Being on The Beverly Hillbillies was like show business heaven for Irene Ryan
After winning a singing contest as a child, Ryan knew she wanted to be a star.
There's a saying that there's no business like show business, and for Irene Ryan, those words had a deeper meaning. The actress played the role of Granny in the classic rural comedy The Beverly Hillbillies. Produced by Paul Henning, the series debuted in 1962 in black & white before switching to color in 1965.
Granny was a true hillbilly and didn't allow the move to Beverly Hills to change her personality. For Ryan, the starring role was one she had longed for since she first realized she wanted to be a star. During an interview with the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1963, the actress spoke about her emotions while having her dream career.
"How do I feel about all of this? It's like I have gone to heaven," she revealed to Hollywood correspondent Erskine Johnson. When she was younger, Ryan won an amateur singing contest, and that's when she realized that she was destined for big-time fame. When the opportunity to work on The Beverly Hillbillies arose, she was ecstatic and laughed.
"Honestly, it's so funny. I sit and just laugh. Six months ago, no one cared whether I was alive or dead. Now, everyone I meet asks, 'How old are you really, Granny?' Well, I ask, 'How old are you?' So you'll never know."
While now you can conduct a quick search on the internet to find out what age she was in 1963, during that time, Irene Ryan kept fans guessing, saying, "Let's just say I'm older than Shirley Temple but younger than Sophie Tucker."
The road to stardom wasn't easy for Ryan, but she knew that thriving in show business would take time. She was willing to wait for it, no matter how long the process took. She saw minor success in radio with The Tim and Irene Ryan Show, which included her husband.
"I always loved show business, every minute of it," she said. "Why? To really love show business, you have to be of it, not just in it. That's me, honey, I'm of it."
There was no better actress for the role of Granny.