Donna Douglas died Jan. 1 at the age of 81. She won over the hearts of TV viewers with her starring role on The Beverly Hillbillies, but there was much more to this versatile actress than Elly May Clampett. Here are 7 things you may not have known about the beautiful blonde.
1. She only starred in one movie
While she had small roles on three movies prior, her only starring role on the big screen was with Elvis Presley in 1966’s Frankie and Johnny. Unfortunately the part did nothing to advance her acting career.
2. She enjoyed a nice little music career
In addition to The Beverly Hillbillies soundtrack, Douglas released four Christian albums: Donna Douglas Sings Gospel and Donna Douglas Sings Gospel II, Here Come the Critters (an album of children’s religious tunes) and Back on the Mountain, her final record in 1989.
3. She had tons of TV roles outside of The Beverly Hillbillies
The Beverly Hillbillies may have made her a TV star, but Douglas had tons of TV experience before nabbing the role of Elly Mae. She appeared on no less than 17 shows prior, including some of the biggest in TV history like The Twilight Zone and Mr. Ed. But after taking on Hillbillies, she would only take on 8 unrelated jobs.
4. She claimed Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg stole Sister Act from her
Douglas sued Goldberg, Midler, Disney, their respective production companies and Creative Artists Agency because she said the movie Sister Act was a direct rip-off of the book A Nun in the Closet, the rights to which Douglas and her business partners owned. Despite pointing out more than 100 points of similarity between the two, the courts sided with the defendants.
5. She married the director of Hillbillies
In 1971, the final year original episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies aired, Douglas married the show’s director Robert M. Leeds. They did not have any children together — her only child was her son Danny P. Bourgeois from her first marriage to Roland Bourgeois — and they divorced in 1980. Leeds died in 2000.
6. She was a children’s author
In addition to her showbiz projects, Douglas released two children’s books. Donna’s Critters and Kids: Children’s Stories with a Bible Touch came with a coloring book and was geared towards kids aged 2-7. Miss Donna’s Mulberry Acres Farm, released in 2011, tells the story of how even an old horse can still accomplish great things.
7. She was super-close to her on-screen Hillbillies father
Douglas found a real-life father figure in Buddy Ebsen, who played her father Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. In an interview with The Lincoln Times-News, she called him “a wonderful man, very much like my own father, a quiet, reserved, and caring person.”