July 7, 2003 by

Buddy Ebsen


Categories: Actors

bebsen.jpgChristian Rudolph Ebsen Jr. (a.k.a. Buddy Ebsen), the lanky dancer and actor who became famous playing a rich hillbilly and a private investigator on TV, died Sunday. Cause of death was not released. He was 95.
In the ’20s, Ebsen and his sister, Vilma, formed a Vaudeville act that eventually performed on Broadway. Then they moved to Hollywood and appeared in the first of MGM’s Eleanor Powell movies, “Broadway Melody of 1936.” Vilma retired from show business, but Buddy went on to do two more films with Powell.
When MGM head Louis B. Mayer offered him an exclusive $2,000/week contract in 1938, Ebsen turned it down. Mayer gave Ebsen the famous “you’ll never work in this town again” speech, but it was a prophecy that proved incorrect when Ebsen was offered the role as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz.” Unfortunately, the aluminum powder applied to his skin was toxic and made him so ill that he was hospitalized and replaced by Jack Haley.
Ebsen returned to the stage for several years before landing the part of sidekick, George Russell, in the Disney production of Davy Crockett. The TV series and movies were a cultural phenomenon in the ’50s, and caused a coonskin cap fashion craze.
After appearing as Doc in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961, Ebsen considered retirement. His plans were thwarted, however, when he was offered the part of Jed Clampett on the TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He spent nine years as the head of CBS’s most famous hillbilly clan before taking on the role of private investigator Barnaby Jones in the show of the same name. It was a surprise hit that aired for seven years.
Ebsen was also the author of several books including “Kelly’s Quest,” a novel based on his Barnaby Jones character, and his autobiography, “The Other Side of Oz.”

3 Responses to Buddy Ebsen

  1. Valerie

    Raw talent. Nice person. In S. Calif., he participated regularly in a yearly festival of lights during the holidays in S. Calif. … owners decorated their boats and traveled the waters, sparkling brightly along the way.
    I never see a boat that I don’t think of that special parade … and you.
    God Bless.

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