Irene Ryan on the success she shared with Buddy Ebsen
The two actors had similar careers before their big breakout.
What's success without someone to enjoy it with? More than that, what's the top of the world without a low to compare it to? Contrast can be useful, and it helps to have someone who understands what you're going through.
When Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan first appeared on The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962, it must've felt like the culmination of a life's work. Both had been decades-long veterans of show business by then. Ebsen was singing and dancing in movies as early as 1935, and Ryan's career dated back to her time as part of a Vaudeville double act.
As time passed, Ebsen and Ryan charted a parallel course of gains and setbacks. Their work saw critical acclaim, but neither foresaw the popularity they'd later achieve on television.
In 1962, Irene Ryan spoke with Bob Thomas of the Associated Press regarding the ups and downs of the path she forged alongside Ebsen.
"Both Buddy and I have been close to the top many times, but we never quite made it. Now we're up there, and I can assure you it feels mighty good."
The Beverly Hillbillies was a hit and brought both actors some much-deserved recognition.
As to what made the series so popular, Ryan had a theory:
"It's funny. After all the murder, doctors and disease on television, people welcome a chance to laugh."
The reason people loved The Beverly Hillbillies may be up for debate, but its prevalence in pop culture is inarguable. While the critical reception was divided, the Nielsen ratings didn't lie. The Beverly Hillbillies was the number 1 show in America for its first two seasons. While Hollywood careers may come with plenty of peaks and valleys, Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan were finally able to enjoy the pinnacle in the early '60s.