Donna Douglas, the Pride native who rose to television fame as the animal-loving, sweet Elly May Clampett on the hit 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” has died.
Charlene Smith, who was married to Douglas’ nephew, confirmed that the Beverly Hillbillies star died on New Years Day at Baton Rouge General Hospital. Douglas was 82, she said.
Smith said Douglas, or Aunt Dot as her family called her, was known for her strong Christian faith and her love of animals — a personality trait she shared with her TV character. She combined her love of both when she wrote “Donna’s Critters & Kids: Children’s Stories with a Bible Touch.”
As Elly May Clampett, Douglas played with animals ranging from chimpanzees to cats and dogs.
Douglas was born as Doris Smith and raised on a farm between the Pride and Baywood. She attended the school that became Redemptorist High School in north Baton Rouge.
Married at 17 and soon divorced, she moved to New York, leaving her young son with her family in Louisiana.
In New York, Douglas attended a casting call for a game show letter-turning girl. In 2006, she told The Advocate that she didn’t get the job because she told she wouldn’t “show herself” in a bathing suit.
Douglas subsequently got jobs on “The Perry Como Show,” “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Her early acting jobs included a part in the film “Career” and, following her move to Los Angeles, a bit part in the film “Li’l Abner.”
The actress’ role of lifetime, Elly May in “The Beverly Hillbillies,” began in 1962. Douglas played the beautiful daughter of Buddy Ebsen’s mountain patriarch, Jed Clampett. An oil strike on her improvised family’s property in the Ozarks enabled Elly and her entire clan, including Irene Ryan’s Granny and Max Baer Jr.’s Jethro Bodine, to move to a mansion in Beverly Hills.
“It was the American dream,” Douglas told The Advocate in 1999. “You see, here are these little down-and-out people that had nothing. Everybody latches onto that.”
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SOURCE: The Advocate