Donna Douglas is perhaps best known for her work as Elly May Clampett on the classic TV sitcom, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Although the series and actors faced their fair share of criticism, it didn’t keep Douglas from having faith in the show.
Douglas graced screens for two generations of TV as the lovable and charismatic Elly May. She belongs to the Clampett family, who win big when discovering they have oil on their land. As a result, they pack up and leave the rural Ozarks and move to posh Beverly Hills.
But, despite its success, the show was not without its critics. During an interview in 1989, Douglas revealed that while people in New York or Los Angeles couldn’t see the show’s magic, however, as she described, “The Beverly Hillbillies” was “for the people.”
Even though it may not have appealed to everyone, Douglas made sure to give the show her authentic portrayal of a southern who’s a fish out of water. In fact, she was one of the few cast members who were actually from the south in real life. Born and raised in Pride, Louisiana, Douglas brought first-hand experience to her role.
As Elly May, she seemed blissfully ignorant of her status as a ditzy blonde bumpkin. Viewers typically saw her in a flannel shirt and tight jeans, and she seemed to prefer her critters to any male suitor.
Donna Douglas shows her authentic, Southern side in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’
When she auditioned, she was up against more than 500 other actresses. Yet, she prevailed and booked the gig. Maybe it was because Douglas felt comfortable taking on a role she herself had held in her real life. According to Douglas, she had an easy time auditioning because, like her character, she grew up a poor Southerner.
She felt right at home during her audition when they even asked her to milk a goat. “I had milked cows before,” she recalled of the audition in a 2009 interview. “I figured they were equipped the same, so I just went on over and did it.”
Once on the air, the critics were anything but shy about criticizing the show. Viewers at home, however, felt quite the opposite. The show ran for nine seasons.
“It wasn’t much of a stretch for Douglas to fit into the role,” said Smith, Douglas’ niece. “She was always happy, and she really loved animals — just like her character on ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’ She was a wonderful lady, a very good Christian lady.”
After her success on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Douglas continued to have success in her professional life. She worked in real estate, recorded country and gospel music albums, and wrote a children’s book. Before she passed away at 82 in 2015, Douglas said she didn’t being typecast as her character on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
“So many kinds of people relate to Elly May,” Douglas said. “So many people love her, and that means a lot to me.”