The naturally blonde-headed Donna Douglas is best-known for her role as the daughter of Jed Clampett (portrayed by actor Buddy Ebsen), Elly May Clampett, in the long-running TV series The Beverly Hillbillies, which made her one of the most popular television stars of the 1960s.
Born Dorothy Smith in Pride, Louisiana, Donna grew up in Louisiana on her grandparents' farm, loving critters and nature, climbing trees, swinging on vines and playing football and softball.
She was a cheerleader in high school and after high school, had a son, divorced, and won some beauty contests, all within the span of a few years. She was awarded the titles Miss Baton Rouge and, in 1957, Miss New Orleans.
She went to New York to pursue a career in entertainment and started out as a model for toothpaste ads and posed naked for various men's magazines. She was featured as the Letters Girl on The Perry Como Show in 1957, and as the Billboard Girl on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. These and other TV appearances led New York photographers and newspaper reporters to award her the Miss By-line crown, which she wore on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Her breakthrough into filmsProducer Hal Wallis saw the Sullivan episode and cast her in the role of Marjorie Burke in the movie drama Career (1959) starring Anthony Franciosa, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. This was followed by a bit part in the musical comedy Li'l Abner (1959) and the role of a secretary in the comedy/romance Lover Come Back (1961) starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
The move to televisionDonna made numerous TV appearances, which included a famous episode of The Twilight Zone titled The Eye of the Beholder (1960), considered by some to be the most notable episode of that legendary program. She also appeared on such TV programs as Ozzie and Harriet, Bachelor Father, and Thriller.
Stardom on The Beverly HillbilliesThe turning point in Douglas' career came when she was chosen over 500 other actresses to play the role of Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Nancy Kulp, Raymond Bailey, and Max Baer Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became one of the longest-running series in television history and was the number one show in America its first two years.
During the 1966 summer hiatus for the show, she made her only starring motion picture, cast as Frankie in Frederick de Cordova's musical comedy Frankie and Johnny (1966) opposite Elvis Presley. The film was popular and is among Presley's most broadcast films on television but curiously did little to open the door for a film career for Douglas.
Douglas remained with The Beverly Hillbillies for the entire run of the series. In 1981, she returned for a made-for-TV reunion movie. Having no resentment about being so closely identified with one character, she still makes occasional public appearances in her hillbilly costume of blue jeans with trademark rope belt and a ruffled, pink blouse.
Donna Douglas became a major TV star thanks to the series and was one of the first blonde sex symbols (albeit an extremely wholesome one) to become a television icon, paving the way for Barbara Eden, Farrah Fawcett, Heather Locklear, and Pamela Anderson. In comparison to the success of The Beverly Hillbillies Douglas' post-Hillbillies career was rather lackluster in part because the deeply religious actress refused to act in projects she felt were sexually suggestive or of dubious morality. Among the projects she declined was a stint on the daytime soap Santa Barbara.
Real EstateShe received her real estate license after The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air in order to have something to fall back on. She did not work in that field long, however, as she remained in show business and found other projects.
A devoted Christian, Douglas frequently performs as a gospel singer and speaks at churches across America. She recorded a gospel album in 1982 and later a country and gospel album two-record set in 1989. (A British pop singer in the 1960s also named Donna Douglas recorded a number of recordings including a U.K. hit Message in a Bottle and occasionally her discs are mistaken for the Hillbillies star.) She has also written a children's book titled Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch, which has Bible stories featuring animals and is combined with a coloring book for ages two to seven.
She has remained busy making appearances, speaking for church groups, youth groups, schools and colleges. One key focus of her charitable work has been to appear and speak in support of various Christian children's homes, mostly in her native south. She has also appeared at conventions and trade shows. In 2005 she filmed two pilot episodes for a children's program titled Mirror, Mirror.
Donna Douglas currently lives in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Area in Louisiana.
Donna Douglas Facts
|Birth Name||Dorothy Smith|
|Birthday||September 26, 1933 (83)|
|Birthplace||Pride, Louisiana, USA|