Donna Douglas

 

donna douglas

Donna Douglas (September 26, 1933 – January 1, 2015) was an American actress, best-known for her role as Elly May Clampett in the long-running TV series The Beverly Hillbillies.

Born Dorothy Smith in Baywood, Louisiana, she grew up on the farm of her grandparents loving animals and nature, climbing trees, swinging on vines and playing football and softball. She was a cheerleader as a teenager and won some beauty contests. She was awarded the titles "Miss Baton Rouge" and, in 1957, "Miss New Orleans".

She went to New York to pursue a career in entertainment and started out as a model for toothpaste ads. She was featured as the "Letters Girl" on The Perry Como Show in 1957, and as the "Billboard Girl" on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. These and other TV appearances led New York photographers and newspaper reporters to award her the "Miss By-line" crown, which she wore on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Producer Hal Wallis saw the Sullivan episode and cast her in the role of Marjorie Burke in the movie drama Career (1959) starring Anthony Franciosa, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. This was followed by a bit part in the musical comedy Li'l Abner (1959) and the role of a secretary in the comedy/romance Lover Come Back (1961) starring Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall.

Douglas made numerous TV appearances, which include a famous episode of The Twilight Zone titled The Eye of the Beholder (1960).

She had two husbands, Roland Bourgeois (married 1949-divorced 1954) and director Robert M. Leeds (married late 1970s-divorced). It is reported that she and Bourgeois had one child, a son. However, a blood test has apparently disproved Bourgeois as the father.

The turning point in Douglas' career came when she was chosen over 500 other actresses to play the role of Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. The starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Nancy Kulp and Max Baer Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became one of the longest-running series in television history and was the number one show in America it's first two years.

Her final movie role was as Frankie in Frederick de Cordova's musical comedy Frankie and Johnny (1966) opposite Elvis Presley.

Douglas remained with The Beverly Hillbillies for the entire run of the series. In 1981, she returned for a made-for-TV reunion movie. Having no resentment about being so closely identified with one character, she still makes occasional public appearances in her hillbilly costume of blue jeans with trademark rope belt and a ruffled, pink blouse.

Donna Douglas became one of the most popular TV stars of the 1960's and one of the first blonde sex symbols to become a television icon, paving the way for Barbara Eden, Farrah Fawcett, Suzanne Somers, Heather Locklear, and Pamela Anderson. Unusually modest for a Hollywood sex symbol, Douglas' post Hillbillies career was rather lackluster in part because she refused to act in projects in which her character would be put in sexual situations. 

She received her real estate license after The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air in order to have something to fall back on. She did not work in that field long, however, as she remained in show business and found other projects. She was offered a role on a prime-time soap opera, but felt there were too many bad things in it, with not enough family values, and turned it down. 

A devoted Christian, Douglas was also a noted gospel singer. She had a gospel album and a  album. She had also written a children's book titled Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch, which has Bible stories featuring animals and is combined with a coloring book for ages two to seven.

She remained busy making appearances, speaking for church groups, youth groups, schools and colleges til late in life. She also appeared at conventions and trade shows. 

Donna Douglas lived in Huntington Beach, California, but considered Baton Rouge, Louisiana, her home and returned there c2005.

Douglas died at Baton Rouge General Hospital, aged 82, on January 1, 2015 from pancreatic cancer

 

 

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This page was last updated on 21 March 2018

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