Oliver Wendell Douglas

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Oliver Wendell Douglas

Oliver Wendell Douglas was the major character in the 1960s CBS situation comedy Green Acres. The character's name was inspired by famed Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and possibly also by then-Supreme Court justice William Orville Douglas.

Portrayed by Hollywood veteran Eddie Albert, Oliver Wendell Douglas was a New York City attorney who had long harbored a dream of moving to the Midwest and operating a farm rather than practicing "big city" law. His wife, Lisa, a glamorous Hungarian immigrant (who was played by Eva Gabor, a glamorous Hungarian immigrant), had absolutely no desire to leave sophisticated New York City for a backward, rural area. His idea also met with stringent resistance from his own mother, Eunice (Eleanor Audley), who sided with Lisa against leaving New York City for the hinterlands.

However, once they actually arrived at their newly purchased farm (a run-down nightmare whose farmhouse was little more than a dilapidated shack), it was Lisa, not Oliver, who immediately fit into Hooterville and its weird collection of zany characters. Oliver had a high opinion of farmers in theory; he often made a speech in which he referred to "crops shooting up out of the ground" (which his wife, Lisa, in her Hungarian accent, repeated as "crops shoosting out of the ground") and other platitudes about rural life, which on the program was invariably accompanied by a background of patriotic music (Yankee Doodle to be exact); other characters frequently searched for the source of the music. Oliver was usually presented in the light of being the only sane character in an insane world; however, he, too, had his quirks, such as driving his tractor wearing the same three-piece suits that he had formerly worn to practice law and addressing nearly every other person in Hooterville as Mr. or Mrs., though the Hootervillians referred to each other by first names (although they apparently reciprocated by continuing to refer to him as "Mr. Douglas").

Oliver also was either too blinded by pride or too stubborn to admit that he was a totally incompetent failure as a farmer. He did not fit into a place where everyone took for granted that a "talking" pig, Arnold Ziffel, was his owners' "son", or where one of the two contractor "brothers" constantly remodelling his house was a woman, and somehow always lost out to local confidence man Mr. Haney, from whom he had bought the farm in the first place. He also hired the young, annoying Eb Dawson, who referred to Mr. and Mrs. Douglas as his parents and who often irritated Oliver. He is such a fanatic farmer wannabe in the pilot episode, that during a flashback while on a bombing mission in a P-38, he annoys his squadron commander with comments about how tomatoes are turned into catsup. A later episode shows Oliver was a Captain in USAF Reserves when the Hooterville townsfolk try to have him fly a broken down Curtiss JN-4 from World War I.

Oliver's denial led him to labor on in vain, year after year, when it was obvious to everyone else that he would be far more successful back in his New York law practice. His wife Lisa, a very reluctant rural dweller initially, fits right into her new surroundings and is almost immediately accepted and befriended by nearly everyone. One running gag shows how Oliver usually "loses" one way or another to the Hooterville yokels. In one episode Mr Haney, Lisa, and Hank Kimball think they've discovered a "Milk-making" Machine. Oliver has to tell them (tongue-in-cheek) that not only are the chemicals so expensive that milk prices would soar- but that this new milk also causes baldness! One episode shows Oliver as a "successful" lawyer when he manages to convince the US Army not to draft Arnold Ziffel the Pig. At the end of the episode Oliver has a new client to keep from being drafted-"Ralph Monroe"! Despite being a horrible farmer and once only making 16 dollars of profit for the entire year, the Douglases never had to worry about money—for instance, they never have trouble replacing the numerous dishes that Lisa breaks. This once caused the other residents to believe that Oliver was making and selling alcohol, and that he was involved with the mob.

In a way, Albert was well-suited to his role. He was long active in a series of environmental and agricultural concerns including a project to involve inner-city children in gardening, and was one of the organizers of the original Earth Day, held annually on his birthday, April 22. Additionally, he was one of very few Hollywood actors to grow much of his own food, in a garden on his former Beverly Hills estate, and served as an advocate for organic practices. (Apparently he was far more successful in his real-life efforts to raise food than his character ever was.) Additionally, Albert's character in 1956's The Teahouse of the August Moon, Dr./Captain McLean, was something of a prototype for Oliver: an educated, sophisticated professional who passionately obsesses about becoming a farmer.