Buddy Ebsen, who portrayed poor mountaineer Jed Clampett on the ’60s CBS sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies” and a detective on the TV drama “Barnaby Jones,” which ran from 1973 until 1980, died in a California hospital at age 95, Monday’s “Today” show reported.
No details or cause of death were reported, but two weeks ago Ebsen reportedly checked into the Torrance Memorial Medical Center, near his home in Palos Verdes Estates.
A hospital spokeswoman told the local paper, the Daily Breeze, that the actor’s “condition is good,” though she did not indicate a specific malady.
Ebsen, who was born in Orlando, Fla., began his career as a song and dance man — appearing in a vaudeville team with his sister Vilma — and starred opposite Shirley Temple in her 1936 vehicle “Captain January.” He was the gangly sailor friend, Paul, who helped her dance “At the Codfish Ball.”
Ebsen’s most famous movie role would have been in the MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz,” in 1939. He was cast as the Tin Man, but had an allergic reaction to the experimental silver makeup and was, unfortunately for him, replaced by Jack Haley.
In later years he would discuss that career setback, but given the success of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which was the top-rated show for its time, he appeared to have accepted his fate gracefully. Before striking it big as Clampett, he played Davy Crockett’s sidekick, George Russel (opposite Fess Parker), on the Disney-produced series in the ’50s.
Movie buffs also remember him as Doc Golightly, the older husband of Holly (Audrey Hepburn), in the 1961 New York romance “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Ebsen wrote two books, including an autobiography, “The Other Side of Oz,” and “Kelly’s Quest,” and he was married three times. He is survived by the former Dorothy Knott, whom he married in 1985.