Buddy Ebsen was the star of Beverly Hillbillies, but Max Baer Jr. had more fan mail

Buddy Ebsen may have won the popular vote, but Max Baer Jr. still had the most fan mail.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

The Beverly Hillbillies was loved by many fans. The series' humor, antics and tight-knit family ranked high among fans and high in the Nielsen ratings during its duration on-air from 1962 to 1971. But if there was anything fans loved more than the series, it was the show's stars. 

Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas and Max Baer Jr. were the four main stars fans went wild for. Specifically, Buddy Ebsen. He was one of the show's most popular stars with prior success in Hollywood.

While Ebsen may have had the popular vote, Baer Jr. had the women's vote. 

According to a 1962 interview with The Birmingham News, Baer Jr. said he still rubbed his eyes in amazement over the sudden change in his career and popularity because of his role as Jethro Bodine. 

He was a superstar and he had the fan mail coming in to prove it.

"Gosh, the girls send in their pictures and some are mighty pretty, too," Baer Jr. said. "But they ought to know one thing: I'm not the marrying kind. I like to date, but seldom the same girl twice in a row."

A very honest answer that may have cost him a few pieces of fan mail from adoring women. According to the interview, Baer Jr. would usually receive around 2,000 pieces of fan mail a week.

Despite being the most popular person on the show, as measured by his fan mail, Baer Jr. gave all the credit to his co-star Buddy Ebsen. He added: "If every young actor had the pleasure of working with Buddy he'd have something going for him in a big way."

"Naturally I'm grateful and flattered, but I'm not the star of this thing by any means," Baer Jr. said. "If I'm getting more fan mail I'd say it's due to two factors: 1. Buddy's admirers are not of the age group that writes letters and 2. Buddy, being the pro he is, has made my part of Big Jethro what it is. Right from the beginning he has been throwing the best lines to me, as well as to Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas and others in the cast."

Ebsen and Baer Jr. had a close friendship off-screen, too. According to the interview, Baer Jr. would go sailing with Ebsen on his boat. The two would even enter in boat races together and had a knack for winning. 

Even though Baer Jr. had the most fan mail, he was Ebsen's biggest fan. 

"If he feels a scene should go to someone else because it would be funnier that way, he's quick to point it out to the producer," Baer Jr. said. "All I can say is that if I'm ever as big a star as Buddy, I hope I'll be as big a person as he is."

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13 Comments

jimmyvici 24 days ago
My favorite episode is still the one where Jethro wants to be a playboy. Classic ‘sode.
JHP 24 days ago
side note - when I was a kid I used to eat Wheaties - in a bowl like he did:)

another type show gone fer sure - the uptight south wouldn't bless this show (that's why Hee Haw died)

and thinking about granny and the kangaroo scene ...priceless zen comedy:)!
Mannixishot 25 days ago
I just think it sounds nice to see celebs being humble. Too many think they are the only star and love to throw their weight around. I honestly like all 4 of the leads on the show. Think they all added something special to the show.
MrsPhilHarris 25 days ago
I have read Max Baer Sr. and Buddy Ebsen were friends. After Max Sr. died Ebsen was sort of a father figure for Max Jr.
Runeshaper 25 days ago
It's GREAT that Ebsen and Baer had such a solid relationship. Sounds like Baer looked up to Ebsen, regardless of height. Thanks for sharing, MeTV!
harlow1313 25 days ago
When I was a kid during the shows initial run, I mailed love letters to Jethrine. Hubba-hubba!
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 24 days ago
Lol! Did you ever get love letters back from Jethrine?
JHP harlow1313 24 days ago
ahhhh you just liked "her" singing and PI-any playing:)
harlow1313 JHP 24 days ago
Jethrine hit notes that Minnie Ripperton could only dream of.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 24 days ago
Too bad Jethrine wasn't on Vegas Vacation, singing part of one of Minnie's songs.
JHP harlow1313 23 days ago
that's my morning chuckle for sure:)!

I can still get "Loving you" on my in the head radio
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