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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:||Cast ... actor vaudevillian dancer playwright|
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.
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