Max Baer Jr.

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Max Baer Jr.
Max Baer, Jr. 1962.JPG
As Jethro in 1962
Born Maximilian Adalbert Baer Jr.
(1937-12-04) December 4, 1937 (age 78)
Oakland, California, U.S.
Occupation Film and television actor, producer, director
Years active 1960–1991
Spouse(s) Joanne Kathleen Hill (1966-1971; divorced)
Parent(s) Max Baer Sr. and Mary Ellen Sullivan

Maximilian Adalbert "Max" Baer Jr. (born December 4, 1937) is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is best known for playing Jethro Bodine, the dimwitted nephew of Jed Clampett (played by Buddy Ebsen) on The Beverly Hillbillies and in January 2015, after the death of Donna Douglas, Baer became the last surviving member of the show's main cast.

Early life[edit]

Baer was born Maximilian Adalbert Baer Jr. in Oakland, California, in 1937, the son of boxing champion Max Baer and his wife Mary Ellen Sullivan. His father was of German, Jewish and Scots-Irish descent. His brother and sister are James Manny Baer (1941–2009) and Maude Baer (b. 1943). His uncle was boxer and actor Buddy Baer.

He attended Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, where he earned letters in four sports, and twice won the junior title at the Sacramento Open golf tournament. (Playing with Charlie Sifford, he later won the pro-am tournament at the 1968 Andy Williams - San Diego Open.)[1]

Baer earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Santa Clara University, with a minor in philosophy.


Baer's first acting role was in Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Blackpool Pavilion in England in 1949. He began acting professionally in 1960 at Warner Bros., where he made appearances on television programs such as Maverick, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, Cheyenne, The Roaring 20s, and 77 Sunset Strip. His career took off two years later, when he joined the cast of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Beverly Hillbillies[edit]

Max Baer (left), Nancy Kulp and Sharon Tate in The Beverly Hillbillies (1965)

In 1962, Baer was cast in the role of the doltish Jethro Bodine, Jed Clampett's cousin's son. It proved to be the high point of his acting career and the role for which he is best remembered.

He continued to take other parts during the nine-year run of The Beverly Hillbilles and appeared on the television programs Vacation Playhouse and Love, American Style, as well as in the western A Time for Killing.

With the 2015 death of co-star Donna Douglas, Baer is the only surviving cast member.[2]

Baer said that before he worked with Ebsen in the series, Ebsen knew his father, before Max was born, where his acting mentor's friendship began with Baer's father at a boxing match in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Baer's father also had a successful acting career, then, coming out of retirement from a boxing match in Sacramento, California, then later, Ebsen and Baer received word about Baer's father, being rushed into a hospital, where he lost himself to a attack on November 21, 1959, and Ebsen immediately replaced Baer's father, after that, and when The Beverly Hillbillies came to television. He said of his on- and off-screen chemistry with Ebsen: "Buddy was more of a surrogate father to me, because my dad had died in '59 and this was '62; and he (Buddy) kinda took over, the same age as my dad; born about the same time and he knew my dad pretty well. So, it was pretty easy for Buddy and I to become close. I would go down there and he would teach me to sail on his 36 ft. lapwards down in Balboa Island, where he had a house, and as a sailor, I was a very good anchor, because it was hard for me to ever had me on a boat. He said, 'When the boat comes about,' He said, 'You'll pull it on a lynch.' He said, 'You'll pull in quick, because if you don't, the sail will pull up with air and it'll be too hard to pull in.' And so, the first time we were out, he said, 'We're comin' about.' Stood up, 'What, bang, boom, hit me right in the ocean, and he was laughing, said, 'Well, you can forget about being a sailor, too.' But I used to go out and have dinner, like once a week to go out someplace he would take me like Paso Franks on Hollywood Blvd. to Cook's Pacific Dining Car. He had some little places he would take me to and sometimes in lunch, he would have a little dinner with George and George will cook for him in his dressing room and he would have lunch with him. We didn't have too much in the afternoon, because it was a 2 martini lunch; cause if he had to remember some lines, he'd have a 1 martini lunch and if he had to remember lines, it was 1, if he didn't have a lot of lines, in the afternoon, he may have 2, and that was pretty much it." When the show was canceled, he (of course) remained close to Ebsen, along with his acting mentor and Douglas, he attended the funeral of co-star Irene Ryan (who played Granny), in 1973 (at the same time, Ebsen was starring in another successful series - Barnaby Jones), then 2 decades later, he attended the taping of The Jerry Springer Show, which is still hosted by Jerry Springer, who was a lifelong Buddy Ebsen fan, and before he lost his acting mentor/friend, on July 6, 2003, he and Douglas went to visit Ebsen in the hospital, only 3 months after celebrating his 95th birthday.[3]

Later career[edit]

The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air in 1971, and Baer made numerous guest appearances on television. To counter typecasting, he concentrated on working in feature motion pictures, especially behind the camera, writing, producing and directing.

Baer wrote and produced the drama Macon County Line (1974), in which he played Deputy Reed Morgan. It was the highest-grossing movie per dollar invested at the time. Made for just $110,000, it earned almost $25 million at the box office. This record lasted until The Blair Witch Project broke it in 1999.[citation needed]

Max Baer Jr. also wrote, produced, and directed the drama The Wild McCullochs (1975), as well as playing the role of Culver Robinson.

He then had the idea of using the title of a popular song as a movie title and acquired the rights to the Bobbie Gentry hit song and producing Ode to Billy Joe (1976). Made for US$1.1 million, it grossed $27 million at the box office, plus earnings in excess of $2.65 million outside the US, $4.75 million from television, and $2.5 million from video. The film starred Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor.

Since the success of Ode to Billy Joe, the motion picture industry has produced more than 100 song title movies. Baer decided to pursue the rights to the hit song "Like a Virgin", recorded by the singer Madonna in 1984. When ABC tried to prevent him from making the film, he sued and won a judgment of more than $2 million.

He directed the comedy Hometown U.S.A. (1979) before retiring to his home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He still makes occasional guest appearances on television.

Baer has said that playing Jethro Bodine sank his acting career. When Paul Henning asked him to reprise the role for a 1981 television movie, he declined. Yet when the feature film The Beverly Hillbillies was made 12 years later, reports cited Baer's dissatisfaction that only Ebsen was asked to do a cameo. He appeared in the 1993 TV special, The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies, reprising his role as Jethro. By 2004, Baer had recognized the marketability of The Beverly Hillbillies and appeared with actress Donna Douglas at the annual TV Land Awards.

Jethro's Casino[edit]

In 1985, Baer began investigating the gambling industry. He noted that tourists paid a $5 to $6 admission to tour the "Ponderosa Ranch", which was the location for filming some episodes of TV's Bonanza. There was nothing to see but a working cattle ranch, but people enjoyed it because of the Bonanza connection. Baer decided that tourists would also pay for something dealing with The Beverly Hillbillies. He began using his Jethro Bodine role as a marketing opportunity toward the gambling and hotel industry. Baer obtained the sublicensing rights, including food and beverage rights, to The Beverly Hillbillies from CBS in 1991. His business partner estimates the cost of obtaining the rights and developing the ideas has been $1 million. Sixty-five Beverly Hillbillies slot machines were built in 1999 and placed in 10 casinos.[4]

In late 2003, Baer attempted the redevelopment of a former Walmart location in Carson City into a Beverly Hillbillies-themed hotel and casino, but was unsuccessful due to building code conflicts and other developers on the neighboring properties. On May 4, 2007, he announced the sale of the property and the purchase of another parcel just outside Carson City, in neighboring Douglas County, where he expected less resistance to his plans. Baer purchased a 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) parcel in north Douglas County for $1.2 million, and will purchase an additional 20 acres (81,000 m2) once he has obtained the required zoning variances. The plans are for a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) gambling area with 800 slot machines and 16 tables, flanked by various eateries including "Jethro's All You Ken Et Buffet." The project would feature a showroom, cinema complex and a 240-room, five-story hotel.[5]

Plans for Baer's casino included a 200-foot-tall (61 m) mock oil derrick spouting a 20- to 30-foot (9.1 m) flame.


  1. ^ "Golf exhibition set Tuesday at CC course", Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), September 15, 1971.
  2. ^ "Max Baer Jr. On Donna Douglas: 'She Was Elly May Until The Day She Died' - RumorFix - The Anti Tabloid". RumorFix - The Anti Tabloid. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "An Evening With The Beverly Hillbillies' Max Baer Jr.". The Five Count. 18 April 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Max Baer reflects on his fight to open Hillbillies casino". The Nevada Appeal. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "'Jethro' Buys Land for Nevada Casino". Retrieved 6 May 2016. 

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