Beverly Hillbillies: The Drama Behind America’s Favorite Family

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Critics Didn’t Agree

The show was a huge success for just over nine years. Fans seemed to relate to a group of hicks who managed to shake up the snobbery of Beverly Hills. Despite a whopping seven Emmy nominations, many TV critics didn’t actually enjoy the show. Critics found the show “strained and unfunny” and “painful to sit through”. Still not bad for one of the most watched programs on TV. In 1993, a film remake was also released to terrible reviews. They just couldn’t capture the original magic that had fans hooked.

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From Acting To Politics

Nancy Kulp played the part of Miss Jane Hathaway, the perennial single spinstress. She was a talented actress, but more than that she was also a linguist, teacher and wanna-be politician. Kulp went to school to learn about becoming a publicist but after moving to Hollywood she was convinced to see herself in front of the camera instead of behind it. After nine years on The Beverly Hillbillies she moved on to politics and ran for office for the US House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.

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What A Cheap Mansion

Paul Henning, who was the creative mind and creator behind the show, paid $500 to film in a Bel Air mansion. The Kirkeby Mansion, as it is also commonly known, was built in 1933 and is surrounded by an extensive garden.  This was the mansion that the Beverly Hillbillies lived in after striking gold in the show. After the series wrapped the property was sold to real estate developer and TV tycoon Jerry Perenchio. Perenchio demolished much of the original house to build an even grander mansion with underground parking.

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Not A Supporter

Buddy Ebsen played the main comedic character on the series, Jed Clampett. He and his cast mate Nancy Kulp didn’t always get a long off camera. Ebsen was not a supporter of Nancy’s political efforts and even volunteered to make a radio campaign in support for her opponent. Nancy ran for as a Democratic nominee in 1984 and ended up losing the campaign to Bud Shuster. Nancy reportedly lost a lot of respect for Buddy due to his unprofessional actions.

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Location Of The Mansion

The owner of the mansion, Arnold Kirkeby, was unfortunately killed in a plane crash just a few months before the show aired. He was an American hotelier and real estate investor who owned multiple properties. His wife continued to live in the mansion and agreed that it could be used for filming as long as the location’s address would not be revealed. However, fans eventually discovered the address and would gather around hoping to catch a glance of the cast members.

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Disguised Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate was an American actress and model who appeared in several small film and television roles in the 1960’s.  Sadly, she is most famous for being a victim of the Manson Family killings in 1969. Sharon was 8.5 months pregnant with her first child with husband, director Roman Polanski. Before her death Sharon had a recurring role on the show as Janet Trego. She was disguised with a clever brunette wig and appeared about 15 times on the show.

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The Original Spark

Paul Henning came up with the idea of the Clampett Clan on a trip through the South while visiting Civil War sites in 1959. His whole concept was based on taking someone from the deep rural South and transplanting them into the middle of an upper-class community. The original plan was to hit off the series in New York, but due to logistics and costs, the location was changed to Beverly Hills. Henning is also responsible for two other hit shows, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.

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Breaking Bank

Just like Jed Clampett struck it big with oil, The Beverly Hillbillies was a huge success for the TV industry and everyone involved from the actors to the producers. Everyone adored the small-minded, but big-hearted Clampett Clan. They were the prime example of just being yourself! Well, those sweet characters reached outstanding recognition for their achievements. The Beverly Hillbillies went from earning $25 million at the beginning of the show to over $100 million at the end. That is no small feat (or paycheck)!

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Unfortunate Alzheimer’s

Who could forget the banker on The Beverly Hillbillies? After all, every rich man needs someone to manage the family fortune. Raymond Bailey played Mr. Drysdale on the hit TV series. During the last couple years of filming, he began to display symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease. If you watch the last few episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, it is apparent. Raymond Bailey had to quit acting shortly thereafter; he sadly passed away at the age of 75 in 1980.

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Up To No Good

Jethro Bodine was a fan favorite on The Beverly Hillbillies. Max Baer Jr. played the naive yet lovable guy. Well, he was smart enough to file a lawsuit against CBS and win. In fact, he had five allegations against the TV industry. A restaurant chain was using the actor’s name, and CBS was aware of it. For some reason, they did not release that information to Max Baer Jr. though. Rather, the network entered into a secret settlement agreement, whatever that means.

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Two Is Better Than One

Max Baer Jr. had no problem dressing up as his character’s twin sister Jethrine Bodine. We are certainly glad he was comfortable doing it because the skits were comical. Even though the actor played both Jethro and the somewhat ugly girl, Linda Henning voiced the female twin. She is the daughter of Paul Henning, the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies. These scenes were not only memorable, but they were also hilarious. Considering the shot is in black and white, Max Baer Jr. had to be one of the first actors to commit to a role like that on television.

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Sonny’s Real Name

Supposedly there was a bit of a scandal going on The Beverly Hillbillies because Sonny was actually Margaret Drysdale’s son from her first marriage. Although we have no problem with that, the show always referred to him as Sonny Drysdale even though that was not his last name. Fanatics know Sonny’s surname was Adonis after his father and Margaret’s previous husband. We are not sure why the writer’s would create a modernized twist, but then not reveal it until much later.

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Animals On Set

Yes, she has a raccoon on her back, and is still smiling. Elly May Clampett had a plethora of critters in The Beverly Hillbillies‘ mansion. As you can see, she felt very comfortable with the animals, and not just the dogs. There was a little bit of everything on the hit show from skunks to roosters. Of course, there was always an animal trainer on set. Frank Inn was responsible for the animals and everyone loved having the furry friends around. Well, the cats at least. We aren’t sure about some of the rodents.

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Granny’s Beverly Hillbillies Cookbook

Irene Ryan went from being a vaudeville actress to an Emmy Award-nominated star. Her most famous role was that of Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies, who was sometimes off her rocker. If you remember the show as well as us, you know she was always cooking up “vittles” like fried opossums. Even though that was not an actual recipe in her famous cookbook, it inspired several tasty dishes. The cookbook also features photographs and character profiles from the notorious series.

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Barnaby’s Comeback

Who recognizes this actor from the infamous Beverly Hillbillies 1993 movie adaption? Buddy Ebsen appeared in the cult classic, and he did an amazing job. However, TV-watchers everywhere probably know Buddy Ebsen for his star role as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies TV show as well as Barnaby Jones. He played the lead on the TV detective series along with Lee Merriweather. Together, they portrayed a father and daughter-in-law team with a private firm in LA. The legendary actor passed away in 2003 when he was a remarkable 95 years old.

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She Could Be Her Mother

Here is a silly rumor: skeptical fans everywhere talked about the conspiracy theory that involved the ages of Irene Ryan and Donna Douglas. Some people actually thought Granny was younger than Elly May, but because of awesome makeup, you couldn’t tell. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Irene Ryan was born in 1902 and Donna Douglas was born 31 years later in 1933. Buddy Ebsen thought the rumors were hilarious and did not see how anyone could believe such a thing.

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The Most Important Meal Of The Day

Did you know that Kellogg’s sponsored The Beverly Hillbillies? After the theme song and opening credits of the TV series, you can see Jed Clampett point to something off screen. The camera then turns to reveal a billboard featuring Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. As The Beverly Hillbillies tune finishes, it transitions into the cereal slogan “K-E-Double L-O-Double Good. Kellogg’s best to you”. The characters were spokespeople for the brand for several years as you can see by this advertisement.

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Woman’s Best Friend

Both the ’60s TV series and the revamped ’90s spin-off movie had chimpanzees. As we continue to tell you, Elly May seriously loved animals. She had two pet chimps named Skipper and Bessie. There is hardly nothing cuter than a chimpanzee wearing a cute, little dress. We think it is purple for some reason… Next to cats and dogs, these would probably be our third pick for critters wandering around The Beverly Hillbillies set. They are pretty clever animals to say the least!

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Typical Typecast

Did you know Max Baer Jr.’s real named is Maximilian Adalbert? His name sounds like a million bucks! The actor is best known for his role as dimwitted Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies. Unfortunately, he felt the role limited his career and after the show was cancelled, Max Baer Jr. had a hard time scoring other types of characters. This actually happens to a lot of skillful professionals in Hollywood. Because of his recurring opportunities with the same roles, Max Baer Jr. switched to writing, producing, and directing in the 1970s and thereafter.

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A Story About A Man Named Jed

The memorable theme song told the classic tale of a rags to riches story. Appropriately titled, “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”Jerry Scoggins sang the the lyrics whereas Flatt and Scruggs, a bluegrass duo, was also featured in the theme song. Even if you are not familiar with every single episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, chances are good you know a little bit of the song about “Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.” The trademark tunes even went all the way to #44 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the year the show debuted.

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Jed Clampett… A Poet?

Not only was Buddy Ebsen a well-respected actor, but he was also a published author. He wrote a novel titled “Kelly’s Quest.” You may not have realized it because he completed the book long after he was retired from showbiz. The novel featured a collection of poems that revealed the journey of a young lady’s tale of joy and heartbreak. Even though nine different publishers rejected his idea, Buddy Ebsen published the book himself. Teaching about lessons of love and life, it soared to #3 on the LA Times paperback best-seller list in 2001.

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Skinny Minnie

Can you picture Granny being played by anyone else other than Irene Ryan? Well, veteran actress and voice extraordinaire Bea Benaderet was initially considered for the part. Shockingly, it was reported that Bea Benaderet was too busty and large to pass for road-kill eating Granny. The professional had no hard feelings though and supposedly recommended Irene Ryan, who stole the show with her screen test. You can watch her audition as a bonus feature on the DVD set extras.

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Once A Hillbilly, Always A Hillbilly

For those of you who are fans of ’60s films, you already knew Buddy Ebsen from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the 1961 film, he played a character that was similar to Jed Clampett. Because of his starring impression, Buddy Ebsen was offered the lead role in The Beverly Hillbillies the following year. Talk about getting typecast, huh? We are certainly glad he shines at the hillbilly performance because we would not want anyone else to play the poor miner turn rich socialite.

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A Change Of Heart

Even though Buddy Ebsen went on to sing, write, and continue acting after The Beverly Hillbillies ended in the early ’70s, he considered retirement before the famous show even started. He wanted to quite working in showbiz well before pre-production and filming for the TV series began. However, he obviously changed his mind and the first episode known as The Beverly Hillbillies: The Clampetts Strike Oil debuted in 1962. The crew wrapped up the pilot in December of 1961, and the rest is history.

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Levi-Strauss

There is something about a pretty blonde in a pair of jeans that makes America go crazy. (The Dukes of Hazzard is another testament to this truth.) After the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies ended, famed denim company Levi-Strauss admitted to the show’s lovely Elly May contributed to sales. In fact, the executive said during an interview that,  “Donna Douglas had done more for the sale of blue jeans in one year than cowboys had done in a hundred.”

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A Last Minute Change

Even though the initial title of the TV series was supposed to be The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills, there is something about that combination of Beverly Hills and Hillbillies that was a home run. The only time you will see the original show’s name is during the pilot episode. By the second episode, the title was cleverly changed. Whoever thought to put the words together deserves a raise or a promotion or something! We hope they were recognized for their undeniable commitment to TV history.

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A Cowboy’s Payment

John Wayne has been a famous western cowboy for as long as we can remember. He appeared in the fifth season of The Beverly Hillbillies on an episode titled “The Indians Are Coming”.  The famous skit depicts Granny saying how she hopes the country superstar would show up out of nowhere and help battle the Indians (things were not politically correct back then). Well, the notorious bad ass does indeed show up! Word on the street is the actor accepted a fifth of bourbon for his cameo performance.

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Last Actor Standing

Out of the main cast members, Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro Bodine, was the last surviving actor from The Beverly Hillbillies. The last thing on his bucket list was to create a series of hotels, casinos, and restaurants based on The Beverly Hillbillies. His dream was to open a series of theme-related businesses throughout Las Vegas, Nevada. He did earn sub-licensing rights for slot machines and food products before his death, so fans can continue to adore the goofy characters.

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It Runs In The Family

In 1936, Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma move to New York City. They were both cast in Broadway Melody, a musical hit. The smash was even nominated for three Academy Awards and won another for Best Dance Direction. It was obvious that Buddy Ebsen was destined for greatness. His sister Vilma was most known for Broadway Melody. She did perform in a few other films and Broadway plays, but later retired from showbiz after having children. In the 1950s, she opened a famous dance studio.

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The Jalopy

After the 1921 Oldsmobile became famous, the Model 46 Roadster was donated to a museum in 1976. It was all a part of the Bicentennial celebrations. The iconic vehicle was even shipped across seas to England to shoot a few episodes abroad. It was worth it because The Beverly Hillbillies would not be the same driving a different jalopy! you can really see the whimsical props added to it in this colorful picture. We personally love the horn!

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A Yellow Brick Road To Sickness

Long before Buddy Ebsen was named Jed Clampett, he acted on Broadway with Shirley Temple and Judy Garland. In a strange turn of events, he joined Judy Garland who notoriously played Dorthy in The Wizard of Oz as the Scarecrow in the cult classic. However, after Ray Bolger came on the set, Buddy Ebsen switched to the Tin Man. Unfortunately, he had a negative reaction to the metallic aluminum makeup and was forced to quit the role. Despite blaming The Wizard of Oz for future health problems, Buddy Ebsen outlived all the other major cast members from the movie.

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Is There Anything He Can’t Do?

Buddy Ebsen is a man of many talents! Not only can he act, but he was also quite the singer, too. It only seemed natural that after the world already loved him as Jed Clampett, Buddy Ebsen took his role as the good ole hillbilly up a notch. He created his own country music tunes complete with syrup strings and more. Not only could Buddy Ebsen act like a hillbilly, but he could sing like one! His country hits spiced up the music scene.

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A Blonde Bombshell

Even though the hair and clothing styles were different back in the 1960s, Donna Douglas has always been a popular beauty. She was an athlete in high school and played for the basketball and softball teams. Before being discovered in Hollywood, Donna Douglas was crowned Miss New Orleans and Miss Baton Rouge. She won beauty contest after beauty contest, and it is easy to see why. Shortly after, she became a household name as Elly May Clampett!

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Go Granny Go

You are never too old to fulfill your dreams and that is just what Irene Ryan did after The Beverly Hillbillies cancelled. Even though she is most famous for her role as Granny, Irene Ryan declined the opportunity to play a similar character on TV right after The Beverly Hillbillies ended. However, she declined and took her acting skills to Broadway. Her story just goes to show that you can do whatever you put your heart and mind to!

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Cancelled Due To Competition

After all of the fabulous ratings and huge fan base, The Beverly Hillbillies was cancelled in 1971. All good things must come to an end, right? CBS executive Fred Silverman thought the show lost its appeal and uniqueness for rural shows. By that time, the network had similar shows  including Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Because these small-town-type series were also popular and had good ratings, it was time to say goodbye to the Clamplett’s.

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Ratings, Ratings, Ratings

Can you imagine the excitement of the actors, creators, and producers when The Beverly Hillbillies soared to the #1 slot for TV ratings only three weeks after airing the pilot? That was literally the quickest rise to the top spot in television history. The silly series apparently has a lot of historical ratings! It stayed at #1 for a record-breaking two whole years! (applause) The Beverly Hillbillies stayed in the top 20 for eight seasons. (standing ovation) That is just great.

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Three Decades Too Late

Nearly 30 years after the initial debut of The Beverly Hillbillies, a movie spin-off was released in 1993. The TV series had found mega success, so it was only natural the film would be equally as big, right? Wrong. Maybe it was because the creators took so long to produce the film or because different actors played the Clampett characters. Whatever the case, it was considered one of the worse movies ever. Ironically, we loved the funny cult classic.

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Dr. Granny M.D.

We all know home remedies are all the rage, especially when it comes to penny-pinching hillbillies. Granny also called herself a doctor on the show. She actually carried the title Dr. Granny M.D. However, the M.D. was not your typical doctor initials. In her case, it stood for Mountain Doctor. Your dern tootin’ right she was! And a gosh dern good one to boot! We would take her recommendations over some of the pharmacy prescriptions out there.

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Who’s Hungry?

Despite having millions of dollars, the Clampett’s saved when they could. You can see in several episodes that the clan ate dinner around their pool table. Instead of buying a formal dining table, they used the billiard game. Well, there is nothing wrong with that we suppose. However, the not-so-bright family thought the rhinoceros head above the table was a billiard, which is why the room was so named. Just when you gave the family the benefit of the doubt, they let you down again, didn’t they?

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Fish Out Of Water

You have had the phrase ‘fish out of water’ before. It usually refers to a person who feel uncomfortable in a situation. Maybe he or she is different than everyone else, which causes him or her to stand out; hence the phrase. The Beverly Hillbillies was also called a fish out of water. In fact, it was the first TV series to be referred to as a fish out of water because it was a different type of TV genre. Instead of being awkward, however, it was a compliment calling the show unique.

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Oh Granny!

Irene Ryan was born in San Fransisco, California on October 17, 1902. She died in Santa Monica, California. Despite being a native-Californian, she traveled all over thanks to her TV, film, radio, and Broadway contributions. Unlike her well-versed career, Granny was much more sheltered. Her character often talks about being born and raised in Limestone, Tennessee. Irene Ryan is a wonderful actress because she definitely fooled us! That accent and culture had us thinking she was everything her character preached.

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Best Episode Ever

Whether you agree or not, “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” was ranked as The Beverly Hillbillies‘ most popular and successful episode out of all nine series. It directly brought more fans and attention to the show. The episode also graced TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list in 1997 as #62. That is an impressive spot if we do say so ourselves! The women on The Beverly Hillbillies certainly made that show great; it would not be the same without their successful acting skills.

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Beverly Hills Barbie

Elly May was the beautiful daughter of Jed Clampett. She loved critters and did not really care for the girly-girly pastimes despite her good looks. Nevertheless, Mattel released her as one of three Barbie dolls as part of a Classic TV Collection. Despite being honored by the doll, Donna Douglas sued the toy company for not receiving her consent. The TV daughter’s biggest concern was the fact that Mattel originally used a black and white picture of the actress for the packaging. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

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Not The Sharpest Tool

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last several decades, the term ‘hillbilly’ refers to someone who is not very smart. Well, even though it was not formally addressed on the show, Jed Clampett received hardly any formal education. With the lack of access to school, he is not very smart as a result. Luckily, after he strikes it rich, Jed Clampett has enough common sense to make good decisions with his fortune.

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Model Behavior

Fanatics of The Beverly Hillbillies remember pop star Pat Boone being on the show. The famous singer played himself on just one episode. The only condition to his role was the fact that Pat Boone wanted to be from the same part of the country as Jed, Granny, and the rest of the Clampett’s. So, here you have it folks! Dreamy songbird Pat Boone acting like a hillbilly for the entire world to see. That is just one more reason to love him.

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Up For Grabs

The industry is difficult, which is why actors, producers, and even TV networks need to understand the legal jargon, or hire someone who does. After The Beverly Hillbillies was cancelled after the ninth season, CBS bought the rights. However, the network failed to renew the rights to the first 33 episodes. They are now in limbo, which means they are available in a public domain. Some unofficial versions of the first seasons have been released by random people on both VHS and DVD.

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RIP JFK

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. The American people were equally shocked and saddened by his death. It just so happens that the eight episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies that were aired directly after his murder are the most watched half hour TV episodes in history still to this day. Maybe it is a strange coincidence, but we think the country wanted to escape from reality to something that was light and fun; after all, it was one of the most popular shows of that decade.

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Let’s Go For A Ride

With Granny’s chair strapped to the top and Jethro driving with that goofy grin on his face, the family truck was a notorious prop for The Beverly Hillbillies. As they rode, the Clampett’s often spotted roadkill, which they would cook up for dinner. The fancy vehicle belonged to their cousin Pearl. She loaned them the truck so they could move to California after earning their millions. How thoughtful! it was a 1921 Oldsmobile.

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They Missed The Memo

Even with all the technology advancements in the 21st century, people still have accidents. Back in the ’60s, communication lacked that much more. So you can only guess some of the mistakes that happened decades ago in terms of TV networks. Well, a Dutch TV company known as NCRV aired what they thought was the last episode of The Beverly Hillbillies in 1966. However, we all know that we in the peak of the hit series. The industry did not even notice their error until 1973. By then, the show had wrapped up everywhere else in the world and the Dutch program finished airing the remaining episodes they missed for the past six years.

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Ca-Ching!

In 1962, The Beverly Hillbillies introduced Jed Clampett as a wealthy man who kept true to his roots despite getting a fortune of $25 million. In today’s time, that would equal around $195 million with inflation. Do you remember how we mentioned by the end of the ninth season the Clampett’s were worth over $100 million? Well, in 2017 that would be about $583 million. Could you imagine striking it rich the way he did? That is a nice payout that would we love to accept. Where do we sign?

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Duke

Remember how we said Frank Inn was the animal trainer on set of The Beverly Hillbillies. Well, the Clampett’s had a family pet. his name was Duke and the lovable bloodhound was always around. After all, he was with Jed way before he earned his millions. Heck, this loyal dog was with his best friend when they struck oil. We just adore how his fur folds and rolls over, but it makes him look a little sad and constantly confused.

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The Bank

You might know that the Clampett’s kept their money at Milburn Drysdale’s bank on The Beverly Hillbillies. One thing you probably do not realize is the fact that there was a real bank in Kansas City, Missouri with the same name. Further, the creator of the hit series Paul Henning lived very close to it as a child. And that folks is how history is made! (If you could make your own series, you would use authentic connections, too.)

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What’s In A Name?

When it comes to films and TV shows alike, the character’s names are very important. Sometimes, the lack of a name also reveals its complexity. For some reason the creators thought it was a good idea to name Margaret Drysdale’s father Lowell Fahrquar. Yes, that is the same face we made when we read that tricky last name. Go ahead and try to say it 10 times fast! Seriously though, what is wrong with Jones or Smith?

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Family

Did you know The Beverly Hillbillies ran from 1962 until 1971? The successful show had nine marvelous season and an overwhelming 274 episodes. Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, and Donna Douglas were the only three actors to appear in every single episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Clearly Jed, his daughter Elly May, and his mother Granny were the standard crew. To be honest, this three-generation group gives us family goals! We really adore this rare photo of the trio together while still in character. (We are pretty sure Jethro was on every episode, too, but we still like the picture).

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Sadistic Granny

It doesn’t matter what season you watch, you will witness Granny hitting Jethro over and over again. The late and great Irene Ryan later admitted during an interview that she liked every time the script had her hitting him. Another confession she made is the fact that she hit Max Baer Jr. as hard as she could every single time. It probably did not hurt the young Jethro too much, but after a few retakes, he probably was a little sore!

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