The Beverly Hillbillies’ Star, Buddy Ebsen, Was Ready to Retire Before Reading the Iconic Show’s Script


Buddy Ebsen was known for a lot of different acting roles. He appeared in a series of successful TV shows and movies before opting to portray Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. The famed actor emerged as the star of the show, and he is largely remembered for the part. Ebsen almost didn’t get around to playing Jed, though. He was seriously considering retirement before the script came across his desk.

Buddy Ebsen was prepping for retirement before The Beverly Hillbillies
Paul Henning, the producer of The Beverly Hillbillies, once sat down for an interview with The Television Academy Foundation. The famed producer and screenwriter recalled how Ebsen came to be Jed and exactly how his casting impacted the series.

Henning recalled that Ebsen’s agent put Henning and Ebsen in the same room to discuss The Beverly Hillbillies. Ebsen agreed to take the meeting, although he wasn’t looking for a new project. Henning read the pilot script with the famed actor. After hearing the concept and reading the script, Buddy Ebsen decided against retirement and opted, instead, to take on the role of Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. Henning said the famed actor told him he was going to “forget about retirement,’ at the meeting.

Ebsen’s casting is what set the show in full motion. Henning recalled that the buy-in of Ebsen helped him cast the show’s other parts, all of which revolved around Jed in some way.

How old was Buddy Ebsen when he starred in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’?
Ebsen might have been eying retirement before the script for The Beverly Hillbillies came across his desk, but he wasn’t particularly old at the time. Ebsen was born in 1908, and the first episode of The Beverly Hillbillies aired in 1962. He was just 54 when the first episode aired.

Despite his relatively young age, Buddy Ebsen had already spent decades in Hollywood before taking on the part of Jed Clampett. His first film credit came in 1935, and he worked steadily after, landing larger and larger roles as the years marched on. In 1961 he appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany’s alongside Audrey Hepburn as Doc Golightly. The iconic role would have been his last major role if it weren’t for The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the end for Ebsen, though. After the series ended, Ebsen continued to act. He took on the role of the title character in Barnaby Jones and struck gold once more. The series aired for eight seasons. He appeared in several more shows and movies before amassing his final acting credit for voice work in King of the Hill in 1999. Ebsen died in 2003. He was 95.


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