'Beverly Hillbillies' actress Donna Douglas dies at 81

Fri Jan 2, 2015 6:52pm EST
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By Will Dunham and Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) - Wholesome blonde actress Donna Douglas, who played pretty tomboy Elly May Clampett on the hit 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies" and starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1966 film "Frankie and Johnny," has died at age 81, her family said on Friday.

Douglas, a local beauty queen in her native Louisiana before becoming an actress, died on Thursday of pancreatic cancer at a hospital in Baton Rouge, her niece Charlene Smith said.

"The Beverly Hillbillies" ran on CBS for nine seasons - from 1962 to 1971 - and was one of the most popular shows of the 1960s, topping the ratings its first two seasons.

Douglas played the daughter of backcountry widower Jed Clampett, portrayed by Buddy Ebsen, who becomes rich when he discovers oil on his land, then moves his hillbilly family into a Beverly Hills mansion to live alongside the wealthy.

Elly May was gorgeous but was happier playing with her numerous pets including chimpanzees or "rasslin' fellas" rather than smooching them. Rich suitors tried to woo her with little success.

"Elly may not have kissed many fellows during the show's run, but she sure did kiss a heap of animals," Douglas told the Parsons Sun newspaper in Kansas in March.

Her co-stars included: Max Baer Jr. as big goofball cousin Jethro; Irene Ryan as irascible Granny; and Raymond Bailey as money-crazy banker Mr. Drysdale.

"Elly was a slice out of my life," Douglas added. "I was raised a tomboy, with one older brother and all male cousins. So I grew up swinging from vines and playing softball. I was getting ready for Jethro long before we ever met."   Continued...

Actress Donna Douglas and actor Max Baer, who starred as Ellie Mae and Jethro on "The Beverly Hillbillies" sing the shows theme song during an opening number during a taping of the second annual TV Land Awards in Hollywood March 7, 2004. REUTERS/Fred Prouser