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Donna Douglas, Elly May On 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' Dies At 81

Donna Douglas, the actress best known for her role as Elly May Clampett on the 1960s television hit comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, has died at age 81, a family member confirms.

Douglas played a scrappy tomboy with a fondness for animals on the CBS sitcom that ran from 1962-1971. The show featured the antics of her family, from the Ozark Mountains, who strikes it rich after a chance discovery of oil on its land. The family proceeds to pack up its meager belongings and "move to Beverly" (Hills, that is), where it assumes the life of millionaires amid the "swimmin' pools and movie stars."

The series, which also starred Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, the family patriarch; Irene Ryan as the cantankerous "Granny," and Max Baer Jr., as the well-meaning but slow-witted Jethro Bodine, Jed's nephew, became a No. 1 hit for CBS within its first two years on the air.

A niece of Douglas', Charlene Smith, confirms that the actress died on Thursday of pancreatic cancer.

A photo of Douglas taken in 2008 in Baton Rouge, La.
Bill Haber / AP
A photo of Douglas taken in 2008 in Baton Rouge, La.

Hollywood Reporter says Douglas was a native of Pride, La., who won the Miss New Orleans beauty contest in 1957. She "started out making $500 a week on the show. That rose to $3,000 in the ninth and final season of the series," the trade publication says.

Douglas also appeared opposite Elvis Presley in the 1966 film Frankie and Johnny and played in a classic 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Eye of the Beholder."

The Reporter says: "Douglas didn't appear much onscreen after [The Beverly Hillbillies] ended but reprised her role for the 1981 telefilm The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. She also appeared in a 1993 TV documentary about the show and made appearances at conventions that celebrated the series."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: January 1, 2015 at 9:00 PM PST
A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Jethro Bodine was Jed Clampett's son. He was actually his nephew.
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.