From “The Beverly Hillbillies” to Hollywood Icon: The Journey of Max Baer Jr.


From “The Beverly Hillbillies” to Hollywood Icon: The Journey of Max Baer Jr.


Peter Cover

Jethro Bodine Comes to Life

Max Baer Jr., most famously known as Jethro Bodine from the hit sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” left an indelible mark on American television. The show, which aired from 1962 to 1971, followed the comedic antics of the Clampett family after striking oil and becoming millionaires overnight. They move to Beverly Hills but cling to their rustic lifestyle, providing endless humor and entertainment.

Baer Jr.’s portrayal of Jethro, the son of Jed’s cousin Pearl, was particularly memorable. Known for his goofy grin and laugh that made viewers chuckle along, Jethro was celebrated for his hilarious misunderstandings and simple-mindedness, famously counting with the line, “five gozinta five one times, five gozinta ten two times.”

Instant Success and a Lasting Legacy

“The Beverly Hillbillies” quickly became a television phenomenon, climbing to the No. 1 spot faster than any show before it. It delighted audiences for nine seasons with a total of 274 episodes and even snagged a Golden Globe nomination along with four Emmy nods. Baer’s Jethro was a big part of that success. He perfected his character’s accent by listening to Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters and always maintained a humorously vacant expression.

Despite the show’s cancellation in 1971, Baer Jr.’s role left a lasting impression, and he remained a beloved figure in American pop culture. However, his career path took unexpected turns after the series ended.

Life Beyond the Hillbillies

Born on December 4, 1937, in Oakland, California, to legendary boxer Max Baer and his wife Mary Ellen Sullivan, Max Baer Jr. found his way into acting somewhat by chance. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Santa Clara University, Baer moved to Los Angeles on a whim and was soon spotted for his resemblance to actor James Garner, which led to his signing with Warner Bros.

Before “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Baer Jr. appeared in various TV shows but never found a role as impactful as Jethro. Post-show, Hollywood struggled to see him as anyone other than the naive country boy, limiting his acting opportunities.

A New Direction: Producer and Director

Rather than fight against typecasting, Baer decided to step behind the camera, producing and directing films. He found notable success with “Macon County Line” in 1974, a film that became a massive hit despite its modest budget. It grossed over $30 million worldwide and became the most profitable independent film of that year.

Enduring Legacy and Personal Life

Baer Jr.’s life took various turns, including ventures into business. He famously purchased the rights to “The Beverly Hillbillies” in an attempt to develop themed casinos and other projects, though not all were successful. His personal life also saw its share of drama and tragedy, particularly with the suicide of his partner, Chere Rhodes, in 2008, which deeply affected him.

The Lasting Impact of Max Baer Jr.

Today, at 84, Max Baer Jr. remains a respected figure in the entertainment industry, not just for his iconic role as Jethro but also for his successful pivot to directing and producing. His story is a testament to the enduring appeal of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the talent that made it a beloved classic. As the last surviving cast member, Baer Jr. carries the legacy of a show that continues to bring laughter to new generations.

Max Baer Jr. has navigated the highs and lows of life in the spotlight with resilience and adaptability, ensuring his place in the annals of television history. His journey from a beloved hillbilly to a successful businessman and filmmaker shows that there is much more to him than just Jethro Bodine.

Related Articles

You may also like



About Peter Cover

Peter Cover, born in 1975 in Asheville, North Carolina, is a famous writer and journalist known for his work on celebrities and fame. He studied at the University of North Carolina and writes about how media and privacy affect famous people's lives.