Meet Max Baer Jr., Known as Jethro Bodine from “The Beverly Hillbillies”

Max Baer Jr. is most famous for his role as Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but what happened to this iconic actor after the series concluded?

Today, Max Baer Jr. is 84 years old.

“The Beverly Hillbillies,” a comedy series, chronicled the adventures of the Clampett family after patriarch Jed Clampett, portrayed by Buddy Ebsen, suddenly strikes it rich. Becoming an instant millionaire, Jed decides to move the family to Beverly Hills, California. The intriguing twist? They maintain their rustic lifestyle amidst the upscale community.

Jed Clampett, a streetwise patriarch, brought his family to Beverly Hills, where one character in particular stood out. Jethro Bodine, the son of Jed’s cousin Pearl, was portrayed by Max Baer Jr. as a naive and somewhat dimwitted young man, famously showcasing his arithmetic prowess in lines like “five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times.”

“The Beverly Hillbillies” was an immediate success upon its debut in 1962. According to IMDb, it rocketed to the top of the TV ratings faster than any show in television history, achieving this feat within just three weeks of its launch.

The show captured the hearts of viewers, lasting for 11 years with nine seasons and 274 episodes, until it concluded in 1971.

In 1964, “The Beverly Hillbillies” received a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Show Comedy and earned four Emmy nominations.

On the other hand, Max’s persona was marked by a perpetual, silly grin. His infectious chuckle not only made everyone laugh but also convincingly brought his character, Jethro Bodine, to life, making him seem truly real to the audience.


Max perfected his southern drawl by studying recordings of Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters, all while maintaining an amusingly foolish expression that consistently elicited laughs from viewers.

Through his portrayal of the naive country bumpkin Jethro, Max Baer Jr. became a beloved figure in American comedy and gained his major career breakthrough from the show.

However, his life after the series did not unfold as he might have hoped. This is the tale of the man behind Jethro Bodine, a character that Hollywood cherished.

Max Baer Jr. was born in Oakland, California, on December 4, 1937, to boxing champion Max Baer and Mary Ellen Sullivan.

Max Baer Jr.’s journey into the acting realm took some time. In 1949, he appeared in a theatrical production of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” at the Blackpool Pavilion in England. However, it wasn’t until years later that a mix of serendipity, luck, and his own self-assurance landed him the role of a lifetime on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Baer Jr. was raised in Sacramento and later moved to Santa Clara for his higher education. He graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Business Management in 1959. The following year found him in an unexpected situation; while parked in a Los Angeles parking lot, he was mistaken for actor James Garner by an executive. This serendipitous encounter would soon lead him to the Warner Bros. lot, setting the stage for his future in television.

After being noticed, Baer Jr. decided to give acting a shot. With little knowledge of the craft, he nonetheless signed his first one-year contract, figuring he had nothing to lose.

He began with modest roles and made guest appearances on television shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick,” and “Hawaiian Eye.”

Although his career didn’t immediately take off, he chose to persevere. His persistence paid off when he landed what would become the best role of his career: a sitcom about a rustic family that strikes it rich with oil.

Following an open audition, he secured the role of Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” For the pilot, he earned $1000, and $500 for the subsequent episode.

“It’s extremely challenging to maintain perspective about yourself when you’re playing a character like Jethro,” Baer Jr explained to Medium.

“You just do the best you can with what you’re given, and try to enhance it as much as you can with your performance.

Ultimately, the audience has the last say. They either like what you did, or they don’t. And that’s really the only way you can judge it.”

At that time, the show was a major hit. While Baer never earned more than $800 per episode, he secured a beloved spot in the hearts of American TV viewers.

Max Baer Jr. felt he was doing well and, more importantly, making people laugh.

“You have to perform well. And in my case, if I’ve made people laugh, even if it’s at my expense, I’m okay with that,” Baer Jr. remarked. “It doesn’t matter if they’re laughing with me or at me, as long as they’re laughing.

If I can make them laugh, then I consider my performance a success. I can’t gauge how successful it was, but I know it served its purpose.”

In 1993, a feature-length remake of the beloved TV show starring Dolly Parton was released. Unfortunately, it didn’t achieve the same success as the original series. Surprisingly, it struggled even with a different actor cast as Jethro.

On Beverly Hillbillies, celebrated actress Donna Douglas portrayed mountain beauty Elly May Clampett.

In 2013, she applauded Max Baer Jr. for his outstanding performance as Jethro, who may not have been the brightest bulb in the bulb box.

“Max Baer did well as Jethro because he didn’t come across as so stupid that you didn’t like him,” she remarked in the book Dashing, Daring, and Debonair: TV’s Greatest Male Legends from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies.

“He was and still is difficult to deal with. Yet we were all like a family. Max could complain about any of us (for whatever cause), but he must not allow anyone else to say anything about us. Max would never let that person take it. He’d defend us as though we were a real family.”

Donna Douglas died in 2015 at 82, leaving Baer Jr as the show’s only surviving cast member.

Baer Jr.’s buddy and TV historian Jeffrey D. Dalrymple agrees.

“You thought Uncle Jed, Granny, and cousin Elly May were his family because they were so good at it,” he adds. “And Max could mix in with the other cast members without overplaying or underplaying Jethro. He was and still is a good performer and a decent guy.”

Baer Jr., in addition to being a recognized star on The Beverly Hillbillies, had a keen interest in sports, much like his father, who was a professional boxer.

Max Bear used to make a living by wandering across town and collecting garbage from restaurants. He earned 35 cents every night and worked seven nights per week.

Boxing contests were another source of income for the father; during the Great Depression, Max Baer requested additional fights.

Max Baer delivered a fatal punch to his opponent Frankie Campbell during a fight in 1930. The tragic experience shocked Max Baer, and he was never the same afterward. He had to spend some time in jail, and his reputation suffered.

“He was only interested in the money. “He never liked boxing,” Max Baer Jr. claimed, adding:

“They transformed a good-hearted, fun-loving, pleasant, and warm human being who despised boxing into Mr. T from Rocky III with no redeeming qualities.”

Tragically, Baer Jr’s father, Max Baer, died in 1959 at 50.

Baer Jr. was no boxer, but he did play professional golf, competing in various California competitions.

Baer Jr. lettered in golf, football, baseball, and basketball while attending Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California.

He also won the Sacramento Junior Open Golf Championship for the second year. Eventually, he finished second in the men’s tournament.

Max Baer Jr. paired up with professional golfer Charlie Sifford to win the pro-am division of the Andy Williams Golf Championship in San Diego in 1968.

“Acting, on the other hand, is just a hobby for me,” Baer told The Times in 1971. “Golf is my profession.”

Following the cancellation of The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer Jr was left with few options.

One issue was that the producers only saw him as Jethro, not Baer. He appeared as a guest on various shows, including Love, Fantasy Island, and Murder, She Wrote.

Instead of working on many little films and TV series, he decided to strike out on his own, producing and directing. They may not have been Academy Award-worthy films, but he sure put food on the table.

Bear Jr. produced and directed two films, Ode to Billie Joe and Macon County Line, about small-town cops (1974).

According to reports, the film cost $225,000 to make. Nonetheless, it was a bigger success than anyone could have predicted. According to IMDB, it was the most profitable indie film of 1974, with $18.8 million in North America and more than $30 million globally.

It also inspired the sequel Return to Macon County (1975).

Max Baer Jr amassed a fortune from his films. And it quickly inspired the actor, writer, and producer to start his firm.

His Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies legend was still intact. That’s why, in 1991, he chose to buy the Beverly Hillbillies moniker from CBS.

Baer Jr, now 84, intended to use the show’s premise and characters in casinos, amusement parks, restaurants, and cosmetics. The themed casino and amusement park were to be erected on 24 acres of his land in Carson Valley, Nevada.

The resort was to include over 200 rooms, 1,000 slot machines, and animatronic figures of the performers.

Nevertheless, Baer Jr. has been involved in various disputes relating to his projects. Nothing has come of his desire to create a blockbuster franchise based on the successful TV series.

Baer was said to have sued CBS in 2014. He alleged the network had struck a secret contract with Jethro’s Barbecue in Des Moines. According to the actor, it hampered his ability to earn money from his position on the popular television show.

Yet, the Des Moines proprietors were convinced it would not impact their business.

Max Baer Jr has had one marriage. Joanne Kathleen Hill and he married in 1966. In 1971, they divorced.

After a string of relationships, he dated Chere Rhodes, a 30-year-old model from California. Their romance lasted until a tragedy occurred in Carson City, Nevada, in January 2008. Chere was shot in the chest, and his death was ruled a suicide after an investigation by authorities.

Baer Jr. told up about the incident three months after her death, revealing that blood was everywhere and that he was shocked when he saw her.

Officers allegedly performed a paraffin test on him “to make sure I didn’t shoot her,” according to the famous actor.

Max Baer Jr. had to fight his way into the spotlight in Hollywood. He remarked about his future in 1963, a quote that accurately depicted what he went through in the following years.

“We Baers never turned out the way we had intended. My grandfather always wanted to be a prize boxer but worked as a butcher. “He did win a butchering championship once,” Baer told Closer.

“Dad had planned to become an actress, and, as everyone knows, he became a boxer. I intended to be a lawyer, and now I’m an actor. My career has benefited greatly from the show.”

“The exposure will also help me get work in the future. And I aspire to prove someday that I can play something other than a hillbilly.”

Whatever happened before or after the show, we will remember Max Baer Jr as a fantastic actor who made us laugh in almost every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

He’ll always have a special place in our hearts; it’s safe to say

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