Donna Douglas, the actress who won over TV viewers as Elly May Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” has died. She was 81.
The star’s granddaughter told TMZ Douglas died in her Louisiana home surrounded by friends and family.
The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, her niece told The Associated Press.
Douglas appeared “The Beverly Hillbillies,” a comedy about a backwoods Tennessee family who moved to Beverly Hills after striking it rich from oil on their land. for all nine seasons of the show and reprised her role in a TV movie reboot of the series in 1981.
As Elly May, she seemed blissfully unaware of her status as a bumpkin blond bombshell. Typically she was clad in a snug flannel shirt and tight jeans cinched with a rope belt, and she seemed to prefer her critters to any beau.
Chosen from more than 500 other actresses, Douglas said she felt at ease playing the role because, like her character, she grew up a poor Southern tomboy. Her childhood in Pride, Louisiana, came in handy when she was asked during her audition to milk a goat.
“I had milked cows before,” she recalled in a 2009 interview with The Associated Press. “I figured they were equipped the same, so I just went on over and did it.”
The show was not only assailed by critics, but by the network president who put it on the air: “I HATED it,” Michael Dann confided much later. “After screening the pilot, I don’t think I ever watched another segment.”
The public, however, felt quite the opposite: It ran for nine seasons, often in the Top 10. In their own way, the Clampetts were a forerunner of the `60s counterculture.
It wasn’t much of a stretch for Douglas to fit into the troupe, said her cousin, Charlene Smith.