Donna Douglas' life after The Beverly Hillbillies

She stepped away from the industry, but not from the public.

CBS Television Distribution

According to an age-old adage, in Hollywood, you're only as good as your last project. It's an industry built upon... well, building upon. Actors build upon their filmography. They capitalize on a growing trust and familiarity with the viewing public. There is money to be made from the connection that audiences have with the stars of TV and film. The Hollywood machine is constantly cranking out material to put those stars on the screen, in hopes we'll return to repeat some previous success.

It's surprising, then, when a star leaves the industry after a rise to fame. It's so much more often that we see the stars of yesterday desperate to cling onto those last threads of recognizability. If there's one thing America loves more than a fall from grace, it's a comeback. So, it's pretty unique when someone famous bucks the trend and quits while they're on top.

That was (more or less) the case with Donna Douglas, who played Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies. The show made her a star, and when it ended, her career just puttered out. The twist, though, is that Douglas jettisoned her career on purpose. As it turns out, she wasn't interested in doing just any old project to remain relevant. 

The book Glamour, Gidgets, and the Girl Next Door includes quotes in which Douglas chronicles the steps she followed after Hillbillies.

"I was offered to do a nighttime soap after The Beverly Hillbillies. There was so much I didn't want to do because of family values. It was a big hit in a couple weeks, but it didn't matter to me, because I wanted to do a certain caliber of work and didn't want to do garbage."

Douglas' commitment to her beliefs didn't keep her at home all the time, though.

"Today, I am busy giving back. I speak at churches, ladies' groups, and schools; I've done two children's books and a cookbook. My life is full and busy. I still have large turnouts wherever I go to speak. Afterward, I visit with the fans, sometimes for hours, which I enjoy. It's nice to hear which episode [of The Beverly Hillbillies] people enjoyed or related with."


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8 Comments

Mirramanee 21 days ago
I recall reading a story somewhere (several years after Beverley Hillbillies went off the air) that she had turned gotten a real estate license in order to make a living. I remembered thinking it was too bad she did not continue to pursue acting (she was still very attractive at that point), but I admired her for falling into the more unsavory Hollywood life and staying true to herself.
Coldnorth 28 days ago
She played her role so convincingly that it’s hard to imagine that her personal life was different than her role
Mark112763 1 month ago
I wish she could have gone on to become a big star because she was a very attractive woman but she had something that Hollywood has never heard of - strong morals...
DethBiz 1 month ago
One of the sweetest people I ever got to meet at a Horror convention.
Bapa1 1 month ago
I think her 'critters' got their own variety show.
BorisK 1 month ago
Saw her once on a plane on a flight to Tulsa. She was dressed in a white frilly country grill dress and long curled hair. Was very pretty. We were afraid to say hello to her though.
jmworacle 1 month ago
She followed her heart. Good for her.
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
I wonder what show she was offered? 🤔
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