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Buddy Ebsen

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Also Known As: Christian Rudolph Ebsen Jr. Died: July 6, 2003
Born: April 2, 1908 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Belleville, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, vaudevillian, dancer, playwright

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Buddy Ebsen was a tall, not particularly handsome, somewhat gangly hoofer who performed an amazing rope-like dance number on stage with his sister Vilma. With the encouragement of his father, who operated a dance studio, he was partnered with his sister as a youngster. Not unlike Fred and Adele Astaire, the Ebsens toured in vaudeville and hit Broadway in the 1920s. The duo danced in "Whoopee" and in one of the last editions of the "Ziegfeld Follies" (1934).Hollywood beckoned and Buddy and Vilma were seen in "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935) before Vilma retired from show business. Although an MGM contract player, Ebsen was loaned to Fox for "Captain January" (1936), in which he was a ship's hand who danced with Shirley Temple--de rigeur for a screen hoofer of the period. In 1938, MGM producer Mervyn LeRoy cast Ebsen as The Tin Man in the film version of "The Wizard of Oz" set to be released in 1939. Ebsen filmed several sequences before landing in the hospital after the metallic dust from the character's make-up had clogged his lungs. Jack Haley replaced him in the film and Ebsen soon left MGM. He went to RKO for such pictures as "Parachute Battalion" (1941) and "Sing Your Worries Away" (1942), before...

Buddy Ebsen was a tall, not particularly handsome, somewhat gangly hoofer who performed an amazing rope-like dance number on stage with his sister Vilma. With the encouragement of his father, who operated a dance studio, he was partnered with his sister as a youngster. Not unlike Fred and Adele Astaire, the Ebsens toured in vaudeville and hit Broadway in the 1920s. The duo danced in "Whoopee" and in one of the last editions of the "Ziegfeld Follies" (1934).

Hollywood beckoned and Buddy and Vilma were seen in "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935) before Vilma retired from show business. Although an MGM contract player, Ebsen was loaned to Fox for "Captain January" (1936), in which he was a ship's hand who danced with Shirley Temple--de rigeur for a screen hoofer of the period. In 1938, MGM producer Mervyn LeRoy cast Ebsen as The Tin Man in the film version of "The Wizard of Oz" set to be released in 1939. Ebsen filmed several sequences before landing in the hospital after the metallic dust from the character's make-up had clogged his lungs. Jack Haley replaced him in the film and Ebsen soon left MGM. He went to RKO for such pictures as "Parachute Battalion" (1941) and "Sing Your Worries Away" (1942), before moving to Republic, where he was then cast in Westerns (like "Utah Wagon Train" 1951) , often as the musical, amusing sidekick. Ebsen continued to make film appearances throughout the 50s and 60s. In 1968, he made his final screen appearance (to that date) in a leading role in Disney's "The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band".

By then, Ebsen had established a presence on television. When ABC's "Disneyland" program decided to film ongoing installments of a "Davy Crockett" series, Ebsen was chosen as George Russell, Fess Parker's sidekick, a role he reprised for two films in the mid-50s. Later, he was Huck Marriner, long-time Indian fighter, in "Northwest Passage" (NBC, 1958-59). Ebsen was going to retire to his Orange County home in the early 60s, when producer Paul Henning offered him the lead role in a CBS situation comedy. The premise: a backwoods hick discovers oil, becomes a millionaire, and moves his family to the most chic part of California where his kin become "fish out of water" amongst the more "sophisticated" Angelenos. "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS, 1962-71) was considered as low-brow as TV could get by the critics, but the audience kept it on the air. Ebsen seemed to be indelibly linked with Jed Clampett, the family patriarch. Yet, at demise of the series, he donned a suit, kept the homespun flavor and became private detective "Barnaby Jones" (CBS, 1973-80), who would noodle and drive suspicious parties crazy until they practically begged to tell the truth. Ebsen decided to give series TV one last while whirl in 1984, when he joined the cast of the ABC series "Matt Houston". As Roy Houston, uncle to the title character, he played a detective who had come out of retirement and was raring to do things his way.

While Ebsen appeared in the occasional TV-movie, like the "Hillbillies" 1981 reunion and "Working Trash" (Fox, 1990), he was more or less retired when he appeared in the cameo role of Barnaby Jones in Penelope Spheeris' big screen version of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1993). His autobiography, "The Other Side of Oz" was published in 1995, and in 2001, at the age of 93, he became a novelist, publishing a romance titled "Kelly's Quest" that became a best-seller.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Song Performer
2.
 Beverly Hillbillies, The (1993) Barnaby Jones
3.
 Working Trash (1990) Vandever Lodge
4.
 Stone Fox (1987) Grampa
5.
 Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1981) Jed Clampett
6.
 Fire on the Mountain (1981) John Vogelin
7.
 Paradise Connection, The (1979) Stuart Douglas
8.
 Leave Yesterday Behind (1978) Doc
9.
 Smash Up On Interstate 5 (1976) Al Pearson
10.
 President's Plane Is Missing, The (1973) Vice President Kermit Madigan
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1928:
Made stage debut as a dancer in "Whoopee"
1932:
Featured in Broadway production of "Flying Colors"
1934:
Appeared in "Ziegfeld Follies"
1935:
Film debut, "Broadway Melody of 1936"
1936:
Danced with Shirley Temple in "Captain January"
1938:
Lost role of Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz" because he was allergic to metallic dust used as make-up
1952:
TV debut, "Gruen Guild Playhouse"
1954:
TV series debut as George Russell in "Disneyland: The Adventures of Davy Crockett"
:
Played Sgt. Hunk Marriner in "Northwest Passage"
1961:
Portrayed Audrey Hepburn's husband in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
:
Appeared as Jed Clampett in "The Beverly Hillbillies"
:
Starred in CBS detective series "Barnaby Jones"
1981:
Reprised Jed Clampett in TV-movie
1984:
Campaigned against former co-star Nancy Kulp in her bid for a Pennsylvania congressional seat
:
Joined cast of "Matt Houston"
1993:
Reprised Barnaby Jones in "The Beverly Hillbillies" feature film
1995:
Published autobiography, "The Other Side of Oz"
1998:
Underwent heart surgery to replace an aortic valve
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Florida: Gainesville , Florida -
Rollins College: Winter Park , Florida -

Notes

When Nancy Kulp, who had portrayed Miss Hathaway in "The Beverly Hillbillies," ran for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania in 1984, Ebsen made TV commercials in favor of her Republican opponent. She lost the election.

There is an official website devoted to the actor at www.buddyebsen.com

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Ruth Cambridge. Married in 1936; divorced c. 1943; mother of Ebsen's two eldest daughters.
wife:
Nancy Wolcott. Actor. Married in 1944; divorced in 1983.
wife:
Dorothy Knott. Born c. 1940; married in 1985.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Christian Rudolph Ebsen. Operated a dance studio.
mother:
Frances Ebsen.
sister:
Helga Ebsen.
sister:
Norma Ebsen.
sister:
Vilma Ebsen. Dancer, singer, actor. Performed with her brother onstage and appeared with him in "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935); retired shortly thereafter.
sister:
Leslie Ebsen.
daughter:
Alix Ebsen. Mother, Ruth Cambridge.
daughter:
Libby Ebsen. Mother, Ruth Cambridge.
daughter:
Susannah Ebsen. Mother, Nancy Wollcott.
daughter:
Cathy Ebsen. Born c. 1950; mother Nancy Wolcott.
daughter:
Bonnie Ebsen. Actor. Mother, Nancy Wollcott.
son:
Dustin Ebsen. Mother, Nancy Wollcott.
daughter:
Kirsten Ebsen. Singer. Born c. 1958; mother, Nancy Wolcott; recorded first album "Red" (1993).
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Other Side of Oz" Donovan Publishing Co
"Kelly's Quest" 1stBooks Library

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