Oct 22, 2020

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies, one of the 1960s line of hayseed comedies (others included Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, Gomer Pyle, and The Andy Griffith Show), slogged on from 1962 to 1971, and your parents watched every week, so you couldn't avoid it.  It was amazingly popular with adults: some of the regular episodes -- not even Christmas specials -- became the most watched episodes of all time.

The basic premise: a hillbilly from Bugtussle, Tennessee or Arkansas, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), becomes unbelievably rich when oil is discovered on his property, so he moves to a mansion in Beverly Hills, along with his crotchety mother-in-law Granny (Irene Ryan), his daughter Ellie Mae (Donna Douglas), and his dumb-lunk nephew Jethro (Max Baer Jr.).

Though they became marginally assimilated after nine years, they still wore hillbilly clothes, ate possum pie, and referred to their swimming pool as a "cement pond."  Plots usually involved big city types trying to dupe and manipulate them, but their backwoods wisdom, orneriness, or dumb luck win out in the end.

The message: big city life is dehumanizing.  Only in the country can real be real.

Other plots involved Ellie Mae's dating, Jethro's get-rich quick schemes (odd, since he already was rich), and Granny's dislike of all things big city.

There was never much beefcake in hillbilly comedies.  Max Baer Jr., son of the famous boxer Max Baer, had a nice physique, but rarely showed it on camera.  We were supposed to laugh at his dopiness, not sigh over his muscles.

Bonding was also rather uncommon.  Most of the primary relationships were platonically male-female: Jed and Granny, Ellie Mae and Jethro, bank president Mr. Drysdale and his secretary, Miss Hathaway (Nancy Culp, who incidentally was gay in real life.)

But gay-vague was everywhere.

1. Mr. Drysdale's son, Sonny (Louis Nye) is sophisticated, well-educated, and not interested in girls.  His parents keep trying to hook him up with Ellie Mae (so he will eventually inherit the Clampett millions), but he will have none of it.  He and Ellie are just friends.

2. Hollywood star Dash Riprock (Larry Pennell), a parody of Rock Hudson, is handsome, suave, and not interested in girls.  He vaguely courts Ellie Mae, but his heart isn't in it,  regardless of how much his studio pushes them together.

Apparently the producers thought it hilarious to keep having Ellie Mae run into men who were not interested in girls.

3. Jethro had a "twin sister," Jethrine.  She stayed back in the hills, and didn't show up often, but when she did, it was obvious that it was Jethro in drag.  I got the distinct impression that everyone was just playing along, responding to his drag persona as if she was a different person.

See also: Petticoat Junction; Green Acres


  1. The 1990s Beverely Hillbillies Movie had a few gay gems.

  2. Some thoughts:

    Was there a lot of rednexploitation in the 60s? Or was it just part of the same craving for a "simpler time"? (The 1930s? Really?) Probably the excessive optimism is better than what I can't help but call Hartism, which permeates modern oil culture.

    Just so we're clear, country boys don't wear a thing when swimming.

    Man, people knew Rock Hudson was gay back then?

    1. Rock Hudson wasn't generally known in the 1960s -- actually, no one was generally known in the 1960s. I think the humor from the Dash Riprock character comes from his lack of interest in girls, the opposite of Rock Hudson's girl-chasing characters.

    2. Actually, when I was a teen in the 1970s there was a joke that implied Hudson and Jim Nabors were gay:"What do Jim Nabors and Prudential Insurance have in common? They both had a piece of the Rock."

    3. There had been rumors about Rock Hudson since the '50s, and people who followed Hollywood gossip and could read between lines had figured it out. But, more to the point, everyone in Hollywood would likely have known or suspected that he was gay, including the writers of The Beverly Hillbillies. Any hint that Riprock wasn't a "ladies' man" would have been a Hollywood in-joke that a few people outside the industry would also have gotten and felt very clever indeed.

  3. Hayseed comedies were very popular, not only on tv ("Beverly Hillbillies," "Gomer Pyle," "Green Acres," "The Andy Griffith Show"), but in movies ("No Time for Sergeants," "Tammy and the Bachelor"). The ignorance and backwardness of the hayseeds was a source of jokes, but they were always portrayed as more honest, more moral, and generally better than the big city types.

  4. Don’t forget, we were treated to recurring appearances from Dash Riprock and a guest spot from Dave Draper. Both wasted on a clueless Ellie Mae! 😄

  5. Disregard the previous mention of Dash, as he’s duly noted. Seems like a do recall a brief shirtless spot of Dash’s impressive physique, though.

    1. I don't remember Larry Pennell in anything else, but a google image search reveals a swimsuit photo. Nice physique.

  6. Larry Pennell (1928-2013) had a long acting career. He was never a big name but he was in a tv show call "Ripcord" (1961-63) about sky divers which sounds like it has buddy bonding potential. Pennell was not just handsome but had nice beefcake body


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