Paul Henning

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Paul Henning
BornPaul William Henning
(1911-09-16)September 16, 1911
Independence, Missouri, United States
DiedMarch 25, 2005(2005-03-25) (aged 93)
Burbank, California, United States
Resting placeTuscumbia Cemetery, Tuscumbia, Missouri
NationalityAmerican
OccupationTelevision producer and writer
Years active1930s–1993
Spouse(s)Ruth Henning (1939–2002) (her death)
Children3 children; Linda Kaye, Carol Alice and Paul Anthony Henning

Paul William Henning (September 16, 1911 – March 25, 2005) was an American producer and screenwriter. Most famous for the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, he was also crucial in developing the "rural" comedies Petticoat Junction and Green Acres for CBS in the 1960s.

Author Kurt Andersen described Henning as "the Eli Whitney of American television production."[1]

Early life[edit]

Henning was born and grew up on a farm in Independence, Missouri. While working in a drugstore as a teenager, he met future President Harry S. Truman, who advised him to become a lawyer. Although he did attend the Kansas City School of Law, his ambition was to be a singer on the radio. When the local radio station KMBZ[2] (KMBC at the time) had no money for writers to create the "filler" between songs, he became a writer as well as a singer.

Television writer[edit]

Writing proved the more lucrative of the two, and he abandoned singing, eventually writing for such series as Fibber McGee & Molly and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, and later such television series as The Dennis Day Show, The Real McCoys, and The Andy Griffith Show. Henning was also the creator, writer, and producer of The Bob Cummings Show, where he first met many of the actors who appeared in his later series. Another series produced by Henning was The Ray Bolger Show. He also wrote or co-wrote feature films such as Lover Come Back (1961), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay), and he wrote for Bedtime Story (1964).

Most popular television series[edit]

In 1962, Henning created the CBS series The Beverly Hillbillies; a sitcom based on his past experiences while camping in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the popular theme song "The Ballad of Jed Clampett".

The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the highest-rated series of all time, and later became a feature film about three decades later. After the major success of Hillbillies, CBS gave Henning another half-hour time slot on its schedule. In 1963, Petticoat Junction debuted on CBS and was a great success as well. This series had a starring role for Henning's daughter (who shared a September 16 birthday with her father), Linda Kaye Henning, simply billed as Linda Kaye. In 1965, this was followed by Green Acres, although Henning was only the casting director and executive producer.

All three programs were popular, achieving major ratings success during most of their runs. However, changing times led CBS to look down on the so-called "ruralcoms" and move in a more "adult", sophisticated direction with series such as All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Thus, in 1971, The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres were canceled as a result of the "rural purge", joining Petticoat Junction (which ended the year before) in syndicated reruns.

Personal life and death[edit]

He married Ruth Barth in 1939 and the couple had three children: Linda Kaye Henning, on whom Paul partially based the character of Elly May Clampett, Carol Alice Henning, and Paul Anthony Henning.

Ruth Henning often told her husband about how her female cousins and she often visited her grandparents at the tiny hotel they owned near the Rock Island railroad station located in Eldon, Missouri. This later became the concept for Petticoat Junction. Later in life, Henning and his wife Ruth donated land to a conservation area near Branson, Missouri.[3] The conservation area is 1,534 acres of oak and hickory forest, steep hills, and glades with four designated trails created by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and one longer trail created largely by the members of Boy Scout Troop 2001.[4][5]

Many details about Henning's personal life and career were recounted by Ruth in a 1994 manuscript that was discovered in archives and subsequently published in 2017.[6]

Ruth Barth Henning died, aged 88, from a heart attack on January 15, 2002, at their home in Los Angeles.

Henning retired to Toluca Lake, California, and died in a Burbank hospital on March 25, 2005, aged 93. He was interred in the Tuscumbia Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Missouri.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2008). The Real Thing. Bison Books. p. 61. ISBN 0803220553.
  2. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/paul-henning-494830.html. Retrieved August 21, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  3. ^ Dale Cox. "Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area – Branson, Missouri". Exploresouthernhistory.com. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  4. ^ "Area Summary". Mdc4.mdc.mo.gov. Archived from the original on August 12, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  5. ^ Insiders' Guide to Branson and the Ozark Mountains, 7th – Fred Pfister – Google Books. Books.google.com. August 25, 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  6. ^ Henning, Ruth (2017). The First Beverly Hillbilly: The Untold Story of the Creator of Rural TV Comedy. Woodneath Press. ISBN 978-1-942337-03-4.
  7. ^ Paul Henning at Find a Grave

External links[edit]