The last episode of the CBS sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, was broadcast more than five decades ago in 1971. However, only one of the cast is alive today— Max Baer Jr., who played the character Jethro Bodine, the clueless son of Pearl Bodine.
Max is the last living member of the sitcom’s cast after the demise of Donna Douglas, who portrayed Elly May, in 2015 at the age of 82. After his time on the show, he wrote and starred in movies like Macon County Line and The Wild McCullochs. He also worked as director and producer on the movie Ode to Billy Joe, which was highly successful.
Max Baer Jr. reveals that he became an actor by accident
The 85-year-old revealed to The Five Count that he got into the entertainment industry by accident. “I was at lunch at Warner Brothers one day. Somebody took me over there, a friend of mine,” he told the outlet. “They saw me on the lot, and James Garner had just left Maverick.”
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Max explained that he was confused with James Garner and the wrongful selection resulted in his getting the role of Jethro. “I resembled Jimmy a little bit, because somebody from ABC saw me and thought I was him at a distance,” Max added. “So they asked me if I ever wanted to act and I said, ‘I don’t know. What does it pay?’ I think it was $250 a week, this was in 1960. So I said ‘Okay, I’ll try.’ And I went ahead and I did a reading for them. No screen test. I just did a reading for them and they signed me.”
Max Baer Jr. Says that he kept in contact with his late cast member, Donna Douglas
The director/actor told RumorFix after the death of his former co-star, Donna Douglas, that they had remained in contact with each other. “I spoke to her on a semi-regular basis. We weren’t the kind of people who would text, but we would call each other when there was something to share,” he said. “I’m the last man standing. All the actors, producers — everybody on the show is gone.”
He also disclosed his health status in a 2017 interview with Fore magazine. “I’m gonna either live or die. I die, and it’s either heaven or hell. If it’s heaven, great,” he told the news outlet. “If it’s hell, I’ll be so busy shaking the hands of all my friends, I won’t worry about it.”
Max Baer Jr. once thought that playing the role of Jethro impacted his career
Max revealed to Fore Magazine that his popular role as the unintelligent Jethro made it difficult for him to get roles in other TV shows or movies. “I couldn’t go into a producer’s office and say I wanted to play the part of a neurosurgeon or pilot,” Max said. “As soon as I came on screen, people would say, ‘There’s Jethro.”’
However, Max humorously disclosed in a 1993 Entertainment Weekly article that he discovered that it was not the character he played in The Beverly Hillbillies that affected his career growth. “I thought I had a fat face, and I didn’t think I was ever any good, or good-looking,” he told the outlet. “When they did a reunion in 1981, I wanted no part of it. But now that I’m 55 years old, it’s not like playing Jethro is what’s going to cause anyone not to hire me as a leading man.”
He also claims that his performance on Beverly Hillbillies was very fulfilling for him. “And, in my case [with Jethro], if I have made the people laugh — and even if they laugh at my expense — it’s okay,” Max explained to Writers’ Blokke in 2020. “I don’t care. They can laugh with me or at me. It doesn’t matter … just as long as they laugh. Because if I can make them laugh, then I believe that my performance was a successful one. I can’t evaluate it as to what degree of success it was. But I can say it did what it was supposed to do.”