April 2, 1908 - July 6, 2003
I don't know how I missed the fact that Buddy Ebsen passed away; He and I go back a long way. Well, in a sense, that is. When I was 10, in 1954, a mainstay of our newest technology, color TV, was the Sunday night presentation of the Walt Disney production called Disneyland. All kinds of programs were presented, mainly for the young crowd, and sometime in 1954, Walt Disney broadcast a three-week series entitled, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. I and many other kids were enthralled. Davy Crockett was portrayed by Fess Parker and his sidekick and traveling buddy, George E. Russell, was portrayed by, none other than, Buddy Ebsen. The nation was captivated by this series and if you didn't have a coonskin cap, well you just weren't in, a term that came years later, by the way. And it was years later, that I once again was captivated by Mr. Ebsen, this time in the role of Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies.
We were both much older by then, and although my growth seemed relatively normal, in the meantime, Ebsen had been quite busy in several parallel careers. But let's back up.
Born in Belleville, Illinois, in 1908, Ebsen's parents were Danish-German and Latvian, and Ebsen had four siblings, all girls. When he was twelve, his family moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where his father opened a dancing school. Ebsen's mother enrolled him in an art school and later he attended the University of Florida, where he was enrolled in pre-med, when, at the age of twenty, he headed off to New York to become a dancer. Talented and determined, Ebsen was hired as a chorus boy in Ziegfield's production of Whoopee, starring Eddie Cantor. With more experience obtained on the stages of Vaudeville, in 1935, Ebsen and his sister Vilma headed for Hollywood, and immediately appeared in the movie Broadway Melody of 1936. Seemingly without much trouble, Buddy Ebsen's future was looking bright.
Several movie roles followed in which Ebsen appeared with Judy Garland and Shirley Temple, and he had secured the role of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, until during filming, he became seriously ill. Inhaling the aluminum dust from the "tin" make-up, eventually landed Ebsen in the hospital for two weeks , in which time he was replaced on the set by Jack Haley. After being offered and turning down a long-term contract with MGM, Ebsen starred in the stage production of Goodnight Ladies, before joining the Coast Guard in 1943. After the war, Ebsen again returned to Broadway in the revival of Show Boat, and then along came television, where Ebsen would call home for many, many years.
Ebsen's niche, in the beginning, seemed to be as a sidekick to the main star. Initially, Republic Pictures placed him in five different westerns, all as the "comic relief" sidekick to the lead man, Rex Allen. Next came the role he would most often identify with for years to come, Davy Crockett's buddy Georgie. I can still see Ebsen peering out from behind a tree, offering words of encouragement, as Davy tries to stare down a bear by grinning at him. He followed this with a regular spot in the TV series Northwest Passage and supporting roles in many movies, including a part in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany's.
In 1962, Ebsen finally got a chance to star in what would, in essence, be his own series, The Beverly Hillbillies. Here Ebsen plays the country patriarch, Jed Clampett, who accidentally discovers oil, while hunting in the Ozarks. Rewarded with oil-gushing riches, he and his family move to Beverly Hills, where there are continually "confounded" by the modern technology of clothes washers, swimming pools, and the like, and the audience is rewarded with the hilarity that follows this bumbling brood. This wonderful series ran from September 26, 1962 until September 7, 1971. After a long stint, Ebsen finally had a break, which he used to return to another old love, painting.
I love acting and I also love playing the saxophone, but for me painting is a very different experience, because I do not need an audience to make it complete, the connection is between the painter and the painting, one on one.
This hiatus didn't last long though, for on January 28, 1973, Ebsen's last starring series arrived in the form of Barnaby Jones. Jones was a private detective , who came out of retirement to catch the killer of his son. Ebsen, by this time, was 65 years old himself, and with the serious, yet very likable facade he carried with him, his personification of Barnaby Jones was, as they say, right on. Barnaby's final episode was on April 3, 1980, a very successful run of 7 years. Ebsen, basically, took it easy after this run, appearing regularly in the Matt Houston series and making guest appearances now and then.
He was finally able to spend time with his wife Dorothy and the families of his four grown children. Ebsen brought a lot of joy to the cinema, stage, and TV screen and I was happy to partake. Buddy Ebsen passed away July 6, 2003.
- (2003) Weird Al Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection
- (1996) Bad Hair Day: The Videos
- (1993) The Beverly Hillbillies
- (1990) Working Trash
- (1987) Stone Fox
- (1982) Matt Houston
- (1981) Fire on the Mountain
- (1981) The Return of the Beverlt Hillbillies
- (1979) The Paradise Connection
- (1978) The Critical List
- (1978) The Bastard
- (1978) Leave Yesterday Behind
- (1976) Smash-Up on Interstate 5
- (1975) The Tiny Tree
- (1973) The President's Plane is Missing
- (1973) Tom Sawyer
- (1973) Horror ay 37,000 Feet
- (1973) Barnaby Jones
- (1972) The Daughters of Joshua Cabe
- (1970) The Andersonville Trial
- (1986) The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band
- (1964) Mail Order Bride
- (1962) The Beverly Hillbillies
- (1962) The Interns
- (1961) Breakfast at Tiffany's
- (1961) Fury River
- (1959) Mission of Danger
- (1959) Frontier Rangers
- (1958) Northwest Passage
- (1956) Between Heaven and Hell
- (1956) Attack
- (1956) Davy Crockett and the River Pirates
- (1955) Corky and White Shadow
- (1954) Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
- (1954) Red Garters
- (1954) Night People
- (1951) Utah Wagon Train
- (1951) Rodeo King and the Senorita
- (1951) Thunder in God's Country
- (1951) Silver City Bonanza
- (1950) Under Mexicali Stars
- (1942) Sing Your Worries Away
- (1941) Parachute Battalion
- (1941) They Met in Argentina
- (1939) The Kid from Texas
- (1939) Four Girls in White
- (1938) My Lucky Star
- (1938) Yellow Jack
- (1938) The Girl of the Golden West
- (1937) Broadway Melody of 1938
- (1936) Banjo on my Knee
- (1936) Captain January
- (1936) Born to Dance
- (1935) Broadway Melody of 1936