The son of a dance instructor, Buddy Ebsen was born in 1908 in Belleville, Illinois. Though he was originally interested in a career in medicine, when Ebsen found himself broke and living in New York he decided to follow in his father's talented footsteps. His role in the hit Broadway production, Whoopee
, launched his show-business career. After performing for a time as a dance team with his sister Vilma, Ebsen went solo and launched his film career. The original casting choice for the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz
, Ebsen unfortunately developed a hazardous allergy to the silver make-up and had to give up the role.
By the 50s, Ebsen had begun acting in television, appearing on shows such as Davy Crockett and Northern Passage. His roles on a number of Westerns, including Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Rawhide, made him a natural for the part of mountain man Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. After nearly a decade in the Hills of Beverly, Ebsen hung up the felt hat and a year later began his seven-year stint as TV private investigator Barnaby Jones. Numerous TV movies and guest spots followed, including a cameo as Barnaby Jones in The Beverly Hillbillies Movie. In his 90s, Buddy Ebsen ventured into the field of folk art, selling paintings (some featuring Jed Clampett) on his own website. Ebsen died in 2003 of complications from pneumonia, he was 95 years old.
A simple man who rarely wears anything but worn-out old mountain gear, Jed Clampett's goal in life is to provide for his family. Jed's a man of few needs or wants, which makes his predicament quite ironic: What could a man who's happiest living off the land possibly do with 25 million dollars? Although he becomes ensnared in some wacky schemes against his better judgement, Jed's naivete is tempered by his clear-headed common sense, and he always seems come out on top. Sure Jed might take a stab at being a rock star, or date a slick city chick, but at heart he's pure salt of the earth.