From Jed Clampett to Abraham Lincoln: The Extraordinary Journey of Buddy Ebsen

Photo by CBS Television

Buddy Ebsen, best known for his iconic role as Jed Clampett in”The Beverly Hillbillies,” had a remarkable career in Hollywood.

Ebsen’s career spanned more than seven decades, and his experiences offer a unique perspective on the entertainment industry.

As he told in his 1994 autobiography The Other Side of Oz, Ebsen worked with some of Hollywood’s iconic figures like Shirley Temple and Louis B. Mayer. And even other figures like Al Capone.

And you may know that Buddy was the original Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, but in this 1994 interview he reveals a few things you may not have known.

And he tells about the three questions everyone always had for him.

So here now, from 1994, Buddy Ebsen.

Buddy Ebsen died in 2003 at the age of 95.

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Audrey Meadows

It was on this date 66 years ago that one of the most popular, most durable, and most iconic situation comedies in television history was born.

Taking place mostly in a tiny two room apartment in Brooklyn, The Honeymooners set new standards for television comedy.

Captained by the comic genius of Jackie Gleason, the show also featured the versatile Art Carney, Joyce Randolph, and, of course, as Ralph Kramden long-suffering wife Alice, Audrey Meadows.

A classically beautiful actress who purposely downplayed her looks for the role, Meadows also proved to be a formidable counterpoint to the Ralph Kramden character.

In 1994, Audrey Meadows wrote a book called Love, Alice. And there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to meet her and talk with her. After all, I had grown up with The Honeymooners, and I confessed, I was more than a little starstruck.

So here now, from 1994, Audrey Meadows.

Audrey Meadows died in 1998, just five days before her 74th birthday.

Bob Denver

Robert Osbourne Denver graduated from college with a degree in political science, then caoched physical education and even taught math and history at a California elementary school.

But today, this well-educated, smart, soft-spoken man is best remembered for this…

Gilligan’s Island only lasted three seasons in the mid-1960s, but thanks to reruns and syndication the show has effectively never been off the air since.

And, like so many other popular TV actors, Bob Denver found himself typecast.

So, like many of his peers, Denver stopped resisting the Typecast and embraced it, appearing in several made-for-tv Gilligan’s Island movies, as well as other walk-on roles in which he played Gilligan.

In 1993, Denver wrote a book called “Gilligan, Maynard, and Me,” a reference to the other popular TV series he co-starred in, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

The day I met him, the day before Thanksgiving in 1993, I brought my 13- and 11-year-old daughters to meet the man they knew only as Gilligan.

So here now, from 1993, Bob Denver…

Bob Denver died in 2005 at age 70.

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Don Knotts

Don Knotts is perhaps best know as Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. But you also remember him as Ralph Furley from Three’s Company. Maybe you remember him from The Apple Dumpling Gang movies, or The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, or The Shakiest Gun in the West. Or The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Don Knotts had a decades-long entertainment career, which actually began soon after World War II, but which really took off when he reconnected with his old friend Andy Griffith.

I met Don Knotts in November 1999, when he wrote a book called Barney Fife And Other Characters I Have Known.

So here now, from 1999, Don Knotts.

Don Knotts died in 2006. He was 81.


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