The Characters and Critters
The Beverly Hillbillies featured some colorful characters, both country folk and city folk alike. Though they lived in the same neighborhood, their views did not always agree.
The Clampett family was hillbillies who struck it rich by finding oil on their land. Suddenly wealthy, they move to Beverly Hills under the advice of a well meaning family member, and are thrown into a completely new world.
The patriarch of the family was Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), the man who found the oil on a fateful walk with his dog Duke. Well known as a marksman, it was a stray shot from his rifle that unearthed the black gold. He was a man whose common sense went a long way to making up for his lack of education and continued to do so long after they moved to Beverly Hills.
Duke was a bloodhound-the family dog-who was able to teach Jed to do tricks (or so it seemed to Jed) such as throwing sticks. He was briefly involved with a French poodle that was supposed to mate with the neighbor's dog, and had pups with her.
Granny (Irene Ryan) was the mother in law, and like Jed, she toted a shotgun that at times she used to chase people-namely Mr. Drysdale the neighbor, when she learned of an old family feud. She termed herself an M.D, that being a mountain doctor and she was well versed in what would today be considered alternative medicine-herbs and mountain potions.
She bought wigs for the family as a way of dealing with one of her phobias that being “Injuns” thinking that it would stop them from being scalped, and she also feared the water. Her concrete view of history was not shared by many nor was it the truth, instead portraying the south as the victors.
Jethro (Max Baer Jr.) was Jed's nephew, son of Pearl, Jed's cousin. He wasn't the brightest character on the show, and had taken twelve years in school to get to the sixth grade level. Being the tallest in his class because of being so much older than the others led to him confusing people with talk of graduating top of his Oxford class instead of tallest in his class in the town of Oxford. He later attempted to further his education by going to college, but was given a diploma in just a day to get him out of the class so that he wouldn't disrupt it any more.
His eternal search was for a job that he could do, but not for the employment. Instead his aim was meet pretty young ladies. Various efforts saw him attempt to be a spy, a brain surgeon, a Hollywood producer, a soda jerk in a drug store, and a book keeper. His ability to eat was unsurpassed, gaining him the nickname of the “six foot stomach”.
Pearl (Jethro's mother) was a seamstress who was on the lookout for a man. Unfortunately her tendency to nap a lot earned her the reputation for being lazy.
Jed raised his beautiful daughter, Elly May (Donna Douglas) like he would have raised a son. For this reason, she is an excellent wrestler, capable even of beating Jethro, and grew up climbing trees, playing baseball and using slingshots-even going so far as to fashion her first bra into one.
Her first love was animals, and her critters as they were known included the more normal animals such as cats and dogs, and also the more unusual ones such as a kangaroo and chimpanzees. As she grew older however she came to understand that men too could be fun-more fun than critters, and she began to date.
Dash Riprock was one of Elly May's suitors, pushed into dating her by the bribery of the Clampett's neighbor. Bribery was not needed for long, because he soon saw Elly's beauty, and became genuinely interested in her.
When the Clampetts moved to Beverly Hills, they had to contend with their new neighbors-the Drysdales. They were old money folks, and the couple had hugely differing opinions on the rights of new money to enter the privileged class.
Mrs. Drysdale was exclusionary, believing that one had to be born into money. She did not want the Clampetts to live in her city, and tried many times and many ways to get them to leave. Her opinion was that only those whose family was descended of the original settlers of this country were worthy of her time and friendship and so she was bitterly disappointed to learn that Clampett's ancestors arrived even earlier than her own did. She had a son from a previous marriage who was referred to as Sonny Drysdale.
Mr. Drysdale was more of a realist. As the president of the bank that held the Clampett's money, he saw the value in keeping them around, pulling strings at times to try and help them.
Mr. Drysdale was a scheming man, and it often came down to Jane Hathaway (Miss Jane) as his secretary to bail him out when he went too far. Her desire to look out for the Clampetts was born not of greed or love of their money, but of the fact that she genuinely liked them. She became close to the family and was thought of as one of them, and indeed had hopes on marrying Jethro.
Her loyalty remains with Mr. Drysdale despite her feelings for the Clampetts, and when they gave their money away in an effort to overcome the corruption they felt it had brought them, she helped him focus on the money and not the Clampetts until the money was returned. She is a very bright and intelligent woman who is not afraid to let her opinions be known.
Cousin Bessie was one of Elly May's critters-a chimpanzee that wore a dress and whom Jethro commented was smarter than he was. Elly had another chimpanzee, named Skipper and a whole host of other animals from cats and dogs to skunks and goats, and even a bear and raccoon. She dearly loved and cared for animals of all kinds.