Voiced By Linda Kaye Henning

Linda Kaye Henning
Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Max Baer Jr. might play the character of Jethrine Bodine, but she was voiced by someone else entirely. Linda Kaye Henning voiced the character for 11 episodes in the first season.

Arguably best known for her role as Betty Jo Bradley in Petticoat Junction, Henning was actually the daughter of The Beverly Hillbillies‘ creator, Paul Henning. As both series were huge hits, Linda is probably very thankful for her father’s role in making TV magic!

John Wayne Asked For Something Other Than Money

John Wayne
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

In a single episode, Western film legend John Wayne made a cameo appearance. And while most high-profile actors would ask for a solid paycheck for their time and energy, Wayne wasn’t interested in money.

For his role on The Beverly Hillbillies, the actor asked for something quite simple. All he wanted was a fifth of bourbon! If only all actors checked their ego at the door and asked for the simple things in life.

The Theme Song Was Something Else

The Theme Song Was Something Else
CBS
CBS

Written by series creator Paul Henning, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” was wildly popular upon its release. It was even released as a single and reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country chart.

While the theme song graced the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies, the pilot is the sole episode that doesn’t have the tune. Instead, the music playing during the opening is something called “Banjo Signal.” It didn’t take long to change it.

Harriet E. MacGibbon Was Eight Years Older Than Her “Son”

Harriet E. MacGibbon
CBS
CBS

When it comes to television and film parents and children, the actors’ real-life ages don’t always make sense with their characters’ relationships. This was the case for Harriet E. MacGibbon and her onscreen son, Louis Nye.

In The Beverly Hillbillies, MacGibbon played Milburn Drysdale, and Nye played her son, Sonny. Well, this mother and son duo weren’t exactly years apart in age. In fact, MacGibbon was only eight years older than Nye!

Bea Benaderet Was Originally Asked To Portray Granny

Bea Benaderet
CBS
CBS

In 22 episodes of the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies, Bea Benaderet portrayed Pearl Bodine, the middle-aged mother of Jethro and Jethrine. Before she brought the character to life, Benaderet was asked to play a different role in the series.

At first, the actress was reading for the iconic role of Granny. After reading up on the character and her role in the show, Benaderet opted out, saying she wasn’t right for the part.

Paul Henning Didn’t Care For The 1981 TV Film

Paul Henning
CBS
CBS

In 1981, Paul Henning wrote and produced a TV film based on the original series, Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. It didn’t hit the same as the series. Not only were some of the characters recast, but the setting was also different.

As it was aired a decade after the finale of Beverly Hillbillies, nothing really connected with the audience. Later, Henning even came out and said that he was embarrassed by the cringe-worthy movie.

CBS Wanted To Advertise More “Cultured” Shows

Picture of actress
CBS
CBS

Throughout its run, The Beverly Hillbillies brought in respectable numbers and ratings. It was a great series for CBS that was making them a solid amount of money. But that didn’t matter when the network decided it was time to switch up its content.

The series was canceled in 1971 after CBS decided it was time to cater to more “civilized” subject matter. As a result, they canceled both Paul Hennings’ series — The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. This was part of what is known as CBS’s “Rural Purge.”

The Owner Of The Mansion Was Paid $500 Per Day

Bea Benaderet
CBS
CBS

When the family moves to Beverly Hills, California, they wind up buying a magnificent mansion worthy of a classy rich family in the posh part of town. And the mansion wasn’t part of a set; it was actually located in Bel Air and owned by a man named Arnold Kirkeby.

In order to film at his home, producers offered Kirkeby $500 a day! Unfortunately, he passed away in an accident before the first episode aired.

Mrs. Kirkeby Broke Contract

Mrs. Kirkeby
CBS
CBS

After the passing of Arnold Kirkeby, the show continued to film on the property and in the mansion. But things changed when his widow decided to break the contract, releasing the address of the famed mansion.

Fans began showing up to the property, disrupting filming and making it, so outside shots on the vast acreage became a no-go. The mansion was sold in 2019 for a reported $150 million, the highest sale price of any property in California history.

Elly May Should Have Had A Fairytale Ending

Mrs. Kirkeby
CBS
CBS

Elly May might have loved her “critters,” but she eventually fell in love with a guy who her Granny thought was part frog, Mark Templeton. While the romance flourished and was even advertised during the final season, Elly May never got her fairytale wedding.

The advance publicity of the final season was pretty much a lie since the two love birds’ story was cut only nine episodes into the season. Then, the show was canceled, leaving no room for a future romance for Elly May.

Critics Didn’t Find The Series Funny

Critics Didn't Find The Series Funny
CBS
CBS

The Beverly Hillbillies might have been a big hit with everyday viewers, but contemporary critics weren’t exactly the series’ biggest fans. In fact, a few of them found the show downright unfunny and dimwitted.

One critic from Variety called the series “painful to sit through,” and another from The New York Times called it “strained and unfunny.” The critics might be on to something, considering the series has a solid 22% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Civil War Was A Huge Source Of Inspiration

Picture of the family
CBS
CBS

Series creator Paul Henning found inspiration for The Beverly Hillbillies in a very unlikely place. In the 1950s, he traveled around the rural south. It was there that Henning began to think of how a family during the time of the Civil War would feel if they were uprooted from the country and placed in a modern city, such as Beverly Hills, California (or, at the time, New York).

And so, the characters of the backward country family were born!