Here's how Irene Ryan used discipline to solve her energy problem

Here's how Irene Ryan had all the energy she needed to become America's most beloved shotgun-carrying granny.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Irene Ryan played the role of the shotgun-toting Daisy Moses (Granny) on the 1962 series The Beverly Hillbillies. Granny was a self-proclaimed country M.D. (mountain doctor) who claimed to have more knowledge than city physicians.

And if you didn't agree with Granny's opinion? Well, she had just the right amount of scrappiness to try and prove you wrong. She was everyone's favorite sassy grandma – the type you'd be afraid to see on Thanksgiving, but also the one you could rely on for some unhinged entertainment.

Ryan was almost 60 during the first season of The Beverly Hillbillies. She was a seasoned acting veteran who had already been in the entertainment industry since the 1930s.

Being a working woman in her 60s was a hard stance against retirement, which many other grannies her age would either be enjoying or considering. However, Ryan had her way of staying alive, awake, and alert during the long days of filming. 

"People are always telling me I am so lucky to have so much energy," Ryan said in a 1966 interview with The Los Angeles Times. "It sounds simple, but it's not. You have to be disciplined, and you have to believe in the unlimited power of the mind."

Ryan believed that people's attitudes affected their welfare and most people's undoing. Ryan said she tried to think positive thoughts as much as possible.

"When things on our Beverly Hillbillies set are in turmoil about something, I walk away from all the excitement and relax in my dressing room," Ryan said. "I escape with happy thoughts. And when I return to the cameras I have not drained my vitality needlessly."

Another source of Ryan's energy came from learning to do everything in a more relaxed manner.

"When you rush around, you are often so tired you can't sleep," Ryan said. "I try never to make appointments too close together, for I've always believed that rest is related to feeling my best."

As for her diet, Ryan learned that eating slowly made her full faster. She learned this through years on the road doing improv, carnivals, vaudeville, and radio. Ryan would do two shows a night and would travel 40 to 50 weeks. She said she wasn't the type to diet. 

Part of her positive attitude came from surrounding herself with funny people, such as Bob Hope. Ryan said that humor played a big part in staying happy. 

"All I ever wanted was to be funny," Ryan said in a 1966 interview with The Miami Herald. "I never had much training in the serious side, just laughter."

"Some of those old vaudeville routines, well, let me tell you – they're still funny," Ryan said. "I did 'em with two kids, Max Baer Jr., and Donna Douglas, at fairs and rodeos and people got hysterical. Laughter doesn't change that much."

Working around funny young people helped her feel as though she was years younger than she actually was. Despite staying healthy for the majority of her career, Ryan suffered from a stroke in 1973 and was hospitalized. She was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in 1973 at the age of 70.

Ryan's final tip for staying young: "Use lots of hot and cold water alternatively. This stimulates the circulation and helps keep a good skin."

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9 Comments

edbreyer 3 months ago
Here's an excellent short video about her life - with lots of clips from her old movies and the Beverly Hillbillies. Worth a watch!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3p8ghyo-T4
Moverfan 7 months ago
I was watching Buzzr with the sound off one afternoon and saw this nice lady at the beginning of Password--couldn't figure out who she was, so I grabbed the remote and turned the sound on. I missed the introduction, but I knew Miss Irene the second she opened her mouth!
tootsieg 8 months ago
Good for Irene Ryan. She was a ball of energy.
dmzabooo 8 months ago
Did John Wayne guest spot on the Hillbilly's?
daDoctah dmzabooo 8 months ago
Yes, as himself. After Granny has repelled what she thinks are "hostile Injuns" (in reality, actors from the movie studio hired by Drysdale to stage an attack), John Wayne saunters up to the front door of the mansion and Granny comments how they could have used him earlier.

If you want to see Irene Ryan pre-Clampett, check out a wartime movie called "Reveille with Beverly" where she plays second fiddle to Ann Miller at a radio station.
dmzabooo daDoctah 8 months ago
T. Y. Kindly.
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Irene Ryan was GREAT! Cool pic with Jeb and The Duke (-:
Andybandit 8 months ago
I loved IR in TBHB. She is so funny.
LoveMETV22 8 months ago
It looks as though Irene Ryan had a good plan that met her needs. She always seemed peppy in her scenes on The Beverly Hillbillies.
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