Donna Douglas, who played hillbilly bombshell Elly May Clampett in the 1960’s cult fish-out-of-water sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, has died. She was 82.
Douglas will also be remembered as co-starring opposite Elvis Presley in the 1966 film Frankie and Johnny, and for an especially creepy Twilight Zone episode, “The Eye of the Beholder.”
Charlene Smith, her niece-in-law, confirmed Friday to USA TODAY that she died of pancreatic cancer on New Year’s Day at Baton Rouge General Hospital.
“She was 82,” Smith said firmly, adding jokingly, “She’s going to haunt me for that.”
Douglas was a former Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans, was born in Pride, La., attending a local Catholic high school, where she played softball and basketball, and was a member of the school’s first graduating class.
After Hillbillies ended, Douglas worked in real estate, recorded country and gospel music albums and wrote a book for children that drew on biblical themes.
She returned to live in Zachary, after her time in Hollywood, to be near her only child, son Danny Bourgeois. She is survived by him, by three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, one brother and other extended family members, Smith said.
She was married and divorced twice, including the second time, to The Beverly Hillbillies director, Robert Leeds.
The Beverly Hillbillies starred Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett (he died in 2003) and Irene Ryan (she died in 1973) as Granny, the show ran for nine years on CBS, from 1962 to 1971. Douglas’ death leaves only one member of the show’s original cast still alive: Max Baer Jr., who played Elly May’s cousin, Jethro. He is 77.
“She was Elly May until the day she died,” Baer told the website RumorFix. “When I saw her for autograph signings or other gatherings, she always dressed the same with pink or blue” and of course those signature pigtails.”
He said he last saw Douglas in January 2013 for an autograph signing in Los Angeles. He said she had pancreatic cancer for the last months of her life.
“But she was a very private person — nothing like me.” A friend told him Donna had a message for him: “Tell Maxie I thought I was going to get better.”
Smith described Douglas as a “very good Christian lady. We all loved her,” she said. “Whenever she gave presents, they always came with (passages) from Scripture.”
Douglas last hit the news in 2010 when she sued CBS and toymaker Mattel – seeking some of the proceeds from sales of a Barbie doll that used Elly May’s name and likeness. The suit was settled in 2011.