Beverly Hillbillies Real and Imagined
How many of you went (or go!) out in search of Beverly Hill-billy Type Fun at drive-ins and theatres? A lot of us did in after the series hit big during 1962-63. It was the Number One show for its first two seasons on CBS. There was nothing more popular in the South, not on television or in movie houses. One episode where Granny hunts a giant jackrabbit (turns out to be a kangaroo, I think) still ranks #34 of most watched network prime-time telecasts since 1964, encompassing 44% of all viewing households (22.57 million, and you could at least triple that number to figure a total of individuals seeing it). Beating such stats with paid admissions was impossible. The Clampetts in a feature would have outdone Thunder Road around here. Actually, Buddy Ebsen appeared in one called Mail Order Bride (in 1964) that less scrupulous exhibs promoted as the Hillbillies at full-length (Old Jed’s Lookin’ For a Wife!). Anything that smacked of cornpone humor was re-christened as a Clampett night at the movies. Ads like ones shown here were rife through Dixie and snookered patrons imagining they’d see all-night Hillbilly fun just like CBS was giving away at home. I was fascinated by such programs at the time because of titles (always printed small) that often dated back to the forties and beyond. Republic’s old Judy Canova laffers had a comeback, as did the ancient Private Snuffy Smith from 1942. Sometimes even the Weaver Brothers and Elviry got a look-in, and I’ll bet smaller houses used nitrate prints on a few of these. Note the running dog, moonshine, and jalopy art? If they used that once in counties surrounding me, they used it a hundred times. The last occasion I saw Abbott and Costello play a theatre date was Comin’ Round The Mountain as part of a Hillbilly marathon. How long did such shows last? Probably no later than the mid-sixties. By then, customers maybe realized they weren’t going to see the Clampetts on movie screens, and these ersatz mountaineers would no longer be adequate substitutes.