Max Baer Jr.
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Max Baer Jr.
As Jethro in 1962
Maximilian Adalbert Baer Jr.
December 4, 1937
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film and television actor, producer, director|
Joanne Kathleen Hill
(m. 1966; div. 1971)
|Parent(s)||Max Baer Sr. and Mary Ellen Sullivan|
Maximilian Adalbert Baer Jr. (born December 4, 1937) is an American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director. He is best known for playing Jethro Bodine, the dimwitted adopted nephew of Jed Clampett (played by Buddy Ebsen) on The Beverly Hillbillies. After the death of Donna Douglas in January 2015, Baer became the last surviving member of that show's main cast.
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.)
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
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.
In 2014, Baer sued CBS after claiming a secret deal with a Des Moines based Jethro's BBQ was interfering with his opportunity to cash in on his role from the iconic television show. The lawsuit claims that Baer negotiated a deal with "CBS" for the rights to use the fictional character and other motifs from the show to create a chain of restaurants, hotels and casinos.
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Following the cancellation of The Beverly Hillbillies in 1971, Baer made numerous guest appearances on television, but he quickly found his acting career hampered on the "small screen" by typecasting. He therefore began to concentrate 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 US$110,000, it earned almost US$25 million at the box office. This record lasted until The Blair Witch Project broke it in 1999. He also wrote, produced, and directed the drama The Wild McCullochs (1975), as well as playing the role of Culver Robinson.
Baer then had the idea of using the title of a popular song as a movie title, so he acquired the rights to Bobbie Gentry's hit song to produce the 1976 film Ode to Billy Joe, which he also directed. Made for only US$1.1 million, it grossed $27 million at the box office, plus earnings in excess of US$2.65 million outside the US, US$4.75 million from television, and US$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 US$2 million.
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 22 years later, reports cited Baer's dissatisfaction that only Ebsen was asked to do a cameo. He appeared in the 1993 television 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.
In 1985, Baer began investigating the gambling industry. He noted that tourists paid a US$5 to US$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 US$1 million. Sixty-five Beverly Hillbillies slot machines were built in 1999 and placed in 10 casinos.
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 US$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.
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.
As of December 2017, development of Jethro's Casino had been suspended. Ongoing litigation involving Max Baer Jr, the developer and Douglas County has delayed the development of the project indefinitely.
He remained close friends with Buddy Ebsen until Ebsen's death from pneumonia on July 6, 2003. Just before his acting mentor's death, he and Donna Douglas both had visited Ebsen in the hospital.
With the 2015 death of co-star Donna Douglas, Baer is the only surviving cast member.
- "Golf exhibition set Tuesday at CC course", Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), September 15, 1971.
- "Max Baer reflects on his fight to open Hillbillies casino". The Nevada Appeal. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "'Jethro' Buys Land for Nevada Casino". Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- "News Updates". Retrieved July 12, 2012.
- "Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett, Barnaby Jones, many others, dies". Las Vegas Sun.com. July 7, 2003. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
- "Max Baer Jr. On Donna Douglas: 'She Was Elly May Until The Day She Died' - RumorFix - The Anti Tabloid". RumorFix - The Anti Tabloid. Retrieved May 6, 2016.