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Donna Douglas (born September 26, 1933) is a Louisiana-born American character actress and real estate agent. The naturally blonde Douglas is best known for her role as Elly May Clampett, daughter of Jed Clampett (portrayed by Buddy Ebsen), in the long-running television series The Beverly Hillbillies, which made her one of the most popular television stars of the 1960s.
Early life and career
Born as Dorothy Smith in Pride in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, she grew up on her grandparents' farm. She was reportedly a cheerleader at Redemptorist High School and after high school, married, had a son, divorced, and won some beauty contests, all within the span of a few years. She was awarded the titles “Miss Baton Rouge” and, in 1957, was “Miss New Orleans”.
She moved to New York to pursue a career in entertainment and started out as a model for toothpaste ads. She was featured as the “Letters Girl” on The Perry Como Show in 1957, and as the “Billboard Girl” on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. These and other TV appearances led New York photographers and newspaper reporters to award her the “Miss By-line” crown, which she wore on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Producer Hal Wallis saw the Sullivan episode and cast her in the role of Marjorie Burke in the movie drama Career (1959) starring Anthony Franciosa, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. This was followed by a bit part in the musical comedy Li'l Abner (1959) and the role of a secretary in the comedy/romance Lover Come Back (1961) starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
Douglas made numerous TV appearances, including a notable episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "The Eye of the Beholder" (1960). She also appeared in episodes of Tightrope, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Bachelor Father, Route 66 and Thriller.
Donna Douglas has been married twice:
The Beverly Hillbillies
The turning point in Douglas’s career came when she was chosen to play the role of Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Nancy Kulp, Raymond Bailey, and Max Baer Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became one of the longest-running series in television history and was the number one show in America in its first two years. According to a 2005 A&E Biography, Ebsen became like a second father to the young actress away from the set. After the show, she and Ebsen kept in touch and were good friends for over 40 years until his death on July 6, 2003.
During the 1966 summer hiatus for the show, she made her only starring motion picture appearance, cast as Frankie in Frederick de Cordova's Frankie and Johnny (1966) opposite Elvis Presley. The film proved popular and is among Presley’s most broadcast films on television but did little to open the door to a film career for Douglas. Douglas remained with The Beverly Hillbillies for the entire run of the series. In 1981, she returned for a made-for-TV reunion movie. Having no resentment about being so closely identified with one character, she still makes occasional public appearances in her hillbilly costume of blue jeans with trademark rope belt, a ruffled pink blouse and leather mocassins.
Adding new careers in real estate and singing
Douglas received her real estate license after The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air in order to have something to fall back on. She did not work in that field long, however, as she remained in show business and found other projects.
A devoted Christian, Douglas frequently performs as a gospel singer and speaks at churches across America. She recorded a gospel album in 1982 and later a country and gospel album two-record set in 1989. (A British pop singer in the 1960s also named Donna Douglas recorded a number of recordings including a U.K. hit "Message in a Bottle" and occasionally her discs are mistaken for the Hillbillies star.) She has also written a children's book titled Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch, which has Bible stories featuring animals and is combined with a coloring book for ages two to seven.
Douglas has remained busy making appearances, speaking for church groups, youth groups, schools and colleges. One key focus of her charitable work has been to appear and speak in support of various Christian children's homes, mostly in her native south. She has also appeared at conventions and trade shows. In 2005 she filmed two pilot episodes for a children's program titled Mirror, Mirror.
Selected TV appearances
Chronicals of Life Trials........ 4 Episodes
Lighthouse Community Center
Media and Video