ABOUT THE SHOW
The Beverly Hillbillies is an American sitcom originally broadcast for nine seasons on CBS from September 26, 1962 to March 23, 1971, starring Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer, Jr.
The series is about a poor backwoods family transplanted to Beverly Hills, California, after striking oil on their land.
Jed Clampett, an impoverished mountaineer, discovers oil on his swamp land while hunting for dinner. The OK Oil Company pays him a fortune to acquire the rights to drill on his land. Patriarch Jed moves with his family into a mansion next door to his banker (Milburn Drysdale, of the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills), in the wealthy Beverly Hills, California, where he brings a moral, unsophisticated, and minimalistic lifestyle to the swanky, sometimes self-obsessed and superficial community. The theme song introduces the viewer to the world's most fortunate hunting accident, whereby Jed shoots at game but instead hits "black gold, Texas tea": he had discovered oil. Double entendres and cultural misconceptions were the core of the sitcom's humor. Frequently, plots involved the outlandish efforts taken by Drysdale to keep the Clampetts in Beverly Hills and their money in his bank. The family's periodic attempts to return to the mountains were often prompted by Granny due to a perceived slight she received from one of the "city-folk."
J.D. "Jed" Clampett
Although he had received little formal education, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) has a good deal of common sense. A principal character of the show, Jed is a good-natured man, he is the apparent head of the family. Jed's wife (Elly May's mother) died but is referred to in the episode "Duke Steals A Wife" as Rose Ellen. Jed is shown to be an expert marksman and is extremely loyal to his family and kinfolk. The huge oil pool in the swamp he owned was the beginning of his rags-to-riches journey to Beverly Hills. Although he longs for the old ways back in the hills, he makes the best of being in Beverly Hills. Whenever he has anything on his mind, he sits on the curbstone of his mansion and whittles until he comes up with the answer. His catchphrase is, "Welllllll, doggies!" Jed's full first name, Jedediah, was only used once in the television series. Jed was one of the three characters to appear in all 274 episodes of the series.
Daisy May Moses (Irene Ryan), called "Granny" by all (relatives or not) is Jed's shotgun-toting mother-in-law and a true daughter of Dixie. Paul Henning, the show's creator/producer quickly disposed of the idea of Granny being Jed's mother, which would have changed the show's dynamics, making Granny the matriarch and Jed subordinate to her. Granny can be aggressive but is often overruled by Jed. She is a Confederate to the core, defending President Jefferson Davis, the Stars and Bars, and the simple life. Short-fused and easily angered, Granny fancies herself a "dunked" (not "sprinkled") Christian with forgiveness in her heart. She abhors "revenuers" and blue-coat Yankees. A self-styled "M.D." — "mountain doctor" — she claims to have an edge over expensive know-nothing city physicians. In lieu of anesthesia, Granny uses her "white lightning" brew before commencing on painful treatments such as leech bleeding and yanking teeth with pliers.
Short and scrappy, Granny often wields a double-barreled, 12-gauge shotgun and fires it numerous times during the run of the show (in a first-season episode she chases Milburn Drysdale with it when she finds out his mother's family had a feud with her family back in the hills). She fires it once at the front lawn when Jed is witching for water and several times on the skeet shooting range. During the mock Indian invasion she believed she was shooting live shells, though Milburn Drysdale had removed the buckshot to protect the actors portraying the Indians. She fires rock salt and bacon rind at a crow during the "Happy Valley" episode, and again at the back of an armored truck in which Milburn Drysdale was taking refuge. She fires at (and hits in the posterior) Milburn Drysdale with rocksalt believing he is the ghost of "Lady Clemintine" ending their second visit to "Clampett Castle" in Kent, England.
Granny also fires "Lady Fingers" (which Elly had baked for Jethro to take to the Army Reserve) into the posterior of an actor portraying Gen. Ulysses S. Grant during "The Battle of Culpepper Plantation"
She is also able to tell the precise time by a sundial and the weather by a beetle (Granny Versus the Weather Bureau). Without her glasses, Granny is extremely nearsighted — once in a crossover with the Petticoat Junction show, Granny mistakes a dog for a baby child and a coffee pot for a telephone. Two of Granny's phobias are "Injuns" (she actually buys wigs so the Clampetts won't be "scalped") and the "cement pond" (swimming pool–she has a fear of water). In a long story arc in the show's ninth season, Elly May dates a U.S. Navy frogman, which confuses Granny: After seeing the frogman climb out of the pool in his skin-diving wear, she thinks that anyone who swims in the pool will be turned into a frog. She also has a peculiar way of retelling the War Between The States, in which she thinks the South has won and Jefferson Davis is the president, while calling Sherman's March "Sherman's Retreat to the Sea." Any attempts to correct her meet with failure. She is also known for slicing off switches to use on Jethro, mainly whenever he goes too far with his idiotic schemes.
There are references to Granny growing up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. From episode 9: "When I was a girl back in Tennessee, I set so many boys' hearts on fire that they took to calling that neck of the woods The Smoky Mountains." In season 9, episode 23, she says she is from Limestone, Tennessee.
Granny's full name, Daisy Moses, allegedly an homage to the popular and dearly loved folk artist Anna Mary Robertson, known to the world as Grandma Moses. (Grandma Moses died in 1961, a year before The Beverly Hillbillies made its television debut.) Granny is frequently referred to as "Granny Clampett" in a number of episodes but technically she is a Moses. Granny appears in all 274 episodes.
Elly May Clampett
Elly May (Donna Douglas), Jed's only child, is a mountain beauty with the body of a pinup girl and the soul of a tomboy. She can throw a fastball as well as "rassle" most men to a fall, and she can be as tender with her friends, animals, and family as she is tough with anyone she rassles. She said once that animals could be better companions than people, but as she grew older she saw that, "fellas kin be more fun than critters." Elly is squired about by eager young Hollywood actors with stage names like "Dash Riprock" and "Bolt Upright." Other boyfriends for Elly include Sonny Drysdale, Beau Short, accountant Fred Penrod, beatnik Sheldon Epps, and Mark Templeton, a frogman.
Elly's most notable weakness, oft mentioned when she is being "courted," is her lack of kitchen skills. Family members cringe when, for plot reasons, Elly takes over the kitchen. Rock-like donuts and cookies, for example, are a plot function in an episode featuring Wally Cox as bird watching Professor Biddle.
During the final season Elly May takes a job as a secretary at the Commerce Bank after Jed and Granny persuade her that it would be a good way to "meet a husband."
In the 1981 TV movie of The Beverly Hillbillies, Elly May is head of a zoo. Elly May appears in all 274 episodes.
In addition to the family dog, Duke (an old bloodhound), a number of animals lived on the Clampett estate thanks to animal-lover Elly. These animals were collectively known as her "critters". The most prominent pets were chimpanzees, but other animals (from typical dogs and cats to less-traditional house pets, such as deer, opossums, bobcats, bears, goats, raccoons, and kangaroos) were also occasionally featured.
Jethro (Max Baer, Jr.) is the son of Jed's cousin, Pearl Bodine (though he addresses Jed as his uncle). He drove the Clampett family to their new home in California and stayed on with them to further his education. The whole family boasts of Jethro's "sixth-grade education" but nevertheless feels he is a bit of an idiot. Jethro is simply naive in the first season of the show but becomes incredibly ignorant and pompous as the series progresses. He often shows off his cyphering abilities with multiplication and "go-zin-ta's," as in "five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times," etc. The tallest student in his class in the town of Oxford (so named because "that's where the oxen used to ford the creek") because of his age, he is often impressing others that he graduated "highest in his class at Oxford, 6ft 2." In Beverly Hills, he decides to go to college. He manages to enroll late in the semester at a local secretarial school due to his financial backing and earns his diploma by the end of the day because he did not understand what was going on in class and was too disruptive. This was an ironic in-joke – in real life, Max Baer, Jr., has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Santa Clara University (he also minored in philosophy).
Many stories in the series involve Jethro's endless career search, which include such diverse vocations as a millwright, a brain surgeon, street car conductor, double-naught spy, Hollywood producer (a studio flunky remarks Jethro has the right qualifications for being a producer—a sixth-grade education and an uncle who owns the studio. The in-joke gag of Jethro as a movie producer was replayed in the 1981 movie), soda jerk, short order cook, and once as a bookkeeper for Milburn Drysdale's bank. More often than not, his overall goal in these endeavors is to obtain as many pretty girls as humanly possible. Of all the Clampett clan, he is the one who makes the most change from 'country bumpkin' to 'city boy.' Another running gag is that Jethro is known as the "six-foot stomach" for his ability to eat: in one episode, he eats a jetliner's entire supply of steaks; in another, Jethro tries to set himself up as a Hollywood agent for cousin "Bessie" – with a fee of 10,000 bananas for Bessie and 1,000 bananas for Jethro. At one time Jed mentions Jethro was the only baby he knew born with a full set of teeth "just like a beaver." Jethro appears in 272 episodes; he is not in the third- or second-to-last episodes, but Baer of course remains billed in the title credits.
Milburn (Raymond Bailey), Margaret (Harriet E. MacGibbon), and Sonny (Louis Nye): The Drysdales are the Clampetts' next-door neighbors. Milburn is the Commerce Bank's tightwad president and the friendly bumpkins' confidant. The haughty Mrs. Drysdale boasts of a heritage that traces back to the Mayflower, but Milburn's concerns are strictly monetary. When suffering an anxiety attack, Milburn sniffs a stack of money and is quickly revived. Another time Miss Hathaway discovered that whenever Jed Clampett took money out of his pocket Drysdale's blood pressure would either go up or down depending on whether Jed was going to spend the money or not. Whenever Drysdale gets a taste of Granny's "Tennessee Tranquilzer" (moonshine), his face turns red. In the interest of keeping the Clampetts' account at all costs, Mr. Drysdale is prone to appease them, and says that anything they do is unquestionably right. He often forces others, especially his secretary, to placate the Clampetts by granting their unorthodox requests.
Although wife Margaret, a blue-blooded Bostonian, has obvious disdain for the "peasant" and "dreadful" hillbillies, she tacitly agrees to tolerate them (rather than Milburn lose their ever growing account—which is $96,000,000 in 1969, equal to $617,379,310 today). Margaret loathes all four "vagabonds," but her most heated rivalry is with Granny, with whom she occasionally has some "scraps." Raymond Bailey appears in 247 episodes. Harriet E. MacGibbon appears in 55 episodes between 1962 and 1969, she is not seen in the last two seasons of the show although is occasionally mentioned. Margaret's aged father has gambled away most of their money. Mrs. Drysdale's son—and Milburn's stepson—is Sonny (played by Louis Nye), who is introduced as a thirty-five year-old collegian who doesn't believe in working up a sweat and is an insufferable mama's boy. Finding Elly May a lovely, naive Pollyanna, he courts her until she literally tosses him. Sonny only appears in four episodes, three in 1962 and a final appearance in 1966.
Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp), whom the Clampetts address as "Miss Jane", is Drysdale's loyal and efficient secretarial assistant. Though she always carries out his wishes, she is inherently decent and is frequently put off by her boss's greed. When she is annoyed with him, as is often the case, especially when one of Drysdale's schemes goes too far, she usually and forcefully says, "Chief!" Jane is genuinely fond of the family (to the Clampetts, she is considered family; even Granny, the one most dead-set against living in California, likes her very much); Jane actually harbors something of a crush on Jethro for most of the series' run. At first, she mistakes the Clampetts as servants until she realizes who they really are (which almost costs her her job).
Miss Hathaway frequently has to "rescue" Drysdale from his idiotic schemes, receiving little or no thanks for her efforts. In one episode, she and Granny, disguised as "geisha girls", finally have enough and "crown" Drysdale and Jethro, who have made one too many comments about women serving men. Jane is loyal to Drysdale, as well, despite her misgivings toward his avarice and greed. In one episode, the Clampetts, feeling money has corrupted them, give all of their money to Virginia "Ginny" Jennings (Sheila Kuehl), a college student. While Drysdale moans the loss of the money, Jane immediately tells him to stop thinking about the Clampetts and start trying to get the Jennings account. Eventually, everyone discovered Jennings' real motives, and she was gone, with the Clampetts getting their money back, and things were as they were before. In one episode, it is established that Miss Jane sacrificed her job as the top secretary of the top executive of the top insurance company to join Mr. Drysdale at the Commerce Bank. Miss Jane was a Vassar graduate. Nancy Kulp appears in 246 episodes. In 1999, TV Guide ranked Jane Hathaway #38 on its "50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time" list.