TRIVIA: What comedian/cast member of Laugh-In recently passed away?
ANSWER: Arte Johnson, who played the German soldier who said “Verrrrrry Interesting” with a heavy German accent holding a cigarette backwards in three fingers, or the old man hitting on Ruth Buzzi’s ugly woman, on Laugh-In. He also played the father of Yakov Smirnov’s Night Court character Yakov Korelenko.
Today the subject is the so-called Rural Comedies of the ’60s and ’70s.
The success of Andy Griffith no doubt led to the “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres,” all on CBS.
“The Andy Griffith Show” started in 1961. The following year, “The Beverly Hillbillies” debuted. The theme from the Beverly Hillbillies, performed by the Country Music Hall of Fame duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs — who appeared in the series — tells the story.
“Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed
And then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubbling crood
Oil that is, black Gold, Texas Tea.
Well the first thing you know Jed’s a millionaire
His kinfolk said “Jed, move away from there:”
Said “Californy is the place you ought to be,”
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly
Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars.”
Jed Clampett, the patriarch of the Clampetts, was portrayed by veteran actor Buddy Ebsen, who was on network TV for 17 consecutive years. After his nine-year run as Jed, he immediately began an eight-year run as elderly private eye Barnaby Jones. That show was also on CBS.
The show centered around the naivete of the Clampetts — who also included Jed’s mother-in-law, Granny, portrayed by Irene Ryan — who was still fighting the Civil War, in between her “doctoring”; Jed’s nephew, Jethro Bodine, who was always trying to become a Beverly Hills playboy, but was too hick to figure it out, and Jed’s daughter, Elly May, played by Donna Douglas, who was kept busy with her critters out by the cement pond, their in-ground swimming pool. She cracked me up because although she was a backwoods, country girl, she had no trouble walking and running in high heels.
Perhaps the funniest aspect of this show was Raymond Bailey, who played the nervous president of the Commerce Bank, where Jed kept his $80 million. Mr. Drysdale — the same last name as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time, Don Drysdale — would spit nickels into a parking meter standing on his head if Jed asked him to, just so he would keep his money in Drysdale’s bank. Some of Jethro’s whims made Drysdale nuts, and made for very funny plots.
Then there was Drysdale’s high society wife, who hated their next-door neighbors, the Clampetts. Veteran comedian Louis Nye played the Drysdales’ son — who was really just Mrs. Drysdale’s son — Sonny Drysdale.
We can’t forget Drysdale’s tormented secretary, Jane Hathaway, played by Nancy Kulp. Milburn was constantly giving Hathaway impossible orders, before she brought him back to Earth.
“Miss Jane,” as the Clampetts referred to Hathaway, asked Jed once if she could reason with Granny. Jed’s response was, “Miss Jane, mules come to Granny for stubborn lessons.”
Another of my Unsungers, Larry Pennell, played actor Dash Riprock — what a name, sounds like he was also on “The Flintstones” — who Drysdale was always trying to fix up with Elly May.
In 1993, a movie was shot about the Clampetts.
The late actor Jim Varney played Jed Clampett. Erika Eleniak — from “Baywatch” and Steven Seagal’s original “Under Siege” film — played Elly May.
Diedrich Bader — Oswald from “The Drew Carey Show” — was both Jethro and his sister, Jethrine Bodine; perhaps the best portrayl was that of Granny, by “Mary Tyler Moore” show vet Cloris Leachman.
“Petticoat Junction “
The following year, “Petticoat Junction” premiered. Set in the fictional village of Hooterville — which the Granny and the Gang visited — the sitcom centered around Kate Bradley, played by the voice of Betty Rubble of the Flintstones and a regular on the old George Burns TV show, Bea Benederet, and her three beautiful daughters, Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo.
Veteran actor Edgar Buchanan offered comic relief as the lazy Uncle Joe, and Sam Drucker, played by Frank Cady, was the merchant who ran the general store.
The show had this annoying music playing, but the girls were so attractive that’s where your attention went.
The three daughters were portrayed by various actresses. There were three, blonde-haired Billie Jos — Jeannine Riley, Gunilla Hutton of Hee Haw fame, and Meredith MacRae, daughter of actor Gordon MacRae, from the movie version of “Oklahoma,” and actress Sheila MacRae, from “The Jackie Gleason Show” version of “The Honeymooners.” There were two brunette Bobbie Jos — Pat Woodell, and then Lori Saunders, and the one red-headed Betty Jo, played by Linda Henning, daughter of one of the show’s writers, Paul Henning.
They lived in the fictional Shady Rest Hotel, and rode the only means of transportation across “the valley,” the Cannonball train, which was never on time.
Benaderet died during the series in 1966, and was replaced by Dr. Janet Craig, played by “Lassie” and “Lost in Space” veteran actress June Lockhart — who incidentally is still alive at 94.
The character who tried many times to put the Cannonball in mothballs, the evil Homer Bedloe, was played by actor Charles Lane, one of my Unsung Heroes who was a famous villain — the human embodiment of “Rocky and Bullwinkle’s” Snidley Whiplash — an evil man nobody liked. Lane played the character to the hilt.
In 1965, the Bradleys got new neighbors, New York City attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas, and his wife, Lisa. And so “Green Acres” was born.
“Green Acres” was arguably the funniest of the three, although some may argue the Hillbillies was funnier.
Lisa Douglas, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor’s sister, Eva, was Hungarian and spoke with a heavy accent. She would mispronounce a word at the beginning of an episode, and then everyone in Hooterville would mispronounce the word the same way — making Ollie wonder if he was nuts, when all along, he was the only sane one.
More and more, I feel like ol’ Ollie. That’s life imitating art.
Then there was the double-talking agricultural agent, Hank Kimball, played by actor Alvy Moore; the Monroe Brothers carpenters, which was really brother Alf and sister Ralph — “I gave her the better name,” Alf would say, played by veteran comedy actor Sid Melton and Mary Grace Canfield, Ralph, who had a crush on “Hanky,” but Kimball wanted nothing to do with her.
While Arnold in the ’80s meant an action movie hero, and in the 90s, a cartoon “football head,” the original Arnold was the pig who thought he was a kid. Problem was, everybody but Ollie thought he was a kid, too.
I can still hear Ollie saying “But he’s a pig!
Even the credits are funny, Every so often, Lisa would refer to the credits at the beginning of the episode, just to be ridiculous. The outgoing credits were funny to me. They timed them — I wonder if it was on purpose — so that when you heard a kazoo, the name of the man responsible for the music, Vic Mizzy, appeared. The music, with the kazoo, sounded like his name. Ridiculous.
CBS wanted to get rid of its rural comedies, so they pitted the Hillbillies and Green Acres up against the popular ABC cop show The Mod Squad. Both were canceled in 1971 when Mod Squad beat them in the ratings.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” are on MeTV early weekday mornings. “Green Acres” is on MeTV at 9:30 p.m. weeknights.
“Petticoat Junction” is on at 5 a,m. Saturdays on MeTV, early weekday afternoons on the “Decades” network.
What three television series had their stars sing the theme song?
HINT: One of them is mentioned above.
QUESTION: What was Granny’s character’s full name?
QUESTION: We know there was crossover between “Petticoat Junction” and Green Acres” because they were both based in fictional Hooterville. But was there any crossover of actors between the two Hooterville shows and “The Beverly Hillbillies”?
QUESTION: Can you name the three key cast members from the “Nine to Five” movie in 1980 who also appeared in “The Beverly Hillbillies” movie in 1992?
NEXT: Spy shows
Jim Dino is the business writer for The Standard-Speaker, Hazleton. Reach him at email@example.com.