Sunday, January 4, 2015

RIP Donna Douglas

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Donna Douglas (1932-2015), who played Elly May Clampett in the original Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), has died at age 81, of pancreatic cancer. You know you’re getting old when someone you watched as a kid dies at age 81.

Remember the fancy eatin’ table? The ce-ment pond? Elly and her critters?

Some trivia and information:

Having grown up in Louisiana as a tomboy who wrestled with her brothers and cousins, the role of Elly May fit like a glove.

The Beverly Hillbillies was panned by critics and by the network president who put it on the air: "I HATED it," Michael Dann confided much later. "After screening the pilot, I don't think I ever watched another segment."  The public, however, felt quite the opposite: It ran for nine seasons, often in the Top 10.

Following the cancellation of the Beverly Hillbillies in 1971, she concentrated on gospel music and public appearances at churches, youth groups, schools and colleges. She also obtained her real estate licence and made good money at selling real estate.

One report I read stated that Douglas ended up buying the property at which the Beverly Hillbillies was made but I have not been able to confirm it.

Douglas sued over alleged plagiarising over her script for Sister Act. She declined an offer of $1m and elected to go to court, where she lost.

She also sued Matttel for $75,000 over the making a Barbie likeness of her as Elly May. Mattel had also made likenesses of Jeannie (I Dream of Jeannie) and Samantha (Bewitched), see pics below.  CBS defended on the basis that the character and the likeness belonged to the network. The case was settled out of court upon confidential terms but with each stating that they were happy with the outcome.

Some Donna Douglas photos:

As Elly May Clampett
Early Donna Douglas

Cover of a 2013 cookbook

Elly May has left the building.

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By the way, the term “hillbilly” is believed to have originated in the US Appalachian region of Alabama. Largely settled in the 18th century by Scotch-Irish, the majority of whom came from the Scottish lowlands, the term comes from the linkage of two older Scottish expressions, "hill-folk" and "billie" which was a synonym for "fellow", similar to "guy" or "bloke". 

Until the American Civil War, the Appalachians did not have the underdevelopment and backwardness that came to characterise it after the war. As the frontier pushed further west, the Appalachian country retained its frontier character, and the people themselves came to be seen as backward, quick to violence, and inbred in their isolation. Fuelled by news stories of mountain feuds, such as that in the 1880s between the Hatfields and McCoys, the hillbilly stereotype developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

In 1900 the first use of the term appeared in print, a New York Journal article stating that "a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him."

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