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Buddy Ebsen Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (109) | Personal Quotes (27)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 2 April 1908Belleville, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 6 July 2003Torrance, California, USA  (complications from pneumonia)
Birth NameChristian Rudolph Ebsen Jr.
Height 6' 3½" (1.92 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Buddy Ebsen began his career as a dancer in the late 1920s in a Broadway chorus. He later formed a vaudeville act with his sister Vilma Ebsen, which also appeared on Broadway. In 1935 he and his sister went to Hollywood, where they were signed for the first of MGM's Eleanor Powell movies, Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935). While Vilma retired from stage and screen shortly after this, Buddy starred in two further MGM movies with Powell. Two of his dancing partners were Frances Langford in Born to Dance (1936) and Judy Garland in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937). They were a little bit taller than Shirley Temple, with whom he danced in Captain January (1936). MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer offered him an exclusive contract in 1938, but Ebsen turned it down. In spite of Mayer's warning that he would never get a job in Hollywood again, he was offered the role of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Ebsen agreed to change roles with Ray Bolger, who was cast as the Tin Man. Ebsen subsequently became ill from the aluminum make-up, however, and was replaced by Jack Haley. He returned to the stage, making only a few pictures before he got a role in the Disney production of Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955). After this, he became a straight actor, and later won more fame in his own hit series, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and Barnaby Jones (1973).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Stephan Eichenberg<eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Spouse (3)

Dorothy Ebsen (May 1985 - 6 July 2003) (his death)
Nancy Wolcott McKeown (6 September 1945 - 1985) (divorced) (5 children)
Ruth Cambridge (10 July 1933 - 1945) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (5)

His unusual, almost surreal dancing and singing style
The role of Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
His deep, croaking, gregarious voice
The catchphrase "Wellll, doggies!"
Towering height.

Trivia (109)

His first wife, Ruth, was originally Walter Winchell's secretary/Girl Friday.
In the 1930s, Disney animators filmed him dancing in front of a grid to "choreograph" Wayne Allwine's dance steps for the Silly Symphony cartoons.
Attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida shortly before starting his film career.
Had surgery on June 10, 1998 to repair an aortic valve in his heart.
Became a bestselling author at age 93.
Originally cast as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Buddy was hospitalized as a result of inhaling aluminum powder used as part of his make-up. One chorus of "We're Off to See the Wizard" in the movie and soundtrack album retain Ebsen's original vocals as the Tin Man, recorded before he was forced to leave the production. Because of the prolonged hospitalization, he was replaced by Jack Haley (whose reformulated make-up used pre-mixed aluminium dust), and Ebsen's scenes were re-shot using Haley. Footage of Ebsen as the Tin Man still exists, and was included as an extra with the U.S. 50th anniversary video release of The Wizard of Oz (1939).
An outspoken Republican, he helped defeat Nancy Kulp, his co-star in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962), in her 1984 Democratic congressional bid in Pennsylvania. Ebsen made radio ads for her opponent accusing Kulp of being "too liberal" and not good for the district. The two did not speak for years after the incident, but eventually settled their differences.
After seeing Ebsen in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) wanted him to play family patriarch Jed Clampett. At the time, Ebsen was thinking of retiring, but the producers sent him a copy of the script, and he changed his mind.
In 1938, MGM offered him a seven-year contract, starting at $2,000 a week but requiring him to give the studio absolute control over his career. He rejected it. MGM blackballed him and his film career went into eclipse for nearly 20 years, until Walt Disney hired him to play Georgie Russel, Davy Crockett's sidekick, in Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955).
Initially wanted to become a doctor. He took premed courses at Rollins College and the University of Florida, but his mother persuaded him into show business.
Director Norman Foster first recommended Ebsen to Walt Disney to play Davy Crockett, and Disney was "half sold" on the idea. Then Disney saw Fess Parker in the sci-fi film Them! (1954) and cast the strapping actor as the famed frontiersman. Ebsen was crestfallen because he knew how big the picture would be. The next day the studio signed Ebsen on as Crockett's weatherbeaten sidekick, Georgie Russel. The part helped to turn his career around and arguably played a part in Ebsen's getting the role of the equally grizzled and popular Jed Clampett.
His father owned a dance studio, and when Ebsen was a young boy insisted that he take dance lessons.
One of his last roles was a gag cameo in The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) in which Jim Varney played Jed Clampett. Ebsen showed up as Barnaby Jones.
Wrote a half dozen plays, five of which were produced, including a farce called Honest John in 1948 and Champagne General in 1973, a Civil War story. Also a part-time songwriter, he became a newly-published author of a romantic novel at the age of 93, titled Kelly's Quest.
Was initiated into DeMolay at the John M. Cheney Chapter in Orlando Florida, in 1926. DeMolay is a Masonic youth organization for young men between 12 and 21. Was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 21, 1996.
Appeared in three musical film extravaganzas starring tap great Eleanor Powell.
Taught Judy Garland the shim-sham shimmy while they were at MGM.
In the last two years of his life, he recorded his first CD in which he sang some of his own songs.
Set up the Ebsen School of Dance in Pacific Palisades, California. When Buddy was young, his father, a physical fitness advocate, taught dance in West Palm Beach, Florida. This is where Buddy and younger sister Vilma Ebsen learned their craft and they appeared in local and school productions.
Had four sisters - Helga, Norma, Vilma Ebsen and Leslie. He was the middle child.
He and sister Vilma Ebsen performed in vaudeville doing variations on the same theme -- with Vilma playing a dancing instructor who teaches the seemingly uncoordinated country doofas Buddy how to dance. A vaudeville showstopper in such shows as "Whoopee!", "Flying Colors" and "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934", they were known for a time as "The Baby Astaires".
Fathered two daughters, Elizabeth Ebsen and Alix Ebsen, with his first wife, Ruth. Had five additional children (Susannah, Cathy, Bonnie Ebsen, Kiersten Kiki Ebsen, and Dustin Ebsen) with his second wife, Nancy.
He served in the Coast Guard during World War II as the executive officer on the Pocatello, a submarine chaser in the North Pacific.
Owned a 36-acre ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains.
He and his The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) co-star, Donna Douglas, had a lot in common. Like Buddy, she too is a successful singer (of gospel), is also a character actress, and is also a Republican.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) or as the lead role on Barnaby Jones (1973).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 161-163. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Son Dustin Ebsen is married to Stan Freberg 's daughter Donna.
Almost all of his sisters lived long lives, just like Buddy himself. Helga died in 1994, at the age of 92 and Norma died in 1996, also at the age of 92. His sister, Vilma, died in 2007, just four years after her brother's own death.
His former Barnaby Jones (1973) co-star, Lee Meriwether, said he reminded her a lot of Ray MacDonnell, with whom she had a wonderful relationship on All My Children (1970).
Co-founder of the Beverly Hills Coin Club with a young, unknown actor, Chris Aable.
After he died, his family sent Shirley Temple an invitation to his memorial, but she declined.
His series Barnaby Jones (1973) was canceled at the end of the eighth season, because Buddy had decided to retire from acting.
His series The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) was canceled at the end of the ninth season, because of the infamous rural purge that axed all shows in 1971.
He had 15 hobbies over his long life: dancing, playing guitar, coin collecting, swimming, golfing, riding horses, sailing, painting, building sailboats, spending time with his family, politics, gardening, fishing, traveling and singing.
Before he was a successful actor, he was a successful singer and dancer.
At age 12, his family moved to Orlando, Florida, where Ebsen was raised.
Of Danish and Latvian descent.
Remained friends with Lee Meriwether during and after Barnaby Jones (1973).
Remained friends with Donna Douglas and Max Baer Jr. during and after The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Graduated from Orlando High School in Orlando, Florida, in 1926.
While filming Barnaby Jones (1973), he was hospitalized with pains in his legs. [2 July 1976].
Future politician and talk show host Jerry Springer, said Ebsen was his childhood television hero.
When he left Florida to arrive in New York City in 1928, he had $26.75 in his pocket. He and Vilma both formed the act, while attending supper clubs. In Vaudeville, they were known as "The Baby Astaires".
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1765 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
Acting mentor and friends of Donna Douglas, Max Baer Jr. and Lee Meriwether.
Dropped out of college, to pursue showbiz.
Moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1935.
Didn't start acting until he was age 28.
Buddy Ebsen died on July 6, 2003. Just three months before his death, he celebrated his 95th birthday, on April 2.
Got the nickname 'Buddy' from his aunt, so Christian changed his name to Buddy Ebsen.
On The Beverly Hillbillies (1962), his character always wore a tattered hat, a tan coat, blue jeans and a fake mustache.
Met Fess Parker in 1954, when they were both under contract at Disney.
Began his contract career at MGM in 1935.
When he turned to acting, he and the rest of his family were financially broke.
Before he was a successful actor, he worked at a soda fountain shop.
After his final guest-starring role on King of the Hill (1997), he retired from acting at age 91.
Upon his death, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
Met Nancy Wolcott, when he was serving as a Coast Guard in World War II. The two would remain married, for 40 years, until their divorce in 1985.
German was his first language.
His second ex-wife, Nancy Wolcott McKeown, died on May 14, 2008, just 1 day before her 90th birthday.
Long lives ran in his family.
Dancing ran in his family.
Was Quinn Martin's first choice for the lead role of Barnaby Jones (1973), he accepted it, which was his comeback to television, after a 2 year absence.
Worked with William Conrad in episodes of both shows: Barnaby Jones (1973), which Conrad appeared on the first episode, and another afterwards and Cannon (1971).
Was approached by Paul Henning for his first choice as the lead role of Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Was one of the three actors who appeared in every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Began his television series The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) at age 54.
Was a longtime friend of Dick Van Dyke, who hosted his memorial service on 30 August 2003.
On Barnaby Jones (1973), he played a private eye detective, on Matt Houston (1982), he also played a private eye detective.
Longtime best friend Fess Parker attended his funeral.
Had been an entertainer since the age of 20.
His birthplace, Belleville, Illinois, is located 16 miles East of St. Louis, Missouri.
Before his death, both of his ex-The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) co-stars, Donna Douglas and Max Baer Jr., went to visit him in the hospital, during his final days.
Before he was a successful actor, he did everything from being a lifeguard to being a waiter.
Ebsen's family moved to Palm Beach, Florida, in 1919, at age 11, to help his mother's aggravated sickness.
Despite being an average student at Orlando High School, he was a member of the swimming team, which he participated all 4 years, who became a Florida State Champion. He also played football his senior year.
Survived by 7 children and 2 nephews.
Was good friends with Eddie Albert. He worked with him on Attack (1956) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Had began writing since high school.
Was a Boy Scout.
Published his first novel: "Kelly's Quest." He is writing a novel based on his Barnaby Jones character. [April 2001]
Ebsen became embroiled in a contract dispute with MGM that left him idle for long periods.
He was set to make a cameo appearance on Son of the Beach (2000), but was forced to cancel it due to failing health.
Attended Michael Landon's funeral in 1991.
Had purchased the 4,398 square ft. house in Palos Verdes Estates, California, in, late 1985, and lived there until his death. The house was sold in 2007.
Was a spokesperson for the United Way in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Buddy Ebsen died on July 6, 2003. Just 3 weeks after his death, his longtime best friend, comedian Bob Hope, passed away.
Appeared on the front cover of TV Guide 8 times.
Was one of the two actors to appear in every episode of Barnaby Jones (1973).
Between The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and Barnaby Jones (1973), he had roles on television for 18 consecutive seasons.
Ebsen had a unique Disney connection. It was Disney that hired him in 1955 for the Davy Crockett series that ended an almost 20 year absence from leading movie roles after he rejected MGM's 1938 contract offer. Disney, however, appears to have always been a "good luck" charm for Ebsen. In his first film, Broadway Melody of 1936, in his first scene he is wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater. Ebsen appeared just a few years later in the followup film, Broadway Melody of 1938. In the second scene in which he appears, he is wearing a Donald Duck sweater/shirt.
When Ebsen was in his early 20s, he traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he participated in a lot of plays: 'Whoopee,' 'The Male Animal,' and 'Apple of His Eye.'.
Was also a very good friend of Ruth Warrick.
He and his third wife, Dorothy Knott, were stopped by a police officer. Then he stuck his head in the window, looked at Ebsen and said, 'Georgie Russell!' That was the only time that a cop has let either him and his wife off, by not giving them a ticket.
Before he was a successful actor, in the 1930s, he formed a vaudeville act with his sister, Vilma Ebsen, performing throughout the country.
Was the producers first choice for the lead role of Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955), but lost the role to fellow actor Fess Parker. Ebsen played Parker's sidekick in the series.
Behind Mickey Rooney and Bob Hope, Ebsen was the third actor ever to have an extended acting career, longer than anybody else in the business.
In 1962, Ebsen was one of the actors to have joined the ranks of other sitcom male lead stars, such as John Forsythe, Andy Griffith, Danny Thomas, Alan Young, Robert Young, Fred MacMurray and Ernest Borgnine (whose sitcom McHale's Navy (1962), debuted just 2 weeks after Ebsen's) to star in his own popular sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Began writing songs in high school.
Said in an interview that his favorite show was The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).
Began his second show Barnaby Jones (1973) at age 64.
Ebsen had exchanged guitar lessons, with Fess Parker, who took dancing lessons.
His good friend Ruth Warrick, and his former Barnaby Jones (1973) co-star, Lee Meriwether, both starred in the long-running daytime soap opera, All My Children (1970), from 1996 to 1998.
According to his The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) co-star, Donna Douglas, she said in an interview, that she reminded Ebsen of her late father. She also said in the same interview, most of her scenes, on that show were with Ebsen.
Had a photographic memory. According to his Barnaby Jones (1973) co-star, Lee Meriwether, she said in an interview, Ebsen had a wonderful memory and would put his lines down immediately.
On both of his shows, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) and Barnaby Jones (1973), his characters danced in a few episodes, in real-life, Ebsen was also a dancer.

Personal Quotes (27)

You take a blank piece of paper and, whatever you're thinking, you write it down. I'm very satisfied if, in my mind, it increased the value of the paper. That's what writing should do. It should increase the value of the paper.
[Commenting on having written a romance novel at age 93]: "There are a lot of mes."
You get more negative reactions than positive reactions as you go through life, and the big lesson is nobody counts you out but yourself...I never have, I never will.
'As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.' Often the values of the influences imposed on us by our mothers and fathers, our teachers and certain friends, are not realized until years later, when we, as a sailor does, look back at our wakes to determine the course we have steered that got us to where we are. Today when I look back, then look around me to see with whom I am standing, I fully realize the influence on my life that must be credited to DeMolay.
[When asked why he had returned to the rigors of a weekly show (Matt Houston (1982)), at the age of 76. (1984)]: "I'm used to getting up at dawn and going to the studio to be with my pals on the set. It's my lifestyle and I wouldn't trade it for any other."
I've been typecast as various things in my career. As a cute little-well, not-so-little, brother-sister dance team. I got by that and that was deliberate. I played heavies for about eight or nine years. It was my agent's idea. He said we'd have to break this mold.
[Who thought in 1973 for a while about the Barnaby Jones character he portrayed]: "Besides being older, he approaches problems more calmly. Not that he's incapable of being worked up. He has compassion for the victim, compassion for the bereaved and compassion really for the convicted. Not that he's soft. He's a embodiment of what someone once said about a tough skipper-he's hard, but he's fair."
[Who said in 1965 about his stage performances]: "I probably enjoyed show business most when I was doing plays like 'The Male Animal' and 'Good Night, Ladies,' when people would lay down their money and laugh and you'd see them walk out happy. By God, I'd feel honest. I could go home with a good taste in my mouth. You'd feel better, you'd feel more alive and like you were justifying your existence."
[Who said as to why The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) was his favorite TV series to date]: "The one flaw in this is that you can't hear the people laughing."
[on being a best-selling author]: "Writing fiction, there are no limits to what you write as long as it increases the value of the paper you are writing on."
[Of his Barnaby Jones character]: "Barnaby is more of a fox. He counterpunches. Let's somebody make a mistake and he capitalizes on it."
[When he had a lot of time writing, Mark Shera, joined the cast of Barnaby Jones (1973), as J.R.]: "I said we have two clever people on the show. Lee Meriwether and Mark Shera. I said why don't you do a number of shows in which they carry the load. They agreed to that and it gives me more time to do the things I want to do."
I have about six plays and I want to write 'My First 50 Years in Show Business.' My mother, God bless her, saved every letter from 1928 on. Every clipping pictures. She squirreled it all away.
[Who was still going on strong with his Barnaby Jones character]: "After this, I'll just get into something else. Some other job. I can't do nothing."
[Who said in 1977 about his tune, The September Song, taken from Knickerbocker Holiday]: "I don't consider 'September Song' a survivor song, but there is one line which expresses why I'll never retire. That's these few golden days I'll spend with you."
[Where he spent most of his time aboard a weather ship outside of Seattle, where he doesn't consider a total loss]: "I met my present wife Nancy during the war. She was in the Coast Guard, too, and stationed in Seattle as a communications officer. We were both lieutenants, j.g., but I got my extra half stripe before we got married, so I outranked her."
My father was born in what used to be Denmark and later became part of Germany. After what my uncle told him about his experiences in the German army, my father thought he had better get out of the country fast. That's why he came to the United States when he was 16 and went to Chicago, where his sister had married the postmaster.
[Who said in 1963 about his career before starring in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962)]: "I'm a straight man in the series. Jed is essentially not a comedy character, so my job is to set up the situations and the lines. Occasionally, Jed will make a droll observation and sometimes when the show is slanted toward him, I'll play in a comedy scene. But for the most part I feed lines to the others."
[Who believed in 1962 about The Beverly Hillbillies (1962) making it a surefire hit]: "It has several things going for it - including the scripts. First, there's the contrast between a historically primitive culture and an extremely modern one. And the simple one doesn't come off second best because the people are kind and direct. Then, there's the business about the country jakes with 25 million dollars who appear to be ripe for the slickers - but never get taken because of their basic honesty and goodness. People always like that - the story of the wise fools, a classic."
[When he was playing the saxophone, the same instrument that inspired future president Bill Clinton, to play it long after him]: "Sixty-seven years ago, I owned a saxophone and played in the high school band. I said, 'Shucks, if he can do it, I can.'"
They got a lot of very important people to make a comment about 'Hillbillies,' its position in the general tapestry of Americana.
[About Cass Daley]: "Anyway, Cass Daley is with me in the cast of 10 and it's a happy group we have. I don't want to sound like a Don Quixote-type character, but I'm sort of on a one-man rampage to find out if there isn't a place on stage for good, clean fun, the kind of wholesome entertainment people used to enjoy some years back. And so far, the attendance on this tour has backed me up."
[Who said in 1971 as to why he'd done things on tour rather than staying at home sailing one of his boats]: "Well, I've always loved the stage, and naturally it's been a long time since I played to a live audience. So I got this hankering, or itch, maybe it's almost like a disease"
[Who said in 1964 when his first given name was: Christian Rudolph Ebsen, Jr.]: "It was a German community, and the schools taught German as well as English. Although it was my first language, I never became fluent in it. When I was filming 'Night People' in Berlin, a few years ago, I was often complimented on my accent, but never on my vocabulary or grammar."
[For gaining popularity for playing fifty-something Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies]: "I don't see how people can see themselves or their friends in our show."
[In 1993]: "It's therapeutic. When I get depressed, I just rent a cassette [of it] and I feel good. I don't have to see a doctor."
[on the effects of aluminum poisoning that forced his relinquishing the 'Tin Man' role] Production had been underway for ten days when, one night after dinner,I took a deep breath - and nothing happened! I felt like no air had reached my lungs... as though someone had coated them with glue. And my breathing was excruciatingly labored. I wondered if I was dying.

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