Jeannine Riley From ‘Petticoat Junction’ Is Now 81 And Wrote A Manual For Success At Any Age


Billie Jo Bradley was a model of ambition and unbridled hope and awe in Petticoat Junction and none other than Jeannine Riley debuted the role in 1963. Two others would follow, but not before Riley left a permanent mark on the show and set the stage for seven seasons of Billie Jo greatness. But what about Riley herself? What trajectory did her career follow? In short, one her character would have been proud of.

Jeannine Riley was born on October 1, 1940, and grew up in California for much of her upbringing after her father left for the Army and her family planted roots in Madera. She learned acting and the ways of show business in the Pasadena Playhouse while also performing ballet. She started working on television and an uncredited role in the 1962 movie Five Finger Exercise before television work arose in greater succession. Early credits included Father of the Bride, My Three Sons, Route 66, and The Beauty Contest. Indeed, her easy, approachable grace helped pave the way for more and more prominence on TV not long into her career.


Why did Jeannine Riley leave ‘Petticoat Junction’?

THE VIRGINIAN, James Drury, Jeannine Riley, ‘Run Away Home’, (Season 1, aired April 24, 1963), 1962-71 / Everett Collection

Her career had just begun in 1962 and still Jeannine Riley managed to turn some important heads. Namely, CBS producers noticed her while she acted in Wagon Train and The Virginian and as rural shows dominated televisions, they wanted Riley for their next big project: Petticoat Junction. With the rural purge still a decade away, the wholesome series joined the ranks of Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show as a recipe for success. Initially, actress and model Sharon Tate was slated to originate the role of Billie Jo, but after a nude photoshoot, she was deemed too risque for a series sponsored by Ivory Soap; Riley ended up winning the role of 300 other hopefuls.

PETTICOAT JUNCTION, Linda Kaye Henning, Jeannine Riley, Pat Woodell, 1963-70 / Everett Collection

RELATED: ‘Petticoat Junction’ Cast Then And Now 2021

Riley channeled that easy charisma into her role and won hearts on-screen and off. But just like her character possessed endless aspirations, so too did Riley, and after two years she bowed out of the series to pursue a film career, as well as try out some other shows, including Gilligan’s Island and Hee Haw. She did make it into movies as planned, such as The Big Mouth and Fever Heat. One of her most prominent roles came in 1973 as Lulu McQueen in Dusty’s Trail, which saw Riley as a kind of Ginger Grant in a western reimagining of Gilligan’s Island complete with Bob Denver himself and Lori Saunders.

It’s about time to be a bolder woman

HEE HAW, Jeannine Riley, 1969-1992 [1969 season] / Everett Collection
Riley wanted to break away from roles that cast her on the basis of her looks alone but found this a difficult endeavor. New opportunities grew fewer. Her final film came with 1991’s Timebomb, a science-fiction action movie starring Michael Biehn. She retired that same year but stays involved in the industry in other ways; the 2016 book X Child Stars: Where Are They Now? offers a look at her life and career. Her personal life included marriage first to Gary Groom from 1965 to 1972, then Irwin Radnitz in 1974 until they too divorced.

The Bolder Woman: It’s About Time / Amazon

While Riley is not reported to have any children, she has still used her life’s experiences to guide the next generation. In typical Billie Jo fashion, she wants to see women be successful, something she herself is familiar with. In 2020, she penned the book The Bolder Woman: It’s About Time, all about encouraging and instructing women on how they can follow their dreams at any age. “Come along with me as I reveal how I overcame my own fear of aging and being labeled an old woman just because I’d reached a certain number of years,” Riley invites readers. “Your many years of living has brought you this far, so why stop now?”

We certainly hope Riley doesn’t stop for a long time!

Show comments
Published by

Recent Posts

The Cast Of The Original ‘MacGyver’ Then And Now 2023

UPDATED JUNE 6, 2023 His mind is the ultimate weapon. The guy who once said,…

53 mins ago

Why Brooke Shields Warned Her Daughter Not To Pursue Modeling

Former supermodel, Brooke Shields, found herself in a fix when her younger daughter, Grier, expressed…

2 hours ago

Why Kirstie Alley Was Gifted A Shotgun As A Welcome Gift On The Set Of ‘Cheers’

The late Kirstie Alley got an unconventional gift when she joined the popular TV series…

12 hours ago

Farrah Fawcett Was Relentless In Her Struggles With Cancer, Says Close Friend

Charlie's Angels star Farrah Fawcett fought a public and courageous battle with cancer after she…

14 hours ago

Disneyland Visitors Officially Say Goodbye To Splash Mountain

Since its opening in 1955, Disneyland has grown, transformed, and replaced parts of its familiar…

14 hours ago

61-Year-Old ‘Partridge Family’ Star Danny Bonaduce Undergoing Brain Surgery

Danny Bonaduce, star of the '70s musical sitcom The Partridge Family, is undergoing brain surgery.…

19 hours ago