Sunday, 2 November 2014

You can take the girl out of the South... - An interview with Donna Douglas

“Yeeehaw!” shouted the cowpoke, I had never been to an honest to goodness rodeo before and boy, my heart was a racin’ and a patterin’ like a canary on a tightrope!

My goodness, the way them critters kicked and bucked! And them poor cowboys in their plaid shirts and fancy leather cowboy boots! Well, it was enough to make a good girl blush.

I sat there on the rodeo bleachers, watching with excitement, jumpin’ and ahollorin’ along with the rest of them until my voice was as hoarse as a polecats britches an' it was so ding hot too! "Boy"I thought I felt down between my knees to retrieve the coke that I'd stowed away for safe keepin’, "I needed this!" and I tried to lift it up to my mouth with out spillin' it, which wasn't easy with all the folks around me jostling and jiggling, and it didn't help none too that I had lost the lid to the cup! So, carefully up past my best red cowboy boots the cup rose, tentatively up past my Texas shaped belt buckle... up… up... up to my plaid shirt… Nearly there... An' I was just thinkin' all the while that I was going to make when, in the twinkling of a bed-post there was a all mighty cheer from the crowd and whoosh! The whole kit and caboodle was out of my hands and flying in the air… I watched in horror as the cup seemed to be in slow motion as it flew! Coke and ice was everywhere… Oh my goodness gracious! What a coot! What a dunderhead! I was as red as a brand on a Bison’s be-hind…

Directly to my left a large piece of ice started to fall and I knew that if I could just reach out my hand in time I could catch it, but sadly
 my brain was quicker than my hands and just as I stretched out, the ice reached its destination... Right down the back of the dress of the pretty lady sittin' beside me.... And It was only then that I realised just who this pretty lady was!

Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! It was none other than the critter lovin', beauty queenin', southern belle, Donna 'Elly May Clampett' Douglas! And I was more embarrassed than a holyman with his britches down!

Donna Douglas (born September 26, 1933) is an American actress, best known for her role as Jed Clampett's (played by Buddy Ebsen) only daughter, Elly May Clampett, in the CBS television seriesThe Beverly Hillbillies(1962-1971).  

Douglas was born Doris Smith in the community of Pride in East Baton Rouge Parish, near Zachary, Louisiana. She was the only daughter of Emmett Ratcliff Smith, Sr. (1907–1988)]and his wife, the former Elma Robinson (1910–2003).
The role she was most famous for was Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy EbsenIrene RyanNancy KulpRaymond Bailey, and Max Baer, Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became the number one show in the United States in its first two years. [Wikipedia]

I apologised profusely, but you know what, Donna just smiled, a kind smile you only get from kind folk, the kind of smile I always hoped she'd have and after shakin' the ice from her dress we got'a talkin'...   

So, tell us a little summit' about Donna Douglas...
"Got married back home in Baton Rouge , LA right after graduating high school, 17 yrs. going on 12 yrs., so unprepared, however, back in the early 1950's back home that's just what you did! We married moved into by room at home with mom & daddy, he took a job out of town, I stayed home, got a little job, 6 mos later he can back home, we had little in common, however, during that time I became expecting with my little boy, over time we broke up, by the time my son was born we were separated and then divorced, all the while I was still living with my parents."

And how did you get started, acting and modelling?

"I had several little nothing jobs, took a short modeling course, was in a few little pageants, then I decided if mom & daddy would help me raise my little boy, I would go to NYC and try my hand at modeling"

Ok, two questions down, now I just had to talk about one character and that was Miss Elly May Clampett...

So, Donna, how did you get the part in The Beverly Hill Billies?
"After modeling for awhile in NYC met some people who knew producer Hal Wallis w/ Paramount in Hollywood, they offered me a screen test, did some small tv & film parts, found out about Elly May & the BH's they auditioned over 500 girls, narrowed down to 6, which I was one of the six, got the part, a true slice right out of my life."

Did you feel that Ella May was a kindred spirit, you being a southern bell, an animal lover and, so I have heard, a bit of a Tom-boy too?
"I was a total tomboy, an older brother & all male cousins, so if I wanted to play, you had to keep up, we swung on vines, jumped off sheds, played softball, in fact I played so much softball I was offered to be trained for a girls semi professional team, by then though I had my boyfriend/ soon to be husband and I didn't want to leave him, my only goals were to get married, be a good wife and someday be a mother, really simple!"

You sure handled a lot of 'critters' on the show!

"I always liked animals, trainer for the HB Frank Inn estimated I had worked w/ over 500 animals in the 9yr run of the show."

Wowza's I thought... Thats a heck of a lot of scratches and hairs up the nose, but she seemed to love those critters like a bear loves his honey!

Now Elly May may have been a bit rough around the edges, but she sure could cut a figure in them jeans! And Tiny!! Boy she was so slinky, I had to wonder... 

Were you really that tiny, or did you wear a corset of somekind? You really were winsey! 
"Me Blackwell (Richard) designed all my dresses/gowns of the famous worst dress list,
after the show ended, they gave me my show wardrobe which is all in my spare bedroom closet! Some of them were stunning and no!! They no longer fit, that was my natural waist size back then!!"


And the cast... What were they all like? Fabulous I a guessin'!
"I loved the cast, loved every minute of filming the whole 9 years. Buddy Ebsen (Jed) reminded me so much if my own father, we stayed life long friends, in fact Max Baer Jr (Jethro) and I saw Buddy at the hospital the night before he passed away."

Now Granny was a formidable character... Did Irene Ryan stay in character during filming or did she go back to being herself in between takes? Or was she really that grumpy?! 
"Irene Ryan (Granny), what a woman, only about 7-8 yrs older than Buddy, they did an excellent job aging her, I adored her, she had more scenes w/ Max, once again, we truly were like a family, we had so much fun filming."

You know, I thought as much!

How does it feel to think that people still watch and laugh at the series?
I get questioned about it all the time, 50 something yrs later and people still want to watch it. 

How does it feel to watch yourself today? 
Watching my self now?? Well it brings back a lot of memories, fun times, Elly May sure had opened a lot of doors for me!!" 

Now Donna is so much more than just Elly May... And I was itchin' like a bad rash to ask her some questions about her other projects and just about her, really!
Now, what is it like to be such a stunning woman in Hollywood? I bet you get loads of attention? Any famous names that you can tell me about that asked you on a date? I can't believe that no one did! 

"I tended not to date actors, too vain for my taste. Plus I got remarried right after filming completed."

And what is the fanmail like? Do you ever get obsessive fans? 
"I still get tons of email, photos to be signed, now w/ the internet, lots of emails, which I do answer myself, one week I got over 7,000 letters during the 1st year of the BH, that is still amazing to me."

Now, you were in my ultimately, absolutely, definitely, favourite episode of the Twilight Zone [Eye of the Beholder (1960)]....
"Twilight Zone, Eye of the Beholder was rated #1 by the fans."

Oh my goodness... Those pig faced people were truly disturbing!

"The masks were really something for that time period."

You just played Maxine after the reveal... But I've always wondered, why didn't you play her under the bandages? 

"The woman under the bandages, was a bit older, so when they unwrapped the bandage they used me, it was filmed in two parts a month or so apart, so I was told later."

Aha... Well that answers that mystery! Now I just needed to know why I can't make a chuck wagon Brisket as good as my ma's and I could get a full nights slumber!

But back to the matter at hand.

So, Donna, if you could, what advice would give the younger you?
"Younger Donna, just trust in God, be true to yourself and lead a simple life! I have had a very full & happy life, am just as busy now as I was then!"

That sounded good to me and with that Donna had to go, she got up and dusted herself down and there was another raucous cheer from the crowd, this time I wasn't sure if it was the rodeo clown or Donna herself! But as she grabbed her coat I took my chance and asked one final question, I wondered if she had been a real person, what did she think Elly May would be up to today?
"Well, if Elly May really had access to all those oil millions, she would have an animal preserve & then giving the majority to research for childhood diseases! I think Elly May would need very little of that oil money!!"

What a lovely and generous woman, she was fine as cream gravy! I had thrown ice at her and in return she had given me an experience I would never forget, no sir! And  you know what? I hope you enjoyed it too and remember everyone...

  "You'll come back now y'hear!"
For more information on the fabulous Donna go to:


  1. Such a lovely face! I still play the theme from BHB on the banjo!

  2. It's a cute piece! Love, Donna Prov 3:5&6 - thank you Donna x