The Beverly Hillbillies was a bonafide comedic classic when it debuted in 1962. The show ran for almost nine years, taking America through nearly an entire decade before the Clampetts retired for good. The show has since enjoyed success in syndication, giving new generations a chance to join in on the laughs.
Today we’re looking at 10 facts about the Beverly Hillbillies that you never knew, so feel free to relax in the cement pond and take a load off while we travel back in time.
10 IT’S NOT ENTIRELY OIL-ACCURATE
The story of the Beverly Hillbillies is a simple and straightforward one. Jed Clampett, a “poor mountaineer” who had trouble putting food on the table, went out hunting and fired at potential game, which inadvertently struck an oil deposit that began spewing crude oil.
All fine and dandy, except for one problem – oil deposits are never found near mountains due to their inherent geological makeup. It would be impossible for a mountainous region to sustain an oil pocket, which is why they are mainly found in desert areas and arctic seas.
9 IT BROKE #1 RATINGS RECORDS
The Beverly Hillbillies took just 3 weeks to race to the top of the ratings charts and grab the #1 spot. Not only has this broken records that lasted for decades, but it did so within a volatile social climate. CBS even ran episodes after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, yet still managed to weave through America’s mourning long enough to inject a little joy.
The show’s combination of harmless, good-natured humor and lovable characters was certainly a huge catalyst for those who needed a little cheer in their lives at that time.
8 IT WAS SNUBBED BY CRITICS
The Beverly Hillbillies was the poster child for critic hate throughout its entire run. While audiences lapped it up and adored the characters, the media couldn’t make the connection. Their hatred of the show was legendary, with outlets like Time calling it “the lowest form of humor.”
This may have had something to do with the blossoming urban sprawl which was starting to replace the rural mindset at the time. This kind of divide between urban and rural populations has existed right until this very day, with neither side truly understanding the other.
7 THE FIRST SEASON IS PUBLIC DOMAIN
CBS made a boo-boo by failing to renew their copyrights after the Beverly Hillbillies was canceled, effectively placing the entire first season in the public domain. As such, anyone can legally release it and charge money, if they’re willing to go through the work.
This seemed to be an issue in the 60s, with many movies and TV shows like Night of the Living Dead, Atom Age Vampire, and The Dick Van Dyke Show falling into public domain territory. Granted, it’s obvious studios weren’t as uptight about copyrights as they are today.
6 THE URBAN RISE KILLED THE SHOW
Many might think that the Beverly Hillbillies had simply run its course, and that everyone was ready to move on. In truth, it was a deliberate move by CBS to capitalize on a growing young urban demographic who supposedly wanted to watch a different kind of show.
CBS led a campaign to eliminate any show that appealed to rural viewers, including Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. The Hillbillies were caught up in the corporate shift which Green Acres actor Pat Buttram described as “canceling every show with a tree in it.”
5 BUDDY EPSEN WAS FRIENDS WITH MAX BAER SR.
One might think the cast for the Beverly Hillbillies was assembled as per the normal process, but that didn’t stop Buddy Epsen from having someone to relate to when the series began filming. Max Baer Jr. played the lovable Jethro on the show, but Epsen already had a connection that predated the show.
In fact, Epsen was good friends with Max Baer Jr.’s family, a relationship that started when Epsen met his father at a boxing match. Max Baer Sr. participated in 81 fights during his career, with 68 wins to his name. Now we know where Jethro got all that strength from!
4 IT WAS A POLITICAL HOTBED OFF-SET
Buddy Epsen frequently clashed with actress Nancy Kulp, who played the statuesque Jane Hathaway on the show. Epsen, a hardline Conservative Republican would often engage in a number of political debates with Kulp, who leaned to the Left.
The feud would reach a boiling point in 1984 when Kulp ran unopposed as the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives against incumbent candidate Bud Shuster. Buddy Ebsen got involved with Shuster’s campaign by calling Kulp “too Liberal,” after which she lost to Shuster with just 33% of the the vote. This created a huge rift between the two which last for years, until Kulp died of cancer in 1991. Ebsen expressed significant remorse regarding the feud, even though the two both buried the hatchet shortly before her death.
3 BEA BENADERET HELPED IRENE RYAN LAND A ROLE
According to legend, actress Bea Benaderet was one of the first choices for the role of Granny, but her physical stature was considered too “busty” for the role. Instead of making sour grapes over it, Benaderet suggested that actress Irene Ryan take the part, instead.
This would later prove to be the right choice, as Ryan’s audition was reportedly so fantastic that it immediately convinced studio execs to bring her on board. Benaderet would land the role of Cousin Pearl instead, a role created specifically for the actress by show scriptwriter Paul Henning.
2 JED CLAMPETT WAS NO FOOL
While the show pokes fun at the under-educated hillbilly stereotype, Buddy Ebsen refused to take the role of Jed Clampett unless the writers gave his character a healthy dose of common sense to act as a counterweight to his simple upbringing.
As such, Jed Clampett switched from a fool to a wise older man, which meant the character of Jethro would pick up the slack when it came to stupidity. The decision was the right one, as Jethro is best served as a major comedic vehicle for the rest of the cast to play off of.
1 THE HILLBILLIES WERE RICHER THAN YOU THINK
In 1962, the Clampett fortune was $25 million, and when adjusted for inflation, it’s actually closer to $215 million by today’s standards. By the end of the show, that number had reached $100 million, which would be approximately $850 million in our current economic age.
All things considered, that’s not bad for a country hillbilly who fired a stray shot and found bubblin’ crude while huntin’ for some food!