Elly May versus Barbie: Beverly Hillbilly sues Mattel

Fri May 6, 2011 7:40pm EDT
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The woman who portrayed Elly May Clampett in the 1960s TV series "The Beverly Hillbillies" sued Mattel Inc. over the toy maker's production of a Barbie doll that she says looks like her.

Actress Donna Douglas, who lives in Zachary, La., filed a federal suit against Mattel in Baton Rouge, La., charging that the toy company "is engaging in the unauthorized use" of her name, likeness and image to promote and sell the "Elly May" Barbie.

It has been nearly 50 years since the fictional Clampett family struck oil and ditched their backwoods home for a life of adventure in California. When the clan, including the beautiful-but-naive Elly May, headed for Beverly Hills, they launched a series that kept audiences laughing through nine seasons, followed by many decades of reruns.

Douglas played Elly May in all 274 episodes of the show, which continues to air in syndication around the world.

In her suit, Douglas says that she "continues to make public appearances in association with" her character. The suit says that Mattel introduced the "Elly May" Barbie doll in December 2010, and even uses Douglas name in promotional materials for the doll.

It claims Douglas "never endorsed the doll and never gave Mattel her permission" to use her name or likeness. It charges that the doll "creates the false public impression that Ms Douglas has endorsed" the doll.

Douglas' attorney in Baton Rouge, Philip Shaheen, did not return phone messages seeking comment and her agent, Bill Anderson, referred questions to the attorney.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel said in a brief email responding to a Reuters question: "Mattel licensed the rights to Beverly Hillbillies for this product through the appropriate channels."   Continued...