Years before lending his talents to The Beverly Hillbillies, film and television actor Buddy Ebsen served his country in World War II. In addition, the actor had a long and storied career in the entertainment industry well before taking on the role of Jed Clampett. Including modeling for Walt Disney and almost starring in The Wizard of Oz. Join Facts Verse as we explore the truth about Buddy Ebsen’s military career.
Buddy Ebsen’s career in entertainment started way back in 1928. Buddy and his sister had made a name for themselves as vaudeville performers, and brought over to Hollywood by MGM. The two made their debut in the 1935 feature Broadway Melody of 1936. Although his sister never made another film. The feature proved to be Buddy’s start to a long and fruitful career in entertainment.
Following his debut in Broadway Melody of 1936, Buddy appeared alongside Shirley Temple in 1936’s Captain January. After that, he appeared alongside Judy Garland in Broadway Melody of 1938. Buddy became known throughout Hollywood for his incredible dancing skills, leading to his hiring in the 1939 musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.
When Buddy cast in The Wizard of Oz, he initially given the role of the Scarecrow. However, the actor that had cast as the Tin Man asked Buddy if they could trade places. Buddy viewed the Tin Man as a better role than the Scarecrow, and agreed to the proposition. However, things didn’t turn out quite so good for the actor.
Buddy had made it through the entirety of The Wizard of Oz’s pre-production before becoming incredibly ill. He had already recorded all of the Tin Man’s vocal parts, and fully rehearsed and ready to film. However, soon before filming began, the actor found himself experiencing some disturbing symptoms. In addition to body cramps, the actor found himself routinely woken up with shortness of breath. Eventually, the actor had to taken to the doctor.
After examining Buddy for a period of time, the doctors determined that Buddy had poisoned by aluminum dust from the Tin Man make-up. MGM executives refused to believe the story, and demanded that Buddy show up for filming. However, the doctor’s intervention forced them to accept that changes were in order. Another actor brought on to play the part of the Tin Man. And the make-up changed to a type without the toxic aluminum dust.
After recovering from his Wizard of Oz injury, Buddy became embroiled with MGM in a dispute over his contract. Leaving him out of work for a short period of time. During this period, the actor took up the hobby of sailing to pass the time. The actor became proficient at the hobby, and was soon such a good sailor that he was teaching the art to prospective candidates for the United States Navy. Despite this, Buddy was routinely denied from serving in the Navy himself.
World War II had reached United States soil by 1941, which made Buddy all the more anxious to serve his country. However, the star was still being routinely denied entry into service by the Navy. After multiple rejections, Buddy decided to apply for the Coast Guard instead. The Coast Guard accepted Buddy’s application, and the actor was soon putting his skills as a sailor to work for his country.
Upon accepted into the Coast Guard, Buddy given the rank of lieutenant and tasked with being the damage control officer on a ship known as the USS Pocatello. The ship focused on monitoring the weather, and operated off the shores of Seattle, Washington.
Buddy discharged from the Coast Guard in 1946, and then made a welcome return to the entertainment industry. The actor began appearing more and more on television, making notable guest appearances on shows such as Maverick and Bonanza throughout the 1950s. In 1962, Buddy cast as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies.
The Beverly Hillbillies was a major success. And the character of Jed would go down in history as the Buddy’s most famous role. The show ran for nine seasons, staying on the air until 1971. Buddy was one of only three actors to have appeared in all 274 episodes of the program.
Soon after The Beverly Hillbillies came to an end in 1971, Buddy cast in another hit series. Buddy given the titular role in the detective series Barnaby Jones, a series that lasted from 1973 to 1980. Many years later, Buddy would go on to cameo as the character of Barnaby Jones in the 1993 film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies. In that film adaptation, Jim Varney, of Ernest fame, played the character of Jed Clampett. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Many people may not know that Buddy Ebsen met his second wife while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. Buddy had already married once previously, to a woman by the name of Ruth Cambridge. Buddy and Ruth had married in 1936. Despite having two daughters, the two divorced in 1942.
While serving on the USS Pocatello, Buddy introduced to a fellow lieutenant by the name of Nancy Wolcott. Buddy and Nancy became romantically involved, and married in 1945. The two remained married for nearly four decades, and had four children. One of their children is Kiki Ebsen. A notable keyboardist that has recorded with Boz Scaggs, Tracy Chapman, and Christopher Cross.
After 39 years of marriage, Buddy and Nancy divorced in 1985. The main reason the couple gave for their divorce was Buddy’s increasingly Republican political views. After their divorce, Buddy remarried the very same year to a much younger woman. That woman’s name was Dorothy Knott, and the two remained married until Buddy’s death in 2003.
In addition to his debacle behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz. Another interesting thing about Buddy’s Hollywood career was that he did some behind-the-scenes work with Walt Disney. Walt hired Buddy to dance for the animators of various animated shorts, and even had Buddy dance for the engineers working on the animatronics for various theme park attractions, including Pirates of the Caribbean.
Not all of Buddy’s work with Walt Disney was behind the scenes. Buddy could seen on screen in the 1954 Disney mini-series Davy Crockett. In fact, Buddy had cast in the titular role before Walt Disney changed his mind and cast actor Fess Parker instead. Although Buddy had dropped from the lead role, he still allowed the chance to portray Davy’s loyal friend and companion, George.
While Buddy’s accomplishments throughout his life were incredible and varied. He still remains best known for his work on The Beverly Hillbillies. The show was a major phenomenon at the time that it aired. Earning some of the highest ratings of any show during that period in history. At the height of the show’s popularity, episodes could be expected to bring in around 60 million viewers.
In 1965, while The Beverly Hillbillies was at the height of it’s popularity. Buddy tried to capitalize on the show’s success by release a country album. The album was titled Buddy Ebsen Says Howdy, and became a modest success given the popularity of Buddy’s character on The Beverly Hillbillies. Given that Buddy was an experienced vaudeville performer. He had absolutely no trouble delving into the world of recording artistry on the album, and his vocal performances surprised many fans that weren’t familiar with Buddy’s work from before the hit comedy show.
Singing, dancing, and acting were far from Buddy’s only talents. The actor was also a published author, as well as a practicing painter. In the year 2000, Buddy published a debut novel by the name of Kelly’s Quest. While publishing this novel could be seen as enough of an accomplishment in it’s own right, it was made even noteworthy due to the fact that Buddy was 92 years old at the time that it happened. The actor would subsequently write a mystery novel featuring the character of Barnaby Jones, titled Sizzling Cold Case.
In addition to publishing various written works, Buddy also became a painter later on in his life. The actor loved painting landscapes, and often made a habit of including Jed Clampett in the foreground. These pieces began catching the attention of the public as folk art, though Buddy never viewed his painting as much more than just a hobby.
In 1993, Buddy was given the Disney Legends award for his many contributions to the company during his career. During his last decade, the actor stayed relatively out of the spotlight. However, he did make an appearance on the animated series King of the Hill in 1999. The show was one of the more conservative-leaning programs of it’s time, and Buddy likely relished the opportunity to lend his Republican cred. Series creator Mike Judge had invited the beloved actor on the show, and the gig proved to be Buddy’s last job on television before his death several years later.
After a long and storied career both inside and outside of the entertainment industry, Buddy finally passed away in 2003. The cause of death was determined to be respiratory failure, and the actor was 95 years old at the time of his passing. He was cremated in California, and survived by his six children.
In addition to the numerous roles listed above, Buddy Ebsen could also be seen in various other roles throughout his long career in entertainment. Comment down below to share if there’s another role that you like to remember Buddy by besides the ones mentioned above, or if you were surprised to learn the details of his military career. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!