The Beverly Hillbillies TV show was so popular when it aired from 1962 to 1971, that it attracted as many as 60 million viewers a week – about 20 million more than watched an average episode of Seinfeld. Until recently, the show had more than 2 listings in the top ten most watched shows in history. We are talking up there with the final episode of M*A*S*H, and a few Super Bowls as well.
April 4, 1906 – October 13, 1968
“Jethro, why don’t you try usin’ your head for thinkin’?”
Bea played Pearl Bodine, Jethro’s maw. She was originally brought in to play the role of Granny, but she was cast as Cousin Pearl instead. She was great in the show, so great that they gave her another role in a show called Petticoat Junction. Bea played Kate, mother of three darling girls (One who shouldhave been Sharon Tate. The girl that replaced Sharon after the pilot was filmed, Meredith MacRae, died this year, from brain cancer.
Findadeath.com friend John H. writes: Sharon Tate was originally Billie Jo, but Meredith McRae was the third actress to play her. The others were Jeannine Riley and Gunilla Hutton, who ran the “Shady Rest Hotel.”
I used to love it when the Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies would merge casts, for special episodes. Remember the Thanksgiving one? Fantastic stuff.
Anyway, I know very little of Bea’s demise. She was married to a guy named Eugene Twombley, and together they lived on Blairwood, in Studio City.
Their house is located at 12999.
Unfortunately, it’s way back, but Steve Goldstein managed to snap a pic of the driveway, as well as the others.
As usual, Steve, thank you. Wanna see her mailbox?
Bea died of lung cancer in Good Samaritan Hospital in LA, on October 13th, 1968.
By the way, Bea was the original voice of Betty Rubble, on The Flintstones.
Added May 2002: Great site! But… I was surprised that the info on Bea Benederet did not mention that she played the “second female lead” on the Burns and Allen Show during its entire run. She played next-door neighbor Blanche Morton, Gracie’s best friend. This was before Petticoat Junction, of course. -Jean Imperatrice
Added September 2002 from Findadeath.com friend Larry Muncie: Here is some fill in information on Bea Benederet. In addition to her role on the Burns and Allen Show Bea appeared on a few episodes of Ozzie & Harriet. Earlier in her life she did extensive radio work on Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Gildersleeve. She also did voice work for Warner Bros. Looney Tunes where she played the voice of Granny in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. Of more interest was the role she never played: in 1951, Bea was Lucille Ball’s original choice to play the part of Ethel Mertz, on I Love Lucy. But unfortunately, she was unable to escape her radio contract with Burns and Allen. Her husband was a movie sound technician who outlived her by four days.
ALSO: Bea was also some of the female voices of Warner Brother’s characters in the 1940s. You can distinctly hear her voice in a Little Red Riding Hood classic playing an “annoying bobby soxer”. She also did other female characters as well. Tune in to Cartoon Network when they have their 40s WB’s on (the best era I think for the cartoons), and notice if you can hearher voice characterizations. -Linda Ferrington
UPDATE, December 2004, from Findadeath friend Steve: I was reading the entry on Bea Benaderet when I noticed that she is credited as the voice of Granny in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. It was June Foray who did the voice of Granny, as well as the voice of Witch Hazel, among others for Warner Bros. Bea Benaderet did voices for Warner Bros. cartoons, most notably the voice of Mama bear in the Chuck Jones Three Bears shorts. -Steve Thanks, Steve!
FAD friend Julie Canfield wrote me last year regarding Bea Benederet, asking for clarification of the following, “There were a couple of episodes towards the end of the time she was on Petticoat Junction, that she was off the show and then returned. When she was in the “hospital room,” with Betty Jo, Steve, and Doc Stuart, she was only filmed from behind. It was her voice, not her body.” I’m not sure, Julie, but I do know that television mother of the universe, June Lockhart, replaced her as the female lead in the show. Thankfully, they didn’t give her the actual KATE part, but gave her another role.
Findadeath.com friend Terry Fielding writes in: The Bea Benederet story mentioned that her last appearance was filmed with the use of doubles. That’s true, but she phoned in her last lines that were dubbed over the double. Loyal to the end, her real husband Eugene Twombly died a week after Bea, of heart failure. Their son was Jack Bannon, who was on Lou Grant. Thanks, Terry.
On the 16th of October, Bea was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park, in Van Nuys, Ca. She was only 62 years old. Thank you Steve Goldstein, for those pictures.
October 17, 1902 – April 26, 1973
“How do you like yer possum, Lowell, fallin’ off the bones tender or with a little fight left in it?”
Irene Ryan played Granny. Perfectly. When I was growing up, I thought her character was really annoying, but as I got older, I found her to be the best thing in the show. Those that knew her, called her Reenie.
In 1973, she was living on Esparta Way, in Santa Monica.
Her address was 107.
It’s a tricky one to find. Ask Steve Goldstein, who (again, thank you) took the pictures. Here’s a better view of the house.
Findadeath.com friend J. Mueller writes in, “Her husband was a respected Hollywood comedy writer and former vaudevillian named Tim Ryan. Good guy, from all accounts. His main claim to fame: He wrote the scripts for a dozen or so of the Bowery Boys movies with Leo and Huntz.” Thanks for the info!
Irene was appearing in Pippin, with Ben Vereen and a few others. She suffered a stroke while performing in a Saturday matinee. A few weeks later, on April 26th, she died of some sort of tumor, and hardening of the arteries, in St. John’s Hospital, in Santa Monica.
Findadeath.com friend Mitch writes in: it was a brain tumor. According to the death cert, glioblastoma is the fastest growing type.
She was 70 years old.
Her funeral was held on May 1st, and pallbearers were Max Baer, Kingsley Colton, Buddy Ebsen, Ralph Handley, Paul Henning and Edward Sherman. Honorary pallbearers were Bob Hope (ugh.), Bob Fosse, Al Simon and Ben Vereen.
Irene is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in Santa Monica, CA. I love the fact that the name GRANNY is on her tomb.
UPDATE December 2004, from Findadeath friend Fred: You might want to mention in your notes on Irene Ryan that she left her estate to establish a scholarship fund for student actors. In fact when I was in grad school, I auditioned for one of the “Irene Ryan Scholarships” (didn’t get it though). As I remember the estate was several millions of dollars, and as far as I know is still around today. Thanks, Fred!
August 28, 1921 – February 3, 1991
“But, Chief, that’s extraordinary!”
I loved her as Miss Jane. The total dyke. And so she was. Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale) used to call her “slim.” Interestingly, her real middle name really was Jane.
I did get to speak to Nancy once on the telephone. She was doing a radio show in Chicago, and I phoned in to ask her about her relationship with Buddy Ebsen. You see, Nancy ran for Congress in her native Pennsylvania. She got a few of her celeb friends to endorse her, and made some remark that alluded to the fact that all the Hillbillies endorsed her. Nancy was a Democrat, Buddy Ebsen a Republican. When Buddy got wind of it, he made a 30-second radio endorsement for Nancy’s opposition. He stated, “Hey Nancy, you’re too liberal for me. I’ve got to go with Bud Schuster” (her opponent). Needless to say, it blew up into a huge media event. Nancy lost the election, and was very bitter. I think it was unnecessary of Buddy to Butt in, but I do see his point, sort of.
Findadeath.com friend Kevin Hassell pipes in: “Nancy Kulp was also on Sanford and Son for a little while. She played a boarder in the Sanford Arms, and she and Fred would trade insults on a regular basis. Just thought you’d like to know!” As always, thank you, Kevin.
Does anyone else think that the song “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners – sounds like Jane Hathaway singing? Tura lura lura…
Nancy normally lived in Port Royal, PA. She came down with cancer of the larynx in 1989, and for some reason, went to Palm Springs, to a friends house, to die. I heard it was awful, like her face was eaten away by the disease. Terrible. She died in a house on Bristo Road.
Wanna see the mailbox?
Here’s the house.
It was February 3rd, 1991. She was cremated, and her ashes are with family. Or someone.
She was 69 years old.
Thanks to Findadeath.com friend David Fowles for the Nancy pictures.
September 26, 1933 – January 1, 2015
“But Granny, they ain’t varmints, they is my critters!”
Elly May Clampett, born Doris Smith, died on January 1, 2015 from complications of pancreatic cancer.
According to Shelly Brown of The Browns gospel singers.
Trivia: A few years ago, Donna Douglas sued Disney over the film Sister Act. Supposedly, Donna’s production company owned rights to a very similar project, A Nun in the Closet, and thought the Whoopi Goldberg film was a direct rip off. I don’t know how that ended. Anyone?
Findadeath.com friend Brad Davidson sends this in: I was reading your “Beverly Hillbillies” piece and, specifically, the Donna Douglas part. In it, you indicated Donna Douglas had sued Disney, claiming their production of Sister Act infringed on rights of a piece she owned.
Well, I found the scoop. In 1992, the production company owned by Donna Douglas and Curt Wilson filed a lawsuit against Disney claiming Sister Act was lifted from one of their screenplays. They claimed there were over 100 similarities between the two. However, a federal court in Los Angeles said there were not enough similarities to constitute copyright infringement and Donna lost the case. The decision was appealed but the decision was upheld.
Just thought I would clarify. I found this information in the July 2, 2000 issue of the Pittsburgh
In the Movieland Wax Museum, they have statues of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Don’t you find wax museums disturbing, yet compelling?
The real Hillbilly house is located next door to the Reagan’s, in Bel Air. I found it ironic that Ron and Nancy live next door to the Hillbilly house. They are more than a little like the Drysdales, don’t you think? Unfortunately, the new owners of the house had it completely revamped, and its no longer visible from the street, but this is what it used to look like.
For the life of me I cannot remember where the Drysdale house is, but this is the picture I took.
Findadeath.com friend Harry adds some fun trivia about the “Beverly Hillbillies” mansion: The 20,000-square-foot mansion in Bel Air was built as a surprise gift for a rich guy’s wife. He planned to surprise her with the mansion by saying they were going to a housewarming party. As they were heading down the *long* driveway, the wife turned to the husband and said, “Who would ever live in such a pretentious home?” Can you imagine what the hubby was thinking inside? I think it would be along the lines of, “Oh shit!” At any rate, they did move into the house but sold it after one year.
Cool info, Harry. And cute poochie. Everyone, meet Andy. Andy, meet everyone.
In May of 1993, before he made complete schlock television (which I love, by the way), Jerry Springer did a week of shows in San Francisco. One of them was a Hillbilly reunion, with Buddy Ebsen, Donna Douglas, Max Baer (for the first time ever), and Louis Nye who played Sonny Drysdale in an episode or two. My friend Steve Cox penned the definitive book about the show, and he was a guest too. I begged Steve to let me go, and he said okay, so I flew there. It was fantastic. Through a bizarre turn of events, I had dinner the first night. Max is an offensive human being, and got ripped on vodka. Every once in a while he would laugh, and Jethro would be sitting at the table across from me. Weird. So cool though. In the middle of dinner, I excused myself and hit the payphone. I called everyone I could in 5 minutes to brag, “You will NEVER guess who I am having dinner with right now!” Max started fucking with us when he got more drunk, pretending he decided that he wasn’t going to do the show after all. That got really annoying, but all in all, it was great. I remember Max saying something about how he and Irene Ryan used to get a kick on the set, joking about how naíve Donna Douglas was. They found it quite charming, but still kind of funny. He spoke of Nancy Kulp’s dykedom, and the fact that Donna Douglas slathers on makeup with a trowel. He did tell one story about how he and Reenie were doing a scene together once, and for some reason unbeknownst to him, she kicked him with one of those army boots she wore. He asked her (not so politely) why? She pointed upwards, “You were in my key light.”
The next day, I had breakfast with Steve and Louis Nye, as you do, where he reminisced about his appearance as ZOMBO, on the Munsters. Well, actually, I reminded him of it. He had no memory of it at all, but he was a sweet guy. We met up with Buddy Ebsen, who looked like he was a thousand years old back then, and Max again.
We sat in their trailer, until they got ready for the show. Jerry Springer was nice. I met him a few times (once, in front of Nicole Simpson’s house – honest to God), and Donna Douglas, the freaky one. (thanks to Charlie, for lightening that one up).
She lived in a world of her own – a very Christian world. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, she’s just a bit odd about it. She was in a movie with Elvis, and I think she screwed him, because now if you ask her about him, she freaks. Anyway, I got to chat with them all, and it was an experience I will never forget. The show ended up being pretty good, except for Max blathering on about that stupid casino he wants to build, which he is still going on about.
Findadeath.com friend Robert sends us the link to Max’s casino project. Thanks, Robert!
Findadeath.com friend Cecilia sends in this great shot of Max. Mm.
June 2003: Recently Earl Scruggs, the co-composer of the Beverly Hillbillies theme, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Donna and Max attended.
A few years ago, they made a feature length movie called The Beverly Hillbillies. Cloris Leachman played Granny too well; the late Jim Varney played Jed Clampett – not very well. Lily Tomlin was flawless as Jane Hathaway (a little too good), and handsome Deidrich Bader from The Drew Carey Show played Jethro.
It was largely forgettable, except for a fantastic appearance by my absolute favorite country singer, Dolly Parton. Buddy made an appearance as Barnaby Jones. That was amusing.
I guess I am obligated to mention that made for TV movie, The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. Buddy, Donna, Nancy – they were the only ones in it. Imogene Coca played Granny’s mother (yes), and, oh, it was just painful. Usually I can still feel a tad nostalgic, but it was dreadful. Just dreadful.
May 6, 1904 – April 15, 1980
“We want you to know how happy we are to have you, your handsome nephew, your lovely daughter, and your beautiful money er mother.”
October 5, 1905 – February 8, 1987
“Listen, to get these peasants to move, I’d dance the Watusi with a keg of nitroglycerin.”
Mr. Drysdale, Raymond Bailey, died in Laguna Niguel California, on April 15, 1980, of a heart attack. He was 74, and one of the most miserable people to be around. Almost nobody liked him. Harriet MacGibbon, who played his wife, could slap on both false eyelashes with her eyes shut. She died on February 8, 1987, of a massive heart attack. Don’t know where she was living at the time.
Meredeth MacRae, who played Billie Jo Bradley died on July 14th, of brain cancer. She was 56 years old. She had one operation to remove a tumor, but it had returned. Her family were with her when she died, in her home, and Meredeth stipulated that she wanted no funeral, but a big bash. Thanks to Findadeath.com Mary Zorn for the details.
Buddy Ebsen died on July 6, 2003. Check out his story HERE.
Related Trivia: In 1991, Max Baer won $2 million in a lawsuit against ABC-TV. He had bought the rights to Madonna’s song, “Like A Virgin,” and ABC screwed around with the rights. I assume there was going to be some movie based on the song, but I’ve never heard of it.
Max used to date Sharon Tate, before she became Mrs. Roman Polanski, and one of the most famous murder victims of all time. Sharon played a secretary at the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills, in about 14 episodes. Her name was Janet Trego, and she wore a brunette wig. When I asked Max about her, his only reply was that she was a “sweet girl.” One other very well known tragedy Max was associated with, was Dorothy Stratten. She was the murdered Playboy Bunny of which the movie Star 80 was based. Max was a pal of Paul Snyder, Dorothy’s psycho boyfriend. Dorothy was trying to call off her relationship with Paul, and Paul consulted Max about it.
Findadeath.com friend Stephanie Amos sends this quote: “According to Max Baer Jr. he (Paul) came over, upset, questioning how to get her back. Max replied “Hey, I told you man, you treat her like crap and you bring her here (LA) and I said you’re going to blow it. I told him to take her back to the God damnned Vancouver.” He (Paul) sat down on the sofa and started crying. Thanks, Stephanie.
Trivia: Findadeath.com very good friend Tami Dingle sent in a couple of pictures, one being of her favorite (honest, it is) cook book,
her favorite (honest it is) game,
and her favorite (honest it is) picture of Nancy Kulp as the bathing beauty.
Thanks so much, Tami.
I want to thank Steve Cox for information he provided for this story, Steve Goldstein of Beneath Los Angeles, and David Fowles for their photographs.