Max Baer Jr. is best known for his role as Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies. As it turns out, that name followed him into his real life, too. There were 274 episodes of the show, and Baer Jr. was paid for 10 reruns. Even the reruns are long gone now, but Jethro still remains.
The effect of his character lingered after the show ended. “I couldn’t go into a producer’s office and say I wanted to play the part of a neurosurgeon or pilot,” Baer Jr. says. “As soon as I came on screen, people would say, there’s Jethro.” So, his solution to that was to stay on-brand. He wrote a movie based on a Beverly Hillbillies script. He produced and starred in Macon County Line, raking in $110,000. The movie itself made $25 million in box offices. Afterward, he produced Ode to Billy Joe, which made $27 billion.
Max Baer Jr. Says He Never Got the Chance to Be “Himself”
Max Baer Jr. grew up as the son of renowned heavyweight champion Max Baer. In an interview with Fore Magazine, Baer Jr. talks about growing up under his father’s limelight. “I was born Max Baer Jr., the son of a great boxer, and I’ll die Jethro Bodine,” he said. “Period. I never really got the chance to be me.”
This is hard to believe because he had to audition for the part of Jethro. Actors carry at least a little bit of themselves into every role. In fact, he claimed he was sick in order to delay his audition for The Beverly Hillbillies. With that added time, he studied records of Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters, just so he could really get the Jethro voice down. Besides that, he’s done things other than the Hillbillies that would otherwise have no merit if they were done by someone else. After all, he directed the first movie ever based on a song. He dedicated serious time to getting the role of Jethro just right.
The ‘Hillbillies’ Star Did His Favorite Things After Show Ended
The Hillbillies star got to spend a lot of time doing one of his favorite things – golfing. He once said, “acting is my hobby; golf is my occupation,” but now he often claims that he’s not very good at it. “I have so much respect for golfers because I know how hard it is to play,” Max Baer Jr. said. “If I was good enough to make it on the Tour I would have done it, but I was half a shot worse than Alan (Geiberger) and that’s terrible. Nobody could have played Jethro as well as I did, but I was probably a good country club player at best.”
He’s the only surviving regular cast member from The Beverly Hillbillies. Even if he lived out his life as Jethro, we think he did a pretty good job. Directing and producing movies and playing lots of golf with friends sounds like a good way to live life.