The Beverly Hillbillies star Donna Douglas has died at the age of 81, according to a report by CBS affiliate WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
According to WAFB, Donna Douglas died on January 2 at her home in Zachary, Louisiana.
Donna Douglas starred as Elly May Clampett, the naive only daughter of oil-rich Clampett clan, in the CBS sitcom that ran from 1962 to 1971. Buddy Ebsen played patriarch Jed Clampett, who moves his family from the Ozarks to Beverly Hills after stumbling into oil riches.
Elly May was known for her love of all kinds of “critters,” as well as for her shapely figure, form-fitting jeans and cascade of blond curls. She was a series regular through the run of the top-rated show, which was the first in a triptych of corny countrified sitcoms from creator Paul Henning that included Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.
The character’s love of “critters” was inspired by Donna Douglas’ real-life affection for animals, having grown up on her grandparents’ farm in rural Louisiana.
As a teenager, Donna Douglas moved into acting after winning several beauty pageants in her home state. She was crowned Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans in 1957, according to WAFB. She moved to New York to pursue acting and landed work as a model, in TV commercials and finally bit parts on The Perry Como Show and The Steve Allen Show.
Donna Douglas logged a slew of TV guest shots in the late 1950s and early ’60s before landing on Beverly Hillbillies.
During the run of The Beverly Hillbillies, Donna Douglas had a guest shot on the gritty CBS legal drama The Defenders. She co-starred with Elvis Presley in the 1966 movie Frankie and Johnny.
Donna Douglas’ acting career was on the wane by the mid-1970s. She turned her focus to music and the Christian media marketplace, recording several gospel albums and writing children’s books.
In recent decades Donna Douglas’ mostly been seen on screen in Beverly Hillbillies revival projects, including the 1981 telepic The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies, and in vintage TV retrospectives and events.
Donna Douglas made an appearance as herself on the CBS’ sitcom The Nanny in 1999.
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