Max Baer Jr. is famously remembered as Jethro Bodine from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but what became of him after the show?

This is Max Baer Jr. today, at 86 years old.

The comedy series followed the Clampett family, led by Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen, who suddenly became wealthy and moved to Beverly Hills, California, all while maintaining their hillbilly lifestyle.

Max Baer Jr. portrayed the memorable character of Jethro Bodine, known for his goofy grin and simple-minded charm. The show quickly became a hit after its debut in 1962, reaching the No. 1 spot in television ratings within three weeks, a record at the time.

Despite its popularity, “The Beverly Hillbillies” ended after 11 years, running for nine seasons and 274 episodes before its cancellation in 1971. Baer Jr.’s portrayal of Jethro earned him recognition as an American comedy icon.

Born in 1937 in Oakland, California, to legendary boxer Max Baer and his wife Mary Ellen Sullivan, Baer Jr. initially pursued a different path, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Santa Clara University. However, a chance encounter in a parking lot at Warner Bros. Studios led him to pursue acting.

Baer Jr. landed small roles in various television series before securing the role of Jethro in “The Beverly Hillbillies” after an open audition. Despite uncertainties about his acting abilities, he embraced the opportunity and became an integral part of the show’s success.

“In the end, it’s the audience who has the final say. They can say, ‘Well, we liked what you did’ or ‘We don’t like what you did.’ And you really don’t have any other way of evaluating it.”

Despite the massive success of the show, Baer never earned more than $800 per episode, but he held a special place in the hearts of the American TV public.

Max Baer Jr knew he was doing a good job, and most importantly, getting people to laugh.

“You have to perform well. And, in my case, if I have made the people laugh and even if they can laugh at my expense, it’s okay. I don’t care,” Baer Jr said. “They can laugh with me or at me. It doesn’t matter, just as long as they laugh. Because if I can make them laugh, then I believe that my performance was a successful one. I can’t evaluate it as to what degree of success it was. But I can say it did what it was supposed to do.”

In 1993, a feature-length adaptation of the classic TV show aired, featuring Dolly Parton among others. Unfortunately, it didn’t achieve quite the same level of success. To be honest, how could it be after they had cast someone else in the role of Jethro?

Celebrated actress Donna Douglas, who played Elly May Clampett, praised Max Baer Jr for his outstanding role as Jethro, highlighting his ability to portray the character with charm and authenticity.

Donna Douglas passed away in 2015, aged 82, leaving Baer Jr the only surviving cast member of the show.

TV historian Jeffrey D. Dalrymple, a good friend of Baer Jr’s, agrees that Baer Jr effectively portrayed Jethro as part of the family dynamic on the show.

Baer Jr had a great interest in sports, like his father, who was a professional boxer. He pursued golf, winning several championships and even teaming up with professional golfer Charlie Sifford to win the pro-am division of the Andy Williams Golf Classic in San Diego in 1968.

Following the cancellation of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Baer Jr pursued producing and directing, finding success with films like “Ode to Billie Joe” and “Macon County Line,” which became unexpectedly profitable ventures.

Baer Jr’s ambitious plans to create a themed casino and resort based on “The Beverly Hillbillies” were met with legal challenges and ultimately did not materialize as intended.

Despite personal challenges, including the tragic death of his girlfriend Chere Rhodes, Baer Jr’s legacy as a talented actor and entertainer remains intact. He faced adversity with resilience, a trait he shared with his family, and left a lasting impact on television audiences worldwide.

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