Believe it or not, this Beverly Hillbilly was born in nearby Belleville, IL. In 1908, actor Buddy Ebsen was born Christian Ebsen Jr. When Ebsen was young, his family left the area and moved to Florida. During his youth, Ebsen learned to dance, a skill that would soon prove useful in his acting career and landed him roles next to beloved stars like Shirley Temple. Upon entering the film industry, Ebsen rose to fame and many fans knew him for his role as Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Interestingly, Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz”, but he had to leave the role when he discovered he was allergic to the aluminum dust makeup on his face. As a result, actor Jack Haley got the role instead. Ebsen’s recording of the Tin Man’s solo “If I Only Had a Heart” is included on the deluxe edition of the film’s soundtrack. Ebsen was also cast as Georgie Russell in Disney’s TV series “Davy Crockett.” From 1973-1980, Ebsen starred as the detective Barnaby Jones.
In his later years, he returned to Belleville to visit his birthplace and visited his boyhood home at Lebanon Ave. His father owned the land behind their house and taught swimming in the family’s pond. The site eventually became the spot of a once popular public swimming pool.
Buddy Ebsen had numerous accomplishments throughout his life and he even became an expert sailor and was a lieutenant in the Coast Guard. He played a significant role in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Despite his busy personal and professional life, it appears he found chances to visit his hometown of Belleville.
Here are some of the works Ebsen has starred in:
The Beverly Hillbillies Ultimate Collection Volume 1– Jed Clampett is found to be living alongside an oil-rich swamp with his daughter and mother-in-law. A surveyor for the OK Oil Company realizes the size of the oil field, and the company pays him a fortune for the right to drill on his land. He is convinced to move to California after being told his modest property could yield $25 million. The family moves into a mansion in wealthy Beverly Hills, California, next door to Jed’s banker, Milburn Drysdale, and his wife, Margaret who has zero tolerance for hillbillies.
Barnaby Jones– Buddy Ebsen stars as Barnaby Jones, gray-haired private detective who outwits criminals half his age. Forced out of retirement to solve the murder of his his, Jones has reopened his successful Los Angeles agency and hired his daughter-in law Betty (Lee Meriwether) as his secretary and personal confidante.
The Wizard of Oz Soundtrack– Buddy Ebsen’s voice still exists in the sound recordings of this classic film.