Donna Douglas

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Donna Douglas
Donna Douglas 1967.JPG
Douglas in 1967
Doris Ione Smith

(1932-09-26)September 26, 1932
DiedJanuary 1, 2015(2015-01-01) (aged 82)
Resting placeBluff Creek Community Cemetery
ResidenceZachary, Louisiana, U.S.
OccupationActress, singer, writer
Years active1956–2008
  • Roland John Bourgeois, Jr. (1949–1954)
  • Robert M. Leeds (1971–1980)

Donna Douglas (born Doris Ione Smith; September 26, 1932 – January 1, 2015) was an American actress and singer, known for her role as Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971). Following her acting career, Douglas became a real estate agent, gospel singer, inspirational speaker, and author of books for children and adults.

<i>The Beverly Hillbillies</i> American sitcom

The Beverly Hillbillies is an American sitcom television series originally broadcast on CBS from 1962 to 1971. The show had an ensemble cast featuring Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, and Max Baer Jr. as the Clampetts, a poor backwoods family from the Ozarks region who move to posh Beverly Hills, California, after striking oil on their land. The show was produced by Filmways and was created by writer Paul Henning. It was followed by two other Henning-inspired "country cousin" series on CBS: Petticoat Junction, and its spin-off Green Acres, which reversed the rags-to-riches, country-to-city model of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Gospel music is a genre of Christian music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals with Christian lyrics. Gospel music can be traced to the early 17th century, with roots in the black oral tradition. Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The original gospel songs were written and composed by authors such as George F. Root, Philip Bliss, Charles H. Gabriel, William Howard Doane, and Fanny Crosby. Gospel music publishing houses emerged. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.


Early life

Douglas was born Doris Ione Smith [1] in the community of Pride, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, on September 26, 1932. [2] [3] [4] The younger of two children, [2] she was the only daughter of Emmett Ratcliff Smith, Sr. [note 1] and his wife, Elma (née Robinson). [note 2] Her birth name is listed both as Dorothy Smith and Doris Smith in various articles.[ citation needed ]

Pride, Louisiana Unincorporated community in Louisiana, United States

Pride is an unincorporated community in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, United States. Its ZIP code is 70770.

East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana Parish in Louisiana, United States

East Baton Rouge Parish is the most populous parish in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 440,171. The parish seat is Baton Rouge, Louisiana's state capital.

Douglas attended St. Gerard Catholic High School, [4] where she played softball and basketball [4] and was a member of the school's first graduating class. Douglas was named Miss Baton Rouge [4] and Miss New Orleans in 1957. [5]

Redemptorist Upper School was a parochial Roman Catholic high school in North Baton Rouge, Louisiana, supervised by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.


Douglas moved to New York City to pursue a career in show business and started as an illustration model for toothpaste advertisements. [6] She was featured as the "Letters Girl" on NBC's The Perry Como Show in 1957 and as the "Billboard Girl" on NBC's The Steve Allen Show in 1959. These and other television appearances led New York photographers and newspaper reporters to award her the "Miss By-line" crown, which she wore on CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show . [7]

Perry Como American singer, actor, television personality

Pierino Ronald "Perry" Como was an American singer, actor and television personality. During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for RCA Victor for 44 years, after signing with the label in 1943. "Mr. C.", as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show. His weekly television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: "50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all."

<i>The Steve Allen Show</i> television series

The Steve Allen Show was an American variety show hosted by Steve Allen from June 1956 to June 1960 on NBC, from September 1961 to December 1961 on ABC, and in first-run syndication from 1962 to 1964.

<i>The Ed Sullivan Show</i> American television series

The Ed Sullivan Show was an American television variety show that ran on CBS from June 20, 1948, to June 6, 1971, and was hosted by New York entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan. It was replaced in September 1971 by the CBS Sunday Night Movie.

Hal B. Wallis saw the Sullivan episode and cast her in the role of Marjorie Burke in the movie drama Career (1959), starring Anthony Franciosa, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. This was followed by a bit part in the musical comedy Li'l Abner (1959) and the role of a secretary in the comedy/romance Lover Come Back (1961), starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day. [8]

Hal B. Wallis American film producer

Harold Brent Wallis was an American film producer. He is best remembered for producing Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and True Grit (1969), along with many other major films for Warner Bros. featuring such film stars as Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Errol Flynn.

Career is a 1959 American drama film co-written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Dean Martin, Tony Franciosa, and Shirley MacLaine.

Anthony Franciosa American actor

Anthony Franciosa was an American film, TV and stage actor. He began as a successful stage actor, gaining a Tony Award nomination for the drug-addiction play A Hatful of Rain. After relocating to Hollywood he made numerous feature films, including A Face in the Crowd (1957), The Long, Hot Summer (1958), and Career (1959), for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor/Drama. In television he played lead roles in five television series: the sitcom Valentine's Day (1964–65), drama The Name of the Game (1968–71), Search (1972–73), Matt Helm (1975) and Finder of Lost Loves (1984).

She made numerous television appearances in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including The Twilight Zone episode "Eye of the Beholder" (1960). [8] She played Barbara Simmons in four 1961 episodes of the CBS detective series Checkmate . Her other credits included in U.S. Marshal , Tightrope , The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet , Bachelor Father , Adam-12 and Route 66 . Douglas also appeared in Thriller , season 1, episode 16, "The Hungry Glass". [9]

<i>The Twilight Zone</i> (1959 TV series) American TV anthology series (1959-1964)

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created and presented by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Each episode presents a stand-alone story in which characters find themselves dealing with often disturbing or unusual events, an experience described as entering "the Twilight Zone," often ending with a surprise ending and a moral. Although predominantly science-fiction, the show's paranormal and Kafkaesque events leaned the show towards fantasy and horror. The phrase “twilight zone,” inspired by the series, is used to describe surreal experiences.

"Eye of the Beholder" is episode 42 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on November 11, 1960 on CBS.

<i>Checkmate</i> (TV series) American detective television series

Checkmate is an American detective television series created by Eric Ambler, starring Anthony George, Sebastian Cabot, and Doug McClure. The show aired on CBS Television from 1960 to 1962 for a total of 70 episodes. It was produced by Jack Benny's production company, "JaMco Productions" in co-operation with Revue Studios. Guest stars included Charles Laughton, Peter Lorre, Lee Marvin, Mickey Rooney and many other prominent performers.

The Beverly Hillbillies

Although Douglas was an active actress in the 1960s, she was still relatively unknown when selected from among 500 young actresses to work on The Beverly Hillbillies. This series ran for nine consecutive seasons, beginning in 1962 and ending in 1971. Continually typecast as a result of her Hillbillies role, Douglas decided to focus on her career as a gospel singer. [10]

During the 1966 summer hiatus of The Beverly Hillbillies, Douglas made her only starring feature film appearance, cast as Frankie in Fred de Cordova's Frankie and Johnny (1966) with Elvis Presley. [11] The film proved popular but it did little to advance Douglas' big-screen career.

With the 1973 death of Hillbillies co-star Irene Ryan, and Max Baer Jr.'s refusal to participate, Douglas joined Nancy Kulp and Buddy Ebsen in 1981 as the only original cast members to appear in the reunion movie Return of the Beverly Hillbillies . [11] Douglas was a guest star on a number of other television programs and the subject of paper dolls, dolls, coloring books, and various toys during the height of the show's popularity. In a 2003 interview with "Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict", she summed up her views on the role: "Elly May was like a slice out of my life. She is a wonderful little door opener for me because people love her, and they love the Hillbillies. Even to this day it's shown every day somewhere. But, as with any abilities, she may open a door for you, but you have to have substance or integrity to advance you through that door." [12]

In 1992, Douglas and Baer attended Buddy Ebsen's 84th birthday celebration in Beverly Hills, California. In 1993, Douglas, Ebsen, and Baer reunited on The Jerry Springer Show , and for a final time in a CBS-TV television special, The Legend of The Beverly Hillbillies. [13]

In December 2010, Mattel released a new collection of three Barbies called the Classic TV Collection. These dolls were Samantha Stephens (from Bewitched , played by Elizabeth Montgomery); Jeannie (from I Dream of Jeannie , played by Barbara Eden; and Elly May Clampett. [14]

Douglas in 2007 as grand marshal at a parade in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee Donna Douglas in Lawrenceburg, TN Parade 2.jpg
Douglas in 2007 as grand marshal at a parade in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee

Post acting career

Douglas received her real estate license after The Beverly Hillbillies finished production. [2] She did not work in that field long, however, as she remained in show business and found other projects.

Douglas frequently performed as a gospel singer and was a speaker at church groups, youth groups, schools and colleges across the United States. [2] One focus of her charitable work was speaking in support of various Christian children's homes, mostly in the American South. She appeared at conventions and trade fairs. She recorded several gospel albums, the first released in 1982, [10] and recorded a few minor country music records during the 1970s and 1980s.

Douglas wrote and published a religious-based children's book titled Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch. The book included Bible stories featuring animals combined with a coloring book. In November 2011, she released a new children's book titled Miss Donna's Mulberry Acres Farm. [15] In 2013, Douglas published a cookbook, Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood [16] which collects recipes of Southern cooking from show business friends and colleagues such as Buddy Ebsen, Phyllis Diller, Valerie Harper and Debbie Reynolds. The book also has a section on good manners called "Hollywood Social Graces". [2]

Personal life

Douglas married her first husband, Roland Bourgeois, Jr., in 1949, with whom she had her only child, Danny Bourgeois, in 1954. The couple divorced that same year. [17] She married Robert M. Leeds, director of The Beverly Hillbillies, in 1971; they divorced in 1980.

In 1982 Douglas was accepted and enrolled at Rhema Bible Training Center in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She graduated in 1984 with an emphasis in Children’s Ministry.

Douglas remained a close friend of Buddy Ebsen for 32 years. In a 2011 interview with The Lincoln Times-News, she described Ebsen as "a wonderful man, very much like my own father, a quiet, reserved, and caring person". [18]

In 2003, Douglas' mother, Elma Smith, and Buddy Ebsen died. Douglas and Baer visited Ebsen in the hospital, and following his death both delivered a eulogy at his funeral. A decade later, Douglas revealed the depth of her feelings for Ebsen in an interview with "Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict": "I loved Buddy Ebsen. He reminded me so much of my own dad. Most of my scenes were with Buddy, and most of Max's with Irene. Buddy was just a wonderful man. I related to him so easily. The night before he died, Max and I went up to the hospital to see him." [12]


Sister Act

On June 10, 1993, Douglas and her partner Curt Wilson in Associated Artists Entertainment, Inc., filed a $200 million lawsuit against Disney, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, their production companies, and Creative Artists Agency claiming that Sister Act was plagiarized from a book, A Nun in the Closet, owned by the partners. Douglas and Wilson claimed that in 1985 they had developed a screenplay from the book. [19]

The lawsuit claimed that there were more than 100 similarities and plagiarisms between the movie and the book/screenplay owned by Douglas and Wilson. The lawsuit claimed that the developed screenplay had been submitted to Disney, Goldberg, and Midler three times during 1987 and 1988. [20] In 1994, Douglas and Wilson declined a $1 million offer to settle the case. The judge found in favor of Walt Disney Pictures and the other defendants. Wilson stated at the time, "They would have had to copy our stuff verbatim for us to prevail". [21]


On May 4, 2011, Douglas filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Mattel and CBS Consumer Products used her name and likeness for a Barbie doll in the Classic TV Collection without her authorization. The suit alleged that packaging for the "Elly May" Barbie doll featured a photo of her portraying the character. She maintained that she had never endorsed the doll nor given Mattel permission to use her name to promote its sale, and she sought $75,000 in damages. [22] She claimed that CBS and Mattel needed her approval to design the doll, while CBS and Mattel maintained that they did not need her consent or approval because the network held the exclusive rights to the character. It was settled on December 27, 2011, and details were confidential, but both sides claimed to be content with the outcome. [15]

Final years and death

In addition to her frequent traveling for celebrity appearances and speeches, Douglas enjoyed gardening, spending time with friends and family, and answering her fan mail. [2]

Douglas died at Baton Rouge General Hospital, aged 82, on January 1, 2015, from pancreatic cancer. [3] [23] [24] Her interment was in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana's Bluff Creek Cemetery.

Charlene Smith, Douglas's niece by marriage, said that Douglas returned to live in East Baton Rouge Parish in about 2005: "She was always happy, always beautiful. You always saw her with all her makeup on. She never looked her age." [25] Smith said that at Christmas 2014 Douglas gave her a Bible that she had signed. Douglas often added scriptural verses to her gifts. [25]





  1. Her father's obituary, published in Baton Rouge Advocate , October 9, 1988, states the following: "Emmett R Smith Sr. — Died 2:30 p.m. Friday, October 7, 1988, near Port Allen, as the result of a boating accident. He was 81, a native of Baywood and resident of Zachary. He was a retired Standard Oil Co. employee with 37 years service. Visiting at Galilee Baptist Church, Deerford Road, 12:30 p.m. to religious services at 2 p.m. Sunday, conducted by the Rev. Tommy Jackson. Burial in Bluff Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Bluff Creek...."
  2. Her mother's obituary, published in The Baton Rouge Advocate, January 2, 2004, states: "SMITH, ELMA ROBINSON In her early life, she was a telephone operator and was a joy and blessing to all who knew her. She died Wednesday, December 31, 2003, at 6:05 a.m. at Zachary Manor Nursing Home. She was 93, born in Olive Branch/Clinton and a resident of Zachary. Visiting was at Charlet Funeral Home Inc., Zachary, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, with recitation of the rosary at 7 p.m. Visiting at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church from 10 a.m. until service at 1 p.m. Friday, conducted by the Rev. Kenny Laird. Burial in St. Isidore Catholic Church Cemetery, Baker..."

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