Max Baer Jr. is most commonly known as Jethro Bodine from The Beverly Hillbillies, but whatever happened to this legend after the show?

This is Max Baer Jr today, age 84.

Comedy show The Beverly Hillbillies followed the story of the Clampett family, with Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen, who found himself accumulating wealth extremely fast.

Jed became a millionaire overnight, deciding to move to Beverly Hills, California. The crux of the story? The family maintained their hillbilly way of life.

Max Baer Jr – Jethro Bodine
The street-smart Jed brought his Clampett family clan with him, and among the many popular characters was one that stood out.

Max Baer Jr played the role of Jethro Bodine, the son of Jed’s cousin, Pearl, a naive and borderline dim-witted man who showed off his great math skills with his multiplication classic “five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times.”

The Beverly Hillbillies was an instant success when it aired in 1962. It rose to the No. 1 spot quicker than any other show in television history within the first three weeks after its debut, according to IMDB.

Television audiences loved the show. It ran for 11 years, amassing a total of nine seasons and 274 episodes, before being cancelled in 1971.

The Beverly Hillbillies was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best TV Show Comedy in 1964, in addition to four Emmy nominations.

The Beverly Hillbillies – Jethro
As for Max’s character, he had a goofy year-to-ear grin, his laugh made everyone else laugh, and, above all else, he made everyone believe his character Jethro Bodine was real.

Max had practiced his backwood accent by listing to Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters records. He was able to couple this with maintaining a constantly stupid look on his face, which obviously had fans laughing.

Max Baer Jr was truly an American comedy icon while portraying the country bumpkin Jethro. Not only that, but the show gave Max his big breakthrough.

Sadly, his life after the show didn’t turn out as many would’ve thought. This is the story of the man behind Jethro Bodine – a character people in Hollywood never wanted to let go of.

Max Baer Jr was born Dec 4, 1937 in Oakland, California. He is the son of legendary boxer Max Baer and his wife Mary Ellen Sullivan.

Picked up in parking lot
It would be a long time before Baer Jr went into acting. His first acting role was in a stage production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Blackpool Pavilion in England in 1949. Later, it was actually just a mixture of coincidence, luck and a great self-confidence that landed him the role of a lifetime in The Beverly Hillbillies.

Baer Jr was raised in Sacramento and later moved to Santa Clara to study. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Santa Clara University in 1959, but only a year later, he would find himself standing in a parking lot in Los Angeles.

According to a 1999 article in People Magazine, Max Baer Jr decided to ride his motorcycle to Los Angeles the year after graduation. He ended up in the Warner Bros. lot, where an executive thought he looked like James Garner.

Baer Jr was discovered, and he decided to give acting a chance. Soon, he had signed his first one-year contract, despite knowing anything about acting. Instead, he just thought he might as well should go for it.

He scored small parts and guest roles in television, appearing in series such as 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick and Hawaiian Eye.

Even though his career wasn’t skyrocketing, he decided to stay, and soon he found himself the greatest gig he would ever land: a sitcom about a country bumpkin family getting rich off oil.

Max Baer Jr – career
Following an open audition, he scored the role as Jethro Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies, earning $1000 for the pilot and $500 the following show.

“When you play a role like Jethro it’s for other people to judge because it’s pretty hard to be subjective or objective about yourself,” Baer Jr told Medium.

Actor Max Baer, Jr with wife Joanne Hill attends an award party in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)
“You just do the best you can with the material that you’re given, and then you try to add to it [with your performance] as much as you possibly can. But in the end, it’s the audience who has the final say. Well, we liked what you did’ or ‘We don’t like what you did.’ And you really don’t have any other way of evaluating it.”

At this point, the show was a huge success. Baer never earned more than $800 per episode, but he held a very special place in the hearts of the American TV public.

Max Baer Jr knew he was doing a good job, and most importantly, getting people to laugh.

“You have to perform well. And, in my case, if I have made the people laugh and even if they can laugh at my expense, it’s okay. I don’t care,” Baer Jr said. “They can laugh with me or at me. It doesn’t matter, just as long as they laugh. Because if I can make them laugh, then I believe that my performance was a successful one. I can’t evaluate it as to what degree of success it was. But I can say it did what it was supposed to do.”

In 1993, a feature-length adaptation of the classic TV show aired, including Dolly Parton among others. Unfortunately, it didn’t achieve quite the same level of success. To be honest, how could it be after they had cast someone else in the role of Jethro?

Praised as Jethro Bodine
Celebrated actress Donna Douglas played the role of the mountain beauty Elly May Clampett on Beverly Hillbillies.

Speaking in 2013, she praised Max Baer Jr for his outstanding role as Jethro, who might not have been seen as the brightest bulb in the bulb box.

“Max Baer did well as Jethro because he didn’t come across as so dumb that you didn’t like him,” she said according to the book Dashing, Daring, and Debonair: TV’s Top Male Icons from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

“He gave me a hard time then and still does. But we all were like a family. Max could complain about any one of us (for whatever reason), but do not let someone else say something about one of us. Boy — would Max really let that person have it. He’d defend us just like with a real family member.”

Donna Douglas passed away in 2015, aged 82, leaving Baer Jr the only surviving cast member of the show.

TV historian Jeffrey D. Dalrymple, a good friend of Baer Jr’s, agrees.

“You believed Uncle Jed, Granny, and cousin Elly May was his family because they played it so well,” he says. “And Max had the ability to blend in with the other cast members, without overplaying or underplaying Jethro. He was a good actor and a good guy, and he still is”

Max Baer Jr father
Besides being a celebrated star on The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer Jr had a great interest in sports, just like his father, who was a professional boxer.

In his early days, Max Bear made a living by walking around town and collecting garbage from restaurants. He was paid 35 cents each night and worked seven nights a week.

The father also earned money through boxing matches; during the Great Depression, Max Baer asked for more fights.






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