Though she appeared in feature films before and after the much-loved '60s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, American actress Donna Douglas will always be remembered as the buxom, blue-eyed tomboy Elly May Clampett. She was born Doris Smith in Pride, LA, and grew up to be very much like Elly May in that she always had a special affinity for animals and nature. As a teen, Douglas was a cheerleader and won some beauty contests, notably the title of Miss New Orleans 1957. From there Douglas appeared as the Letters Girl on The Perry Como Show and later appeared on The Steve Allen Show as a Billboard Girl. She made her feature-film debut in Career Girl (1959) and followed it up with a co-starring role in the Rock Hudson/Doris Day screwball comedy Lover Come Back (1960). She was cast as Elly May in 1962 and remained with the series through its demise in 1971. Later, she returned for a Beverly Hillbillies made-for-TV reunion movie in 1981. In 1965, Douglas starred opposite Elvis Presley in Fred de Cordova's Frankie and Johnnie. It would be her last film that had nothing to do with Hillbillies. Whereas some actors deeply resent being so closely associated with a single role, Donna Douglas embraced Elly Mae and continued to make public appearances in costume. A devout Christian, Douglas was also a noted gospel singer. Douglas died in 2015, at age 81.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Married for the first time at age 17.
- Was crowned Miss Baton Rouge and Miss New Orleans in 1957.
- Began her career as a model before moving to New York in the late 1950s.
- Had her first starring role in a feature film in 1966 alongside Elvis Presley, in the movie Frankie and Johnny.
- Pursued real estate and gospel singing after her stint on The Beverly Hillbillies.