Max Baer Jr., best known for his role as Jethro Bodine in the hit television series The Beverly Hillbillies, has had a successful career after leaving the program. He is currently 84 years old.
The show centered on the Clampett family, with patriarch Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen, unexpectedly becoming extremely wealthy. After striking it rich in oil, Jed transferred his family to opulent Beverly Hills, but they maintained their rough hillbilly lifestyle despite their newfound wealth.
Jed Clampett and his family, known for their street smarts, starred in the hit sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. One memorable character was Jethro Bodine, played by Max Baer Jr., the son of Pearl, Jed’s cousin.
While appearing innocent and dim-witted, Jethro exhibited a talent for arithmetic when he memorably recited his multiplication classic “five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times.”
When it aired in 1962, the show created history by reaching the top spot faster than any previous TV show.
This success only grew as it aired for 11 years, spanning nine seasons and 274 episodes until its discontinuation in 1971. It comes as no surprise, then, that The Beverly Hillbillies was a popular television show.
Max Baer Jr. made a great impression in The Beverly Hillbillies as the country bumpkin Jethro. In 1964, his outstanding performance garnered the show four Emmy nods and a Golden Globe for Best TV Show Comedy.
Max’s persona was noted for his vast, goofy year-long smile and characteristic baby-goat giggle, which helped viewers accept him as Jethro Bodine.
Max had listened to recordings of Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters for inspiration to develop his backwoods dialect. He also could sustain a ridiculous facial expression, which fans thought tremendously entertaining.
Max became a legendary figure in American comedy by portraying Jethro, solidifying himself as one of the most beloved television personalities ever.
On December 4, 1937, Max Baer Jr was born in Oakland, California, to boxer Max Baer and his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan. Before his legendary acting career ended, he appeared in a theater version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” at the Blackpool Pavilion in England in 1949.
His significant break eventually came with the character of Jethro Bodine in “The Beverly Hillbillies,” thanks to an extraordinary mix of luck, coincidence, and self-confidence.
After graduating from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Business Management in 1959, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he discovered himself in a parking lot one year later. Regrettably, his life after the show did not turn out as many imagined.
Max Baer Jr. struck gold when he decided to ride his motorcycle to Los Angeles immediately after graduating high school. He happened upon the Warner Bros. lot when an executive recognized him and commented that he reminded him of James Garner.
Max saw an opportunity and decided to try acting, signing his first one-year contract.
He appeared on a number of renowned television shows, including 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, and Hawaiian Eye. Still, it wasn’t until he earned the role of Jethro Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies that his career took off.
As a rustic bumpkin from the Ozarks who unexpectedly strikes it rich with an oil discovery, he exhibited his flair for comedic timing and physical humor in this character.
Max Baer Jr. was no stranger to success when he was cast as Jethro Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies following an open audition. His pay for the pilot was a hefty $1000, and he continued to receive a consistent $500 for each show after that.
Despite his inability to objectively appraise his performance, it was evident that his depiction of Jethro had earned him widespread acclaim as the show became a massive success.
Even though his income was never more than $800 per episode, viewers connected with Max’s persona and found satisfaction in his comic delivery, as far as Max was concerned, if he could make audiences laugh – whether they were laughing with or at him – that was enough proof of success.
Dolly Parton was one of the main characters in a full-length film adaptation of the classic television show The Beverly Hillbillies, which was released in 1993. Unfortunately, it was not a big hit, and many people blamed it on the fact that they cast someone else in the part of Jethro Bodine instead of Max Baer Jr.
Donna Douglas was interviewed in 2013, she praised Max’s portrayal as Jethro. She underlined that, despite not always portraying Jethro as the most intelligent character, Max was able to keep viewers interested by not making him appear too ignorant.
Furthermore, Donna emphasized his devotion to the cast members and commitment to protect and defend them as if they were actual family members if somebody disparaged one of them.
Tragically, Donna Douglas died in 2015 at 82, leaving Max Baer Jr as the last surviving Beverly Hillbillies cast member.
Max Baer Jr. inherited his father, professional boxer Max Baerpassion,’s for athletics. During the Great Depression, the elder Baer increased the number of boxing contests to maintain his family financially.
To supplement his income, he did an unusual job collecting rubbish from nearby restaurants each night, earning 35 cents per collection.
With a passion for acting, it was no surprise that young Max Baer Jr would follow in his father’s footsteps. Fans worldwide praised and admired him for depicting Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Jeffrey D. Dalrymple, a friend and TV historian, even went so far as to state, “Max was able to fit in with the rest of the group without overplaying or underplaying Jethro. He was and still is a good performer and a decent guy.”
Max Baer was a successful boxer in the 1930s, but his career was ruined when he inadvertently murdered his opponent, Frankie Campbell. This sad tragedy devastated Max and left him emotionally devastated, resulting in legal action and irreparable damage to his reputation.
Max Baer Jr described his father as a “good-hearted, fun-loving, pleasant, and warm human being.” Still, with no one to defend him after the fight, his public reputation was cruelly twisted into a hideous caricature. Max died in 1959 while he was only 50 years old.
Max Baer Jr. did not follow in his father’s footsteps and instead pursued professional golf, competing in several tournaments across California. He excelled in various Christian Brothers High School sports, including golf and basketball, winning the Sacramento Junior Open Golf Tournament two years in a row.
In 1968, he finished second in the pro-am section of the Andy Williams Golf Tournament in San Diego with Charlie Sifford. Despite his significant success on the golf field, Max stated that acting was only a hobby; golf took most of his efforts and attention.
Following the termination of The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr. did not receive many offers from producers, who saw him as Jethro rather than an individual actor.
However, he successfully landed guest appearances on shows such as Love, Island Fantasy, and Murder, She Wrote. Rather than accepting lesser roles in television series, he preferred to direct and produce his work.
His first two films, Ode to Billy Joe and Macon County Line (1974), were made on a shoestring budget of $225,000. Surprisingly, it went on to become a huge hit.
According to IMDB, it grossed an impressive $18.8 million in North America alone and an astonishing $30 million globally. This accomplishment inspired him to write a sequel, Return to Macon County (1975).
The investments that Baer Jr made in his films paid off well financially and in terms of helping him establish himself as a businessman.
Max Baer Jr., now 84, wanted to leverage the show’s characters and theme for casinos, amusement parks, restaurants, and cosmetics on 24 acres of land he owned in Nevada.
Almost 200 rooms, 1000 slot machines, and robotic characters mimicking the show’s cast were built as part of the project. However, his attempts to make this franchise was met with many court disputes and never came to fruition.
Furthermore, Baer Jr accused CBS of agreeing with a Des Moines-based Jethro’s Barbecue that would interfere with his future revenues from being a part of this legendary television show. Notwithstanding this claim, the owners of Jethro’s Barbecue were assured that it would not impact their business.
Baer Jr had previously married Joanne Kathleen Hill in 1966, whom he divorced five years later. After that, he began an affair with Chere Rhodes when she was 30.
Nevertheless, disaster struck in January 2008 when Chere was discovered shot in the chest, prompting a police inquiry that determined suicide as the cause of death. Max Baer Jr. was moved to speak out after seeing the incident. He remembers being terrified at discovering her body and authorities doing tests on him “to ensure I didn’t shoot her.”
Max Baer Jr. had to battle for his spot in Hollywood. In 1963, he revealed his ambitions and goals, commenting that his family never ultimately attained what they had hoped for.
His grandfather aspired to be a boxer but became a butcher, while his father aspired to be an actor but instead created a name for himself in the boxing world.
Max wanted to be a lawyer but ended up on the other side of the camera, playing roles in The Beverly Hillbillies, which helped him develop a successful career.
Whatever happened, we will remember Max Baer Jr as one of the greats, bringing us fun and delight with each episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. He will consistently be recognized as one of Hollywood’s finest actors.
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