Comedy programme The Beverly Hillbillies chronicled the Clampett family’s saga, with Jed Clampett, portrayed by Buddy Ebsen, gaining fortune at an alarming rate.
Jed became a billionaire in an instant and decided to relocate to Beverly Hills, California. The story’s turning point? The family kept up their backwoods lifestyle.
The streetwise Jed brought his Clampett family clan, and one of the many famous personalities stood out.
Jethro Bodine, the son of Jed’s cousin, Pearl, was portrayed by Max Baer Jr, a naïve and borderline dimwitted guy who demonstrated his amazing maths abilities with his multiplication classic “five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times.”
When The Beverly Hillbillies first broadcast in 1962, it was an immediate hit. It soared to the top place faster than any other programme in television history within the first three weeks of its launch.
The programme was a hit among television viewers. It lasted 11 years, with nine seasons and 274 episodes until being discontinued in 1971.
In 1964, The Beverly Hillbillies was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Show Comedy, as well as four Emmy nominations.
Max’s persona, on the other hand, had a goofy year-to-year smile, his chuckle made everyone else laugh, and, most importantly, he made all think his character, Jethro Bodine, was genuine.
Max had honed his southern drawl by listening to Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters recordings. He was able to do this while keeping a perpetually idiotic expression on his face, which clearly made people chuckle.
By playing the rustic bumpkin Jethro, Max Baer Jr became an American comic star. Not only that, but the performance provided Max with his big break.
Unfortunately, his life following the programme did not go as planned. This is the tale of the guy behind Jethro Bodine, a figure that Hollywood couldn’t get enough of.
Max Baer Jr. was born in Oakland, California on December 4, 1937. He is the son of boxing champion Max Baer and Mary Ellen Sullivan.
It would be a long time before Baer Jr entered the acting world. In 1949, he appeared in a theatre version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Blackpool Pavilion in England. Ultimately, it was a combination of chance, luck, and a lot of self-confidence that got him the part of a lifetime in The Beverly Hillbillies.
Baer Jr. grew up in Sacramento before moving to Santa Clara to study. He graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Business Management in 1959, but a year later he found himself in a Los Angeles parking lot.
According to a 1999 story, the year following graduation, Max Baer Jr chose to ride his motorbike to Los Angeles. He wound himself on the Warner Bros. lot, where an executive recognised him as James Garner.
After Baer Jr. was noticed, he wanted to try his hand at acting. Despite knowing nothing about acting, he quickly signed his first one-year contract. Rather, he reasoned that he may as well go for it.
He had modest parts and guest appearances on television in shows including 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and Hawaiian Eye.
Even though his career wasn’t taking off, he opted to remain, and soon he found himself with the best job he’d ever had: a comedy about a rural bumpkin family who get wealthy via oil.
He landed the part of Jethro Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies after an open audition, receiving $1000 for the pilot and $500 for the next programme.
The concert was a big success at this time. Baer never made more than $800 each episode, but he had an unique place in the hearts of the American television audience.
Max Baer Jr. felt he was performing well and, more importantly, making people laugh.
A feature-length remake of the iconic TV programme, starring Dolly Parton, debuted in 1993. Regrettably, it did not enjoy the same degree of success. To be honest, it’s hard to believe after they cast someone else in the part of Jethro.
In Beverly Hillbillies, renowned actress Donna Douglas portrayed mountain beauty Elly May Clampett.
In 2013, she applauded Max Baer Jr. for his great performance as Jethro, who may not have been the brightest bulb in the bulb box.
Donna Douglas died in 2015, at the age of 82, leaving Baer Jr as the show’s sole surviving cast member.
Baer Jr.’s buddy and TV historian Jeffrey D. Dalrymple agrees.
Baer Jr., in addition to being a recognised character on The Beverly Hillbillies, had a keen interest in athletics, much like his dad, who was a professional boxer.
Max Bear used to make a career by wandering across town and collecting rubbish from restaurants. He earned 35 cents every night and worked seven nights per week.
Boxing contests were another source of income for the dad; during the Great Depression, Max Baer requested additional fights.
Max Baer delivered a deadly blow to his opponent Frankie Campbell during a bout in 1930. Max Baer was shocked by the horrific tragedy, and he was never the same thereafter. He had to spend some time in prison, and his reputation suffered as a result.
Tragically, Baer Jr’s father, Max Baer, died in 1959 at the age of 50.
Baer Jr. was no boxer, but he did play professional golf, competing in various California competitions.
Baer Jr. lettered in golf, football, baseball, and basketball while attending Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California. He also won the Sacramento Junior Open Golf Tournament for the second year in a row. Eventually, he finished second in the men’s competition.
Max Baer Jr. paired up with professional golfer Charlie Sifford to win the pro-am category of the Andy Williams Golf Championship in San Diego in 1968.
With the cancellation of The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer Jr was left with few options.
One issue was that the producers only viewed him as Jethro, not Baer. He appeared as a guest on various series, including Love, Fantasy Island, and Murder, She Wrote.
Rather than working on many little films and TV series, he opted to strike out on his own, producing and directing. These may not have been Academy Award-worthy films, but he sure did put food on the table.
Bear Jr. found himself producing and directing two films, Ode to Billie Joe and Macon County Line, about small-town cops (1974).
According to reports, the film cost $225,000 to create. Nonetheless, it was a larger success than anybody could have predicted. I t was the single most lucrative independent film of 1974, with $18.8 million in North America and more than $30 million globally.
It was also the inspiration for the sequel Return to Macon County (1975).
Max Baer Jr amassed a fortune from his own films. And it quickly inspired the actor, writer, and producer to start his own firm.
His Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies legend was still intact. That’s why, in 1991, he chose to buy the Beverly Hillbillies moniker from CBS.
Baer Jr, now 84, intended to use the show’s premise and characters in casinos, amusement parks, restaurants, and cosmetics. The themed casino and amusement park were to be erected on 24 acres of his property in Carson Valley, Nevada.
The resort was to include over 200 rooms, 1,000 slot machines, and animatronic figurines of the performers.
Nevertheless, Baer Jr. has been involved in various disputes relating to his projects, and nothing has come of his desire of creating a blockbuster franchise based on the successful TV series.
Baer was said to have sued CBS in 2014. He alleged that the network had struck a secret contract with Jethro’s Barbecue in Des Moines. According to the actor, it hampered his ability to earn money from his position on the popular television programme.
Yet, the proprietors in Des Moines were convinced that it would not have an impact on their company.
Max Baer Jr has had one marriage. Joanne Kathleen Hill and he married in 1966. In 1971, they divorced.
He dated Chere Rhodes, a 30-year-old model from California, after a string of romances. Their romance lasted until a catastrophe occurred in Carson City, Nevada in January 2008. Chere was shot in the chest, and her death was ruled a suicide after an inquiry by authorities.
Baer Jr. opened up about the incident three months after her death, revealing that there was blood everywhere and that he was frightened when he found her.
Officers allegedly ran a paraffin test on the famed actor to be sure he didn’t shoot her.
Max Baer Jr. had to battle his way into the limelight in Hollywood. He remarked about his future in 1963, a comment that accurately depicted what he went through in the years that followed.
Baer expressed that Baers never turned out the way they had hoped. His grandpa always aspired to be a prize boxer, but he ended up working as a butcher. He did win a butchering championship once. Baer’s dad aspired to be an actor, but as everyone knows, he became a boxer. He intended to be a lawyer and now is an actor. His career has benefited greatly from the show. The exposure will also help him find work in the future. And he hopes to prove someday that he can play something other than a hillbilly.
Whatever occurred before or after the show, we will remember Max Baer Jr as a fantastic performer who made us laugh in almost every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.
He’ll always have a particular place in our hearts, it’s fair to say.