Buddy Ebsen, known to generations of TV viewers as homespun patriarch Jed Clampett of ”The Beverly Hillbillies,” died early Sunday at age 95, the Associated Press reports. He had been hospitalized in Torrance, Calif., since last week for an undisclosed illness.
Born Christian Rudolph Ebsen, the future star grew up in his family’s dancing school. He and his sister Vilma danced as partners on Broadway and in MGM musicals in the 1930s. He went on to appear in musicals with Shirley Temple (”Captain January”) and Heaneatte MacDonald and Nelson Eddy (”Girl of the Golden West”). He was cast as the Tin Man in ”The Wizard of Oz” but had to give the part up to Jack Haley when he suffered an allergic reaction to the aluminum paint.
After returning to the stage in touring productions and serving a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II, Ebsen returned to Hollywood and found a career in TV, first as Fess Parker’s sidekick on ”Davy Crockett.” His greatest fame, however, came with ”Hillbillies,” which was enormously popular for its entire 1964-72 run; CBS canceled the sitcom only because its primarily rural viewers were no longer sought after by advertisers. Ebsen quickly landed on his feet as the star of CBS’ detective show ”Barnaby Jones,” which ran from 1973 to 1980.
Ebsen also was a writer who penned musicals (”Turn to the Right,” ”Champagne Dada”), a play (”The Champagne General”), and in 2001, an e-novel, ”Kelly’s Quest.”