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Donna Douglas

Donna DouglasAKA Dorothy Smith

Born: 26-Sep-1933 [1]
Birthplace: Pride, LA
Died: 1-Jan-2015
Location of death: Baton Rouge, LA
Cause of death: Cancer - Pancreatic

Gender: Female
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies

Donna Douglas was born in Pride, Louisiana, and raised about ten miles away in Baywood. Both towns are on the distant outskirts of Baton Rouge. She won the Miss New Orleans beauty pageant in 1957, and went into show business with cheesecake duties on The Perry Como Show and The Steve Allen Show in the late 1950s.

She made her film debut in a serious drama, Career, with Tony Franciosa and Shirley MacLaine in 1959. Two years later, she played Tony Randall's secretary in Lover Come Back. Then she took up Elly May's pigtails for The Beverly Hillbillies, playing Buddy Ebsen's tomboy daughter. Critics hated the show, but Americans loved it. It ran nine seasons, and it was cancelled not for sinking ratings, but because CBS feared that the network was gaining a reputation as a home for hicks and hayseeds. In one press release, CBS cancelled all their rural comedies -- The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, and Hee Haw -- though all four were still in the Top 20 when they were axed.

During the series' run, Douglas also made her last film, co-starring with Elvis Presley in Frankie and Johnny. After The Beverly Hillbillies, though, Douglas was relegated to rare guest bits on Adam 12 and The Nanny. She says she was offered another series in the 1970s, but thought the program's "risque" concept would damage her wholesome image. In the 1980s, she was one of the first washed-up celebrities to find limited success in Branson, Missouri, where she sang gospel music billed as Elly May, and delivered between-songs banter as her Hillbillies character.

In 1993, Douglas sued the Disney studio, Whoopi Goldberg, and others over Sister Act, alleging that the hit film was a rip-off of the comic novel A Nun in the Closet, for which Douglas owned the film rights. Disney's well-paid lawyers won in court, and won again when Douglas appealed.

When she died in 2015, her Beverly Hillbillies co-star Max Baer, Jr. said, "She was Elly May until the day she died. 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."

[1] Like most actresses, her birth year has inched forward throughout her career. Her bios listed it as 1933 when she was crowned Miss New Orleans, and as 1939 by the time she was singing in Branson.

Husband: Roland Bourgeois (m. 1949, div. 1954)
Husband: Robert Leeds (div.)

    Beauty Contest Miss New Orleans 1957
    Risk Factors: Pancreatic Cancer

    The Beverly Hillbillies Elly May Clampett (1962-71)

    The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (6-Oct-1981)
    Frankie and Johnny (31-Mar-1966) · Frankie
    Lover Come Back (20-Dec-1961) · Deborah
    Career (8-Oct-1959) · Marjorie Burke

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