The Beverly Hillbillies is an American television series about a hillbilly family transplanted to Beverly Hills, California after finding oil on their land. A Filmways production, the series aired on CBS from September 26, 1962 – September 7, 1971 and comprises 274 episodes—106 in black-and-white (1962–1965) and 168 in color (1965–1971). The show starred Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, Irene Ryan as Daisy May "Granny" Moses, Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett and Max Baer, Jr. as Jethro Bodine.
At the beginning of The Beverly Hillbillies series, the OK Oil Company discovers oil in a swamp in the Ozarks owned by family patriarch Jed Clampett. Jed moves with his family to the wealthy Los Angeles County city of Beverly Hills, California, where he attempts to live a rural life despite his wealth. This sequence of events was recapitulated in the title credits for each show and was described in the lyrics of the theme song, so that new viewers would easily understand who the Hillbillies were and why they were in Beverly Hills (although the credits and song portray Jed finding the oil while hunting as opposed to knowing the oil was there but being unaware of the value). Lasting nine seasons and accumulating 7 Emmy nominations, it remains in syndication on several cable stations including TV Land.
The Hillbillies themselves were Buddy Ebsen as the widowed patriarch Jed "J.D." Clampett; Irene Ryan as his mother-in-law, Daisy May "Granny" Moses; Donna Douglas as his daughter Elly May Clampett; and Max Baer Jr. as his cousin's son Jethro Bodine.
The supporting cast featured Raymond Bailey as Jed's greedy banker Milburn Drysdale; Harriet E. MacGibbon as Drysdale's snobbish wife Margaret Drysdale; and Nancy Kulp as Drysdale's secretary, "Miss" Jane Hathaway, who pined for the clueless Jethro.
Jed's cousin Pearl Bodine (played by Bea Benaderet) was Jethro's mother. She appeared in several episodes during the first season, as did Jethro's twin sister Jethrine, played by Baer in drag, using Linda Kaye Henning's voiceover.
Although not a major character, actress Sharon Tate had a recurring role during the early years of the series. Tate appeared in a dark wig as Janet Trego, an assistant to Miss Hathaway at the Commerce Bank. Two episodes before Janet's debut episode, Sharon had appeared (sans wig) as one of Elly May's classmates in "Elly Starts to School"
Veteran canine actor Stretch portrayed Jed's bloodhound Duke, and the many other animal actors on the series came to be known as "Elly May's critters".
The theme song "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" was written by producer and writer Paul Henning and originally performed by Bluegrass artists Flatt and Scruggs. The song was sung by Jerry Scoggins (backed by Flatt and Scruggs) over the opening and end credits of each episode. It was #44 on the music charts in 1962 and a #1 country hit. Flatt and Scruggs also had another Billboard country top ten hit with the comic "Pearl, Pearl, Pearl," an ode to the feminine charms of Miss Pearl Bodine who was featured in the episode "Jed Throws a Wingding," the first of several Flatt and Scruggs appearances on the show.
The six main cast members participated on a 1963 Columbia Records soundtrack album which featured original song numbers in character. Additionally, Ebsen, Ryan and Douglas each made a few solo recordings following the show's success, including Ryan's 1966 novelty single, "Granny's Miniskirt".
The series generally featured no country music beyond the bluegrass banjo theme song, although country star Roy Clark and the team of Flatt and Scruggs occasionally played on the program. Pop singer Pat Boone appeared on one episode as himself, with the premise that he hailed from the same area of the country as the Clampetts.
Despite being panned by some critics, the show shot to the top of the Nielsen Ratings shortly after its premiere and stayed there for several seasons. During its first two seasons, it was the number one program in the U.S. During its second season, it earned some of the highest ratings ever recorded for a half-hour sitcom. The season 2 episode The Giant Jackrabbit also became the most watched telecast up to the time of its airing, and still remains the most watched half-hour episode of a sitcom as well It was ranked in the top ten most watched prime time programs for six of its nine seasons.
The series received two Emmy nominations for Best Comedy Series as well as nominations for cast members Irene Ryan and Nancy Kulp.
Influence on other television shows
Because of the show's high ratings, CBS asked creator Paul Henning to pen two more folksy comedies, spawning a mini-genre of rural sitcoms during the 1960s. Petticoat Junction featured an extended family, including three pretty young women of marrying age, running a small hotel in the isolated rural town of Hooterville. Green Acres flipped the Clampetts' fish-out-of-water concept by depicting two city sophisticates moving to Hooterville, which was populated by oddball country bumpkins.
Certain actors appeared on more than one of these series:
- Bea Benaderet, who had played Jethro's mother during the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies, was the mother of the family on Petticoat Junction.
- Linda Kaye Henning, who provided the voiceover for the Beverly Hillbillies character Jethrine, portrayed Benaderet's daughter Betty Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction.
- Edgar Buchanan, who starred in all 222 episodes of Petticoat Junction and guest-starred in 17 episodes of Green Acres, also guested in 3 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, always as the character Uncle Joe Carson.
- Several animal actors trained by Frank Inn, including Higgins the dog, also moved between series as needed.
Despite the actor cross-overs and the character Uncle Joe Carson's multiple appearances (which made it clear that the three shows were set in the same fictional universe), the two Hooterville series retained identities that were distinct from The Beverly Hillbillies.
Cancellation and "the Rural Purge"
Nielsen ratings for the 1970-71 season indicate that the bottom had dropped out for the perennial Top 30 series but was still fairly popular when it was canceled in 1971 after 274 episodes. The CBS network, prompted by pressure from advertisers
seeking a more sophisticated urban
audience, decided to refocus its schedule on several "hip" new urban-themed shows, and to make room for them, all of CBS's rural-themed comedies were simultaneously canceled. This action came to be known as "the Rural Purge
". Pat Buttram
, who played Mr. Haney on Green Acres,
famously remarked that, "It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.
In addition to The Beverly Hillbillies, the series that were eliminated included Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw, the latter of which was resurrected in first-run syndication, where it ran for another 21 years. Petticoat Junction had been canceled a year earlier due to declining ratings following the death of its star Bea Benaderet.
The 1981 CBS TV movie
In 1981, a Return of the Beverly Hillbillies TV movie was aired on the CBS network. Irene Ryan had died, so her character was written out and made Imogene Coca Granny's Mother. Max Baer refused to reprise the role that both started and stymied his career, so the character of Jethro Bodine was given to another actor, Ray Young.
The familiar Clampett mansion was not used as a location, as its owners sought too much money to lease it. The plot had Jed back in Bugtussle, while Elly May and the recast Jethro remained in the Golden State. Jane Hathaway had become a Department of Energy agent and was seeking Granny's "White Lightnin'" recipe to combat the energy crisis. Since Granny had gone on to "her re-ward", it was up to Granny's centenarian "Maw" (Imogene Coca) to divulge the secret brew's ingredients. Subplots dealt with Jethro playing an egocentric, starlet-starved Hollywood producer, Jane and her boss (Werner Klemperer) having a romance and Elly May owning a petting zoo. The four main characters finally got together by the end of the story. This TV-movie was made a scant decade after the last episode of the series; nonetheless, some viewers felt that the spirit of the series was lost on many fronts.
The 1993 The Beverly Hillbillies film returned the storyline to its original premise, retelling the arrival of the Clampetts in Beverly Hills.
Re-runs, videocassettes, DVDs and merchandise
Reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies are still televised daily around the world in syndication. The show is broadcast on TV Land many times throughout each day of the week, including weekends, albeit heavily edited, adversely affecting the pace of the story and character development. The show is distributed by CBS Television Distribution, the syndication arm of CBS Paramount Television. The repeats of the show that debuted on CBS Daytime on September 5-9, 1966 as "Mornin' Beverly Hillbillies" through September 10, 1971 and on September 13-17, 1971 as "The Beverly HILLBILLIES" lasted up to Winter 1971–1972. It aired at 11:00-11:30am Eastern/10:00-10:30am Central through September 3, 1971, then moved to 10:30-11:00am Eastern/9:30-10:00am Central for the last season on CBS Daytime.
Many episodes of the first two seasons of the series are in the public domain because CBS, having bought the rights to the series shortly after its cancellation, neglected to renew their copyrights. As a result, these episodes have been unofficially released on home video and DVD on many low-budget labels and shown on low-power television stations and low-budget networks in prints. In many video prints of the public domain episodes, the original and much-loved theme music has been replaced by generic music due to copyright issues.
However, before his death, Paul Henning, whose estate now holds the original film elements to the public domain episodes, authorized MPI Home Video to officially release the best of the first two seasons on DVD, the first "ultimate collection" of which was released in the fall of 2005. These collections include the original, uncut versions of the first season's episodes, complete with their original theme music and opening sponsor plugs. Vol. 1 has, among its bonus features, the alternate, un-aired version of the pilot film, The Hillbillies Of Beverly Hills (the version of the episode that sold the series to CBS), and the "cast commercials" (cast members pitching the products of the show's sponsors) originally shown at the end of each episode.
For many years, 20th Century Fox, through a joint venture with CBS called CBS/Fox Video, officially released select episodes of Hillbillies on videocassette. After Viacom merged with CBS, Paramount Home Entertainment (which was acquired by Viacom in 1994) took over the video rights.
In 2006, Paramount announced plans to release the copyrighted episodes in boxed sets through CBS DVD later that year. The show's second season (consisting of the public domain episodes from that season) was released on DVD October 7th, 2008 as "...The Official Second Season", albeit with music changes and replacements that are typical of more recent CBS DVD releases.
In 1993, a 110-card set of Beverly Hillbillies trading cards was released by Eclipse Comics. Although timed to coincide with the release of the 1993 Beverly Hillbillies film, these cards featured photos from the original television series, with storylines and character details on the back. That same year, Ebsen, Douglas, and Baer reunited onscreen for the only time in the TBS retrospective television special, "The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies".
Characters and critters
Jed: Although he had received little formal education, Jed Clampett had a good deal of common sense. A good-natured man, he was the ostensible head of the family. Jed was shown to be an expert marksman and was 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 longed for the old ways back in the hills of the Ozarks, he made the best of being in Beverly Hills. Whenever he had anything on his mind, he would sit on the curbstone of his mansion and whittle until he came up with the answer. Jedediah, the version of Jed's name used in the 1993 Beverly Hillbillies
theatrical movie, was never mentioned in the original television series (though ironically, on Ebsen's subsequent series, Barnaby Jones
, Barnaby's nephew J.R. was also named Jedediah). In one episode Jed and Granny reminisce about seeing Buddy Ebsen
and Vilma Ebsen
-a joking reference to the Ebsens' song and dance act. Granny: Shotgun-toting Granny had insights into human nature. She styled herself an "M.D." — "mountain doctor" — claiming to have a complete knowledge of herbs
, potions and tonics. She was extremely scrappy and was an expert at wielding a double-barreled, 12-gauge shotgun, although the one time she actually fired it, unknown to her, Mr. Drysdale had replaced the shotgun pellets with bacon rind
and rock salt
after he arranged for Hollywood stuntmen to dress up as fake Native Americans
to "attack" the Clampett mansion. She was also able to tell the precise time, to the minute and even the second, by looking at the position of the sun. Paul Henning, the series' creator, clearly 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. As Jed's mother-in-law, she could be feisty, but her ideas could also be overruled. Two of Granny's phobias were "Injuns" (she actually bought wigs so the Clampetts wouldn't be "scalped") and the "cement pond" (she has a fear of water). In a long story arc
in the show's eighth 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 had a peculiar way of retelling the Civil War
, where she thought that the South had won, and Jefferson Davis
was the President. Any attempts to correct her met with failure. She was also known for slicing off switches to use on Jethro mainly, whenever he went too far with his dumb and idiotic schemes.
- There are references to Granny growing up in the Smokey 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 Smokey Mountains."
- Granny's full name, Daisy Moses, was a 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. Jethro: Jethro was simply naive in the first season of the show, but became incredibly ignorant and self centered as the series progressed. Like Jed, he was an outstanding marksman. He was particularly proud of his ed-ja-ma-cation: he spent 12 years at school — before passing the sixth grade. The tallest student in his class in the town of Oxford because of his age, a running joke was people misunderstanding and being impressed that Jethro graduated "top of his class at Oxford". He often showed off his cyphering abilities with multiplication and "go-zin-ta's", as in "five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times," etc. After that, he decided to go to college. He managed to enroll late in the semester at a local secretarial school due to his financial backing and earned his diploma by the end of the day because he didn't understand what was going on in class and was too disruptive. (This was an injoke--in real life Max Baer Jr. has a college degree in Business).
- Many stories in the series involved Jethro's endless career search, which included such diverse vocations as brain surgeon, Double-naught spy, Hollywood producer, soda jerk, and once as a bookkeeper for Milburn Drysdale's bank. More often than not, his overall goal in these endeavors was to obtain as many pretty girls as humanly possible, which were usually the catalyst that prompted him to do so. While working as a producer, Jethro called himself "Beef Jerky", a wannabe playboy and man-about-town sophisticate. Out of all the Clampett clan, he was the one who made the most changes from 'country bumpkin' to 'city boy.' Another running gag is that Jethro was known as the "six foot stomach" for his ability to eat: in one episode he ate a jetliner's entire supply of steaks; in another episode Jethro tried 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. Jethro could never succeed in any career he tried, although in the non-canonical 1981 TV-movie version of The Beverly Hillbillies, he finally found the career he was best suited for, becoming a Hollywood studio mogul. (One episode of the original series has a movie executive remarking that Jethro has the qualifications for being a movie producer--a 6th grade education and his uncle owns the studio.) Elly May: Elly May was a strong, capable girl. She could throw a fastball as well as "rassle" any man to a fall. She could be as tender with her friends, animals and people, as she was tough with Jethro or anyone else she was rasslin'. 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 was squired about by eager young Hollywood actors with stage names like "Dash Riprock" and "Bolt Upright". (Obvious puns on the actors Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Gig Young and Rip Torn.) Dash Riprock was a particularly interesting character who made several appearances; he was torn between his attraction to Elly and some sympathy for Jethro and his fear of "those crazy Clampetts." Other boyfriends for Elly included Sonny Drysdale (Louis Nye), Beau Short, beatnik Sheldon Epps and Mark Templeton, frogman.
- Elly's most notable weakness, oft mentioned when she was being "courted", was her lack of kitchen skills. Family members would cringe when, for plot reasons, Elly would take over the kitchen. Rock like donuts and cookies, for example, were a plot function in an episode featuring Wally Cox as bird watching Professor Biddle.
- Elly May's name was a homage to the character of Ellie May Lester in the Erskine Caldwell rural life novel Tobacco Road. The book was also made into a long-running play. In 1941, it was adapted into a comedy-drama movie directed by John Ford and featured Gene Tierney as Ellie May who, at the age of 23, was considered an "old maid." This was reflected later in The Beverly Hillbillies when Granny claimed that Elly May was over 20 and too old to get a man. In the 1981 TV movie of The Beverly Hillbillies, Elly May is head of a zoo. Duke: The Clampetts' family dog. He's an old bloodhound that Jed had bought for four bits (50 cents) when he was a puppy. In early episodes, Jethro tried to teach Duke to fetch sticks, though to Jed, it looked as if Duke taught Jethro how to do that trick. In a couple of episodes, Duke got involved with a French poodle that was brought in to mate with Mrs. Drysdale's pampered pooch Claude. Apparently, the poodle had better taste and had Duke's puppies instead. When Mrs. Drysdale wanted Claude to get revenge against Duke, Jed warned her that he'd seen that old hound dog hold his own against a bobcat. The Drysdales: The Drysdales were the Clampetts' neighbors. Although Mrs. Drysdale had obvious disdain for their neighbors, Mr. Drysdale was willing to do anything to keep them next door so as to not lose control of their millions, which were on deposit in his bank. Between Mrs. Drysdale and Mr. Drysdale there existed a subtle social commentary on class issues, specifically whether "breeding" or actual wealth should be the determinants that entitle a person to join the privileged class.
- Mrs. Drysdale had aristocratic views on class, restricting her social contact to people who were born of pure blood. To her, the most desirable people were those whose ancestors had been among the first settlers of colonial America. She had a xenophobic dislike of immigrants and interlopers of whom she saw the Clampetts as the worst example, and she continually led outlandish campaigns to rid her city of the uncouth hillbillies. Her position was undercut when it was revealed in one episode that, while Mrs. Drysdale was descended from Mayflower immigrants, the Clampett family had actually arrived earlier, at the founding of Jamestown. Mrs. Drysdale's worldview was turned completely upside down when she was told, "When your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, Mr. Clampett's were there waiting for them." (This line, incidentally, was originated by the cowboy-comedian Will Rogers, who repeatedly used it against Anglo-American snobs to point out his own proud Cherokee heritage.) This discovery still didn't change her views on the Clampetts and she was as full of hatred of them as ever. She disliked the family mainly, but her most heated rivalry was with Granny.
- Mr. Drysdale, like the Clampetts, had country roots, although his were in the distant past. One very early episode had Granny chasing Mr. Drysdale with a shotgun after he told her his family was also from Tennessee -- a family that was in a feud with Granny's family.
Mr. Drysdale, unlike his wife, placed wealth above prestige. He clung to people with money and had far more respect for the Clampetts, despite their backwoods ways, than he did for Mrs. Drysdale's son, Sonny, who didn't believe in getting his hands dirty with work. Drysdale had a nephew, named after him, called Milby. The swindling Milby (who opened a pawn shop at age six; and was expelled from three military schools in one year for usury) attempted to con the Clampetts out of tens of thousands of dollars of antiques, paintings and the like; but was stopped in this by his uncle, who took away his money belt, to the screaming Milby's disdain! Mr. Drysdale's reverence for the Clampetts was so great that despite the fact that they had a backwoods approach to life, he saw everything they did as unquestionably right (because they had money) and bent over backwards to rearrange the rest of the world to cater to their whims. For instance, when Jethro wanted to enroll in an elite boarding school, the headmistress has problems with the situation for several obvious reasons, but Mr. Drysdale leveraged his deed on the school mortgage as clout to force the school to admit Jethro. Another example was to get them a gorilla, so he hired an actor who played a gorilla to be their "servant", which met with disastrous results. During World War II Drysdale was a stateside Quartermaster Sergeant who was nicknamed "Dracula" Drysdale for charging 40% daily interest on loans. One of Drysdale's clients had to transfer to the Paratroops for more pay and ended up a POW; years later as Sherriff's Deputy he had the satisfaction of arresting Drysdale for dressing up like Paul Von Hindenburg in a tank at a city Park. (Drysdale had dressed up like a German Field Marshal to please Jethro who was dressed like George S. Patton. Raymond Bailey had a brief scene as a US Navy Admiral in the 1961 comedy The Absent-Minded Professor; by coincidence Harriet MacGibbon starred in the "Flubber" 1963 sequel Son of Flubber.) Jane Hathaway: Jane Hathaway, whom the Clampetts addressed as "Miss Jane," was Drysdale's loyal and efficient assistant. Though she always carried out his wishes, she was inherently decent and was frequently put off by her boss' greed. When she was annoyed with him, as was often especially when one of Drysdale's schemes went too far, she would usually and forcefully say "Chief!" Unlike Drysdale (who was merely interested in the Clampetts' wealth), Jane was genuinely fond of them (to the Clampetts, she was considered family; even Granny, the one most dead-set against living in California, liked her very much and thought of her as part of the family), in fact, she actually harbored something of a crush on Jethro for most of the series' run. At first, she mistook the Clampetts as the servants, until she realized who they really were (which almost cost 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 Jenny 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. Sonny: Episodes in 1962 and 1966 featured Mrs. Drysdale's ne'er-do-well son, Mr. Drysdales stepson by marriage, Sonny (played by Louis Nye), a Mama's Boy whose "career" consisted of going to college. Sonny was at one point a potential husband for Elly May. When he jilted her, there was nearly a feud, this was conveniently resolved by having Elly state she didn't want to marry Sonny either. Pearl: Jed's cousin Pearl Bodine was Jethro's mother. She was a generally well-meaning mother to Jethro. She also was a a popular character, often used as a foil for Granny, she disappeared after the first year, for the simple reason that Bea Benaderet, the actress who portrayed her, had become the star of another Paul Henning series, Petticoat Junction. Like Elly May, Pearl's name came from that of a character (Pearl Lester) in the popular rural-life novel, play, and film Tobacco Road. Dash Riprock: Dash (Larry Pennell) was the handsome Hollywood actor that Mr. Drysdale forced into courting Elly May by threatening to put him in a television show called Crabman. Once Dash saw the beautiful Elly in her bathing suit, however, he gathered considerably more enthusiasm for his task. Elly initially liked Dash and enjoyed being with him on dates. Jethro, however, was more enamored with Dash and his playboy persona than was his comely cousin. Riprock was a send-up of the cookie-cutter studio names employed by 1960s Hollywood, who included Rock Hudson, Rip Torn, Gig Young, Tab Hunter, et.al. Riprock's real name (before being changed by Hollywood moguls) was "Homer Noodleman," and he was from Peoria, Illinois. Visiting hill-folk: Occasionally characters from the hills made appearances — Lafe Crick, a lazy and boorish yet oddly charismatic fellow who was hoping to help himself to a bit of the Clampett fortune, appeared at one point, fooling everyone about his intentions except Granny and Jed. Additionally, the ukulele-strumming Jasper "Jazzbo" Depew appeared to woo Jethrine Bodine in a few episodes. Elly May's "critters": Elly May had a deep rapport with animals and adopted a great diversity of them. These animals were collectively known as her "critters". The critters included numerous dogs/puppies, and cats/kittens, as well as a deer, an opossum, a bear, some goats, a raccoon, a kangaroo, and a several chimpanzees. One chimpanzee, named "Cousin Bessie", wore a dress and was prominently featured in many episodes. As with Elly May and Pearl, who were named for characters from the popular Erskine Caldwell novel, play, and film, Tobacco Road, Cousin Bessie's name also drew on that of a character from Tobacco Road, Sister Bessie. A running gag is Jethro complaining that "cousin Bessie" being smarter than he is!
- The trainer of all the animals in the series was Frank Inn, who also trained the animals for the contemporaneous rural comedy series Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.
In episode 258, "The Frog Family", Granny told a psychiatrist that Jed and Jethro were second cousins (a common error when actually referring to a "first cousin once removed"). In the same episode, Granny also recounted a story about Jethro's father, Fred Bodine, who died in a drowning incident. However in an earlier episode Jethro told another psychiatrist that he used to go hunting with his father.
A running joke is Granny's loyalty and revisionist history in regards to the "Boys in Grey", but she hails from the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee, which although part of the Confederacy remained loyal to the Union. This however may be explained as Granny's confusion as she states the North tried to withdraw from the United States not the other way around. She consistently says Jefferson Davis is the President of the United States which would explain her confusion.
There is no real clear indicator of where the Clampetts hail from. Granny is mentioned as being from "across the river" and born in the same county as Davy Crockett. That would place her birth in Eastern Tennessee. There are other references in episodes which suggest an origin in the Ozarks of Arkansas or Missouri. In the opening episodes, it's established that the owner of OK Oil, lives in Tulsa about 50 miles away, which would place the Clampetts in Arkansas. Also Jethro makes several references to Springfield and Joplin which are in Southwestern Missouri. Injoke references also suggest Bug Tussle is near Silver Dollar City or near Hooterville of Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. In the beginning episodes Jethrine meets Jasbo Depew and they go to a dance in nearby Hooterville. In one episode Granny tells of a 3rd cousin, a famous "painter" (of barns) in "Pike County" (there is a Pike County in Arkansas and one in Missouri). One episode has Granny referring to her moonshine as "Tennessee Tranquilizer".
The opening episode establishes the Clampetts' nearest neighbor is eight miles way. Indeed Pearl seems to live in a very small town while Jed, Granny and Elly live far back in the woods. As the Clampetts first settle into their mansion, Jed, Granny and Elly all have no idea what a phone is but Jethro does, so his family does seem to be a bit more advanced.
Most episodes revolved around the clash between the "uncivilized" hillbilly culture represented by the Clampetts and the "civilized" American culture of the Drysdales. The Clampetts lived as they always had, even in their large, elegant mansion, never abandoning their mountain attire or replacing the old rattletrap truck in which they had they moved to California. All the Hillbillies were handy with firearms and always seemed to have their weapons close at hand and ready to draw. They continued to grow their own food, and Granny made lye soap and moonshine. The extreme potency of the moonshine liquor and the harshness of the lye soap were running gags throughout the run of the series.
As another running joke, the movie theaters back in the hills were still showing films from the silent movie era and the Hillbillies were unaware of talking pictures or more contemporary movie stars. Granny's favorite actor was Hoot Gibson, but she also had an intense crush on William S. Hart, and the whole Clampett family adored Mary Pickford. Silent movie legend Gloria Swanson made a memorable guest appearance on the show as herself in an episode that featured a comic parody of a silent melodrama. The Clampetts did, however, have a television, on which they watched soap operas and "rasslin'", as well as John Wayne movies, as he was apparently one of the few "talkie" movie stars of whom they were aware. Wayne made a brief cameo as himself after the Clampett mansion was "attacked" by stuntmen dressed as Native Americans.
Pearl and Granny often fought for kitchen supremacy. Pearl once told Granny "a blood cousin trumps a mother-in-law". This underscored a familial disconnect between Jethro and Granny; although they shared no bloodlines, Jethro still called her "Granny" (as did everyone else on the show, including Jane and the Drysdales). Other than their kitchen wars, relations between Granny and Pearl were generally friendly. The second season began with a brief mention of Pearl having moved back to the hills, an ironic departure, as it was Pearl who had urged Jed to move to California. The change came about because actress Bea Benaderet had left the show to star in Petticoat Junction). Mrs. Drysdale soon became Granny's main sparring partner.
Although both Douglas and Baer were well into their twenties when the series started, during the first years of the series, their characters were supposed to be teenagers. Elly May was enrolled in an elite girls' school in the first season, although no further mention was made of her education in later episodes. Jethro was enrolled in a sixth-grade class with much younger students; a few episodes later on, the scripts suggested that he was still in school.
A running theme during the series involved the outlandish efforts Mr. Drysdale took to keep the Clampetts in Beverly Hills (and their money in his bank). Their desires to return to the mountains were often prompted by Granny after some perceived slight she received from the "city-folk" around them. Drysdale went so far as to recreate the log cabin the Clampetts had lived in and place it right next to the "cee-ment pond" and the still Granny had installed to make moonshine. Another time Drysdale followed the Clampetts to the "Hills" and bought up the Silver Dollar City "bank" just to make sure he had a controlling interest in the Clampetts' money. One running gag was that when Jed would take money out of his pocket, Drysdale's blood pressure would go up. A similar running joke was that when it seemed the Clampetts would take their money out of his bank, Drysdale's face would turn green. A variation of the joke of Drysdale's face changing color is in one episode when after being given some of Granny's "Tennessee Tranquilizer" (moonshine), Drysdale's face turns red!
Another frequent source of humor dealt with Jethro's endless career search, which included such diverse vocations as soda jerk, brain surgeon, Hollywood celebrity, and secret "double naught" agent/spy. Jethro coveted movie star fame and relished becoming a "playboy" like Elly's sometimes-beau Dash Riprock (Larry Pennell). Jethro's stupidity usually caused such career attempts to fail spectacularly, as when he decided to open a "topless" restaurant ("The Happy Gizzard"), where the waiters and waitresses were hatless. The one time in the series when Jethro almost succeeded as a "Hollywood celebrity" was when "Cousin Roy" (Roy Clark) tried to get Jethro to back him up as a country singer in Hollywood; Jethro refused and failed as usual. Jethro did have one success, of sorts. When he rescued a Bird Watchers girl troop who fell into the "cement pond" (they were attacked by ants), Jethro got a "lifesaving badge"!
Misunderstandings were a general source of humor in the program: when the Clampetts did not understand something they had never encountered before (such as a water faucet), or when various city dwellers could not comprehend something the Clampetts were talking about. A group of businessmen overheard Jed talking about "crawdads" and concluded that he was discussing a new type of military vehicle, which they wanted to invest in.
The Clampetts went back to the hills for Christmas during the first season but did not return there again until the eighth season, during which several episodes were filmed on location at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. During this period, Shugh Fisher and Elvia Allman joined the cast in the semi-regular roles of Jed's eccentric friend "Shorty" and Granny's arch-nemesis Elverna Bradshaw, respectively.
One constant throughout the series was that the Hillbillies, who were scrupulously honest, were surrounded by cynical, conniving and money-hungry "city-folk," whose plans were always foiled (usually unknowingly) by the Clampetts.
- 1962-1963: #1
- 1963-1964: #1
- 1964-1965: #12
- 1965-1966: #8
- 1966-1967: #9
- 1967-1968: #12
- 1968-1969: #10
- 1969-1970: #18
- 1970-1971: #33 (Citation needed)
- Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan & Donna Douglas appeared in all 274 episodes of the series. Max Baer, Jr. appeared in 273 of the 274 episodes.
- During President Bill Clinton's administration, Saturday Night Live did a spoof in which Clinton goes to the White House to the theme of "The Beverly Hillbillies". Later in the 1993 film, it is suggested that Clinton is a cousin of the Clampetts having received an invitation to Jed's wedding.