The Death on Nancy Kulp and The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Beverly Hillbillies TV show was so popularwhen it aired from 1962 to 1971, that it attracted as many as 60 million viewersa week – about 20 million more than watched an average episode of Seinfeld.Until recently, the show had more than 2 listings in the top ten most watchedshows in history. We are talking up there with the final episode of M*A*S*H, and afew Super Bowls as well.

Bea Benaderet
April 4, 1906 – October 13, 1968
“Jethro, why don’t you try usin’ your head for thinkin’?”

Bea played Pearl Bodine,Jethro’s maw. She was originally brought in toplay the role of Granny, but she was cast as Cousin Pearl instead. She was greatin the show, so great that they gave her another role in a show called PetticoatJunction. Bea played Kate, mother of three darling girls (One who shouldhave been Sharon Tate. The girl that replaced Sharon after the pilot was filmed,Meredith MacRae, died this year, from braincancer. friend John H. writes: Sharon Tate was originally Billie Jo, but Meredith McRae was the thirdactress to play her. The others were Jeannine Riley and Gunilla Hutton,who ran the “Shady Rest Hotel.” 

I used to love it when the GreenAcres, Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillieswould merge casts, for special episodes. Remember the Thanksgivingone? Fantastic stuff.

Anyway, I know very little ofBea’s demise. She was married to a guy namedEugene Twombley, and together they lived on Blairwood,in Studio City. 

Their house is located at 12999. 

Unfortunately, it’s way back, but Steve Goldstein managed to snap a pic of thedriveway, as well as the others.

 As usual, Steve, thank you. Wanna seehermailbox? 

Bea died of lung cancer in GoodSamaritan Hospital in LA, on October 13th, 1968. 

By the way, Bea was the original voice of Betty Rubble, on TheFlintstones.

Added May 2002:  Great site! But… I was surprised that the info on Bea Benederet did not mention that she played the “second female lead” on theBurns and Allen Show during its entire run. She played next-door neighbor Blanche Morton, Gracie’s best friend. This was beforePetticoat Junction, of course. -Jean Imperatrice

Added September 2002 from Findadeath.comfriend Larry Muncie:  Here is some fill in information on Bea Benederet. In addition to her role on the Burns and Allen Show Bea appeared on a few episodesof Ozzie & Harriet. Earlier in her life she did extensive radio workon Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Gildersleeve. She also did voice work forWarner Bros. Looney Tunes where she played the voice of Granny in theSylvester and Tweety cartoons. Of more interest was the role she never played:in 1951, Bea was Lucille Ball’s original choice to play the part ofEthel Mertz, on I Love Lucy. But unfortunately, she was unable to escape herradio contract with Burns and Allen. Her husband was a movie sound technicianwho outlived her by four days.

ALSO: Bea was also some of thefemale voices of Warner Brother’s characters in the 1940s. You can distinctly hear her voice in a LittleRed Riding Hood classic playing an “annoying bobby soxer”. She also did other femalecharacters as well. Tune in to Cartoon Network when they have their 40s WB’s on (the best era I think for the cartoons), and notice if you can hearher voice characterizations.-Linda Ferrington

UPDATE, December 2004, from Findadeathfriend Steve: I was reading the entry on Bea Benaderet when I noticed that she is credited as the voice of Granny in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. It was June Foray who did the voice of Granny, as well as the voice of Witch Hazel, among others for Warner Bros. Bea Benaderet did voices for Warner Bros. cartoons, most notably the voice of Mama bear in the Chuck Jones Three Bears shorts.  -Steve    Thanks, Steve!

FAD friend Julie Canfield wrote me last year regarding BeaBenederet, askingfor clarification of the following, “There were a couple of episodestowards the end of the time she was on Petticoat Junction, that she was off theshow and then returned. When she was in the “hospital room,” withBetty Jo, Steve, and Doc Stuart, she was only filmed from behind. It was hervoice, not her body.” I’m not sure, Julie, but I do know that televisionmother of the universe, June Lockhart, replaced her as the female lead in theshow. Thankfully, they didn’t give her the actual KATE part, but gave heranother role. friend Terry Fielding writes in:  TheBea Benederet story mentioned that her last appearance was filmed with the use of doubles. That’s true, but she phoned in her last lines that were dubbed over the double. Loyal to theend, her real husband Eugene Twombly died a week after Bea, of heart failure. Their son was JackBannon, who was on Lou Grant.     Thanks, Terry.

On the 16th of October, Bea was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park,in Van Nuys, Ca. She was only 62 years old. Thank you Steve Goldstein, for thosepictures.


Irene Ryan 
October 17, 1902 – April 26, 1973
“How do you like yer possum, Lowell, fallin’ off the bones tender orwith a little fight left in it?”

Irene Ryan played Granny. Perfectly. When I was growing up, I thought hercharacter was really annoying, but as I got older, I found her to be the bestthing in the show. Those that knew her, called her Reenie.

In 1973, she was living on EspartaWay, in Santa Monica. 

Her address was 107.

 It’s a tricky one to find. Ask Steve Goldstein, who (again, thank you) tookthe pictures.  Here’s a better viewof the house. friend J. Mueller writesin, “Her husband was a respected Hollywood comedy writer and former vaudevillian named Tim Ryan. Good guy, from all accounts. His main claim to fame: He wrote the scripts for a dozen or so of the Bowery Boys movies with Leo and Huntz.”Thanks for the info!

Irene was appearing in Pippin, with Ben Vereen and a fewothers. She suffered a stroke while performing in a Saturday matinee. A fewweeks later, on April 26th, she died of some sort of tumor, andhardening of the arteries, in St. John’s Hospital, in Santa Monica.

 Findadeath.comfriend Mitch writes in: it was a brain tumor. According to the death cert, glioblastoma is the fastest growing type. 

She was 70 yearsold. 

Her funeral was held on May 1st, and pallbearers were Max Baer,Kingsley Colton, Buddy Ebsen, Ralph Handley, Paul Henning and Edward Sherman.Honorary pallbearers were Bob Hope (ugh.), Bob Fosse, Al Simon and Ben Vereen.

Irene is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, in Santa Monica, CA. I love the factthat the name GRANNY is on her tomb.

UPDATE December 2004, from Findadeath friend Fred: You might want to mention in your notes on Irene Ryan that she left her estate to establish a scholarship fund for student actors. In fact when I was in grad school, I auditioned for one of the “Irene Ryan Scholarships” (didn’t get it though). As I remember the estate was several millions of dollars, and as far as I know is still around today.Thanks, Fred!


Nancy Kulp
August 28, 1921 – February 3, 1991
“But, Chief, that’s extraordinary!”

I loved her as Miss Jane. The total dyke. And so she was. Raymond Bailey (Mr.Drysdale) used to call her “slim.” Interestingly, her real middle namereally was Jane.

I did get to speak to Nancy once on the telephone. She was doing a radio showin Chicago, and I phoned in to ask her about her relationship with Buddy Ebsen.You see, Nancy ran for Congress in her native Pennsylvania. She got a few of herceleb friends to endorse her, and made some remark that alluded to the fact thatall the Hillbillies endorsed her. Nancy was a Democrat, Buddy Ebsen aRepublican. When Buddy got wind of it,he made a 30-second radio endorsement forNancy’s opposition. He stated, “Hey Nancy, you’re too liberal for me. I’vegot to go with Bud Schuster” (her opponent). Needless to say, it blew upinto a huge media event. Nancy lost the election, and was very bitter. I thinkit was unnecessary of Buddy to Butt in, but I do see his point, sort of. friend Kevin Hassell pipes in: “Nancy Kulp was also on Sanford and Son for a little while. She played a boarder in theSanford Arms, and she and Fred would trade insults on a regular basis. Just thought you’d like to know!”As always, thank you, Kevin.

Does anyone else think that the song”Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners – sounds likeJane Hathaway singing?  Tura lura lura…

Nancy normally lived in Port Royal, PA. She came down with cancer of thelarynx in 1989, and for some reason, went to Palm Springs, to a friends house,to die. I heard it was awful, like her face was eaten away by the disease.Terrible. She died in a house on BristoRoad. 

Wanna see themailbox? 

Here’s thehouse.

 It was February 3rd, 1991. She wascremated, and her ashes are with family. Or someone. 

She was 69 years old. 

Thanks to friend David Fowles for the Nancy pictures.

Donna Douglas
September 26, 1933 – January 1, 2015
“But Granny, they ain’t varmints, they is my critters!”

RIP – Details to come soon.

Elly May Clampett, born Doris Smith, died onJanuary 1, 2015 from complications of pancreatic cancer.

Accordingto Shelly Brown of The Browns gospel singers.

Trivia: A few years ago, Donna Douglas sued Disney over the film SisterAct. Supposedly, Donna’s production company owned rights to a verysimilar project, A Nun in the Closet, and thought the WhoopiGoldberg film was a direct rip off. I don’t know how that ended. Anyone? friend Brad Davidson sends this in:  I was reading your “Beverly Hillbillies” piece and,specifically, the Donna Douglas part. In it, you indicated Donna Douglas had sued Disney, claiming their production ofSister Act infringed on rightsof a piece she owned.

Well, I found the scoop. In 1992, the production company owned by Donna Douglas and Curt Wilson filed a lawsuit against Disney claimingSister Act waslifted from one of their screenplays. They claimed there were over 100 similarities between the two.  However, a federal court in Los Angeles said therewere not enough similarities to constitute copyright infringement and Donna lost the case. The decision was appealed but the decision was upheld.

Just thought I would clarify. I found this information in the July 2, 2000 issue of the Pittsburgh

Thanks Brad!

In the Movieland Wax Museum, theyhavestatues of The Beverly Hillbillies

Don’t you find wax museums disturbing,yet compelling?

The real Hillbilly house is located next door to theReagan’s, in Bel Air.I found it ironic that Ron and Nancy live next door to the Hillbilly house. Theyare more than a little like the Drysdales, don’t you think? Unfortunately,the new owners of the house had it completely revamped, and its no longervisible from the street, but thisis what it used to look like. 

For the life of me Icannot remember where the Drysdale house is, but thisis the picture I took. friend Harry adds some funtrivia about the “Beverly Hillbillies” mansion: The 20,000-square-foot mansion in Bel Air was built as a surprise gift for a rich guy’s wife. He planned to surprise her with the mansion by saying they were going to a housewarming party. As they were heading down the *long* driveway, the wife turned to the husband and said, “Who would ever live in such a pretentious home?”Can you imagine what the hubby was thinking inside? I think it would be along the lines of, “Oh shit!” At any rate, they did move into the house but sold it after one year.

Cool info, Harry.  And cute poochie.  Everyone, meet Andy.  Andy, meeteveryone.

In May of 1993, before he made complete schlock television (which I love, bythe way), Jerry Springer did a week of shows in San Francisco. One of them was aHillbilly reunion, with Buddy Ebsen, Donna Douglas, Max Baer (for the first timeever), and Louis Nye who played Sonny Drysdale in an episode or two. My friendSteve Cox penned the definitive book about the show, and he was a guest too. Ibegged Steve to let me go, and he said okay, so I flew there. It was fantastic. Through a bizarre turn of events, I had dinner the first night. Max is an offensive human being,and got ripped on vodka. Every once in a while he would laugh, and Jethro wouldbe sitting at the table across from me. Weird. So cool though. In the middle ofdinner, I excused myself and hit the payphone. I called everyone I could in 5minutes to brag, “You will NEVER guess who I am having dinner with rightnow!” Max started fucking with us when he got more drunk, pretending hedecided that he wasn’t going to do the show after all. That got reallyannoying, but all in all, it was great. I remember Max saying something abouthow he and Irene Ryan used to get a kick on the set, joking about how naíveDonna Douglas was. They found it quite charming, but still kind of funny. Hespoke of Nancy Kulp’s dykedom, and the fact that Donna Douglas slathers onmakeup with a trowel. He did tell one story about how he and Reenie were doing ascene together once, and for some reason unbeknownst to him, she kicked him withone of those army boots she wore. He asked her (not so politely) why? Shepointed upwards, “You were in my key light.”

The next day, I had breakfast with Steve and LouisNye, as you do, where he reminisced abouthis appearance as ZOMBO, on the Munsters. Well, actually, I reminded him of it.He had no memory of it at all, but he was a sweet guy. We met up with BuddyEbsen, who looked like he was a thousand years oldback then, and Max again.

 We sat in their trailer, until they gotready for the show. Jerry Springer was nice. I met him a few times (once, infront of Nicole Simpson’s house – honest to God), and DonnaDouglas, the freaky one. (thanks to Charlie, forlightening that one up).

She lived in a world of her own- a very Christian world. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, she’s just a bitodd about it. She was in a movie with Elvis, and I think she screwed him,because now if you ask her about him, she freaks. Anyway, I got to chat withthem all, and it was an experience I will never forget. The show ended up beingpretty good, except for Max blathering on about that stupid casino he wants tobuild, which he is still going on about. friend Robert sends usthe link to Max’s casino project.  Thanks, Robert! friend Cecilia sends in this great shot of Max.  Mm.

June 2003:  Recently EarlScruggs, the co-composer of the Beverly Hillbillies theme, received a staron the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Donnaand Max attended.  


A few years ago, they made a feature length movie called The BeverlyHillbillies. Cloris Leachman played Granny too well; the late Jim Varneyplayed Jed Clampett – not very well. Lily Tomlin was flawless as Jane Hathaway(a little too good), and handsome DeidrichBader from The Drew Carey Show played Jethro.

 It was largely forgettable, except for a fantastic appearance by myabsolute favorite country singer, Dolly Parton. Buddy made an appearance asBarnaby Jones. That was amusing.

I guess I am obligated to mention that made for TV movie, The Return ofthe Beverly Hillbillies. Buddy, Donna, Nancy – they were the only onesin it. Imogene Coca played Granny’s mother (yes), and, oh, it was just painful. Usually I canstill feel a tad nostalgic, but it was dreadful. Just dreadful.

Raymond Bailey
May 6, 1904 – April 15, 1980
“We want you to know how happy we are to have you, your handsomenephew, your lovely daughter, and your beautiful money er mother.”

Harriet MacGibbon
October 5, 1905 – February 8, 1987
“Listen, to get these peasants to move, I’d dance the Watusi with akeg of nitroglycerin.”

Mr. Drysdale, Raymond Bailey, died in Laguna Niguel California, on April 15,1980, of a heart attack. He was 74, and one of the most miserable people to bearound. Almost nobody liked him. Harriet MacGibbon, who played his wife, couldslap on both false eyelashes with her eyes shut. She died on February 8, 1987,of a massive heart attack. Don’t know where she was living at the time.

MeredethMacRae, who playedBillie JoBradley died on July 14th, of brain cancer.  She was 56 years old. She had one operation to remove a tumor, but it had returned.  Her familywere with her when she died, in her home, and Meredeth stipulated that shewanted no funeral, but a big bash. Thanks to Mary Zorn forthe details.

Buddy Ebsen died on July 6, 2003. Checkout his story HERE.

Related Trivia: In 1991, Max Baer won $2 million in a lawsuit against ABC-TV.He had bought the rights to Madonna’s song, “Like A Virgin,” andABC screwed around with the rights. I assume there was going to be some moviebased on the song, but I’ve never heard of it.

Max used to date Sharon Tate, before she became Mrs. Roman Polanski, and oneof the most famous murder victims of all time. Sharon played a secretary at theCommerce Bank of Beverly Hills, in about 14 episodes. Her name was Janet Trego,and she wore a brunette wig. When I asked Max about her, his only reply was thatshe was a “sweet girl.” One other very well known tragedy Max wasassociated with, was Dorothy Stratten. She was the murdered Playboy Bunny ofwhich the movie Star 80 was based. Max was a pal of Paul Snyder,Dorothy’s psycho boyfriend. Dorothy was trying to call off her relationshipwith Paul, and Paul consulted Max about it. friend Stephanie Amossends this quote: “According to Max Baer Jr. he (Paul) came over, upset,questioning how to get her back. Max replied “Hey, I told you man, youtreat her like crap and you bring her here (LA) and I said you’re going to blowit. I told him to take her back to the God damnned Vancouver.” He (Paul) satdown on the sofa and started crying. Thanks, Stephanie.

Trivia: verygoodfriend Tami Dinglesent in a couple of pictures, one being of her favorite (honest, it is) cookbook, 

her favorite (honest it is) game, 

and her favorite (honest it is) picture of NancyKulp as the bathing beauty. 

 Thanks so much, Tami.

I want to thank Steve Cox for information he provided for this story, SteveGoldstein of Beneath LosAngeles, and David Fowles for their photographs.

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