Who is Max Baer Jr?
Maximilian Adalbert ‘Max’ Baer Jr. is an actor, producer and director, perhaps still best recognized for portraying Jethro Bodine in the ‘60s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies”. He was born under the Zodiac sign of Sagittarius on 4 December 1937. in Oakland, California, USA, of mixed German-Jewish and Scots-Irish descent. As of 2022, he’s 84 years old and holds American nationality.
Early life and Family
Max was born to his parents, Max Baer, the famous heavyweight boxing champion, and Mary Ellen Sullivan, a housewife and nurse. His father’s record as a professional boxer was 71:13, with over 50 knock-outs which made him a member of the exclusive group of boxers who won 50 or more fights by a knockout. Additionally, two of his father’s fights with Max Schmeling and James J. Braddock were rated as Fight of the Year by “The Ring” Magazine, the boxing and wrestling publication.
Max Baer Jr. as Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Max grew up alongside his two siblings, brother James Manny Baer and sister Maude Baer; his brother, James, died in 2009 at the age of 66. From an early age, Max expressed an interest in performing, which prompted him to join his high school’s drama club and act in numerous plays. He attended the Sacramento-based Christian Brother’s High School, where he excelled at sports, earning varsity letters in four sports and winning the junior title at the Sacramento Open golf tournament.
Following his matriculation, he attended Santa Clara University, from which he graduated in 1959 with a degree in business administration and a minor in philosophy,
Max’s uncle was Buddy Baer, a boxer and actor who influenced him to take up acting.
Buddy is best known for his various roles in the western movies “Hell Canyon Outlaws”(1957), “Once Upon a Horse”(1958), and “Ride Beyond Vengeance” (1966). Interestingly, both Max’s father and uncle lost a fight to Joe Louis, regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Max Jr. launched his career in 1960 at Warner Bros, starring in three episodes of the comedy/western TV series “Maverick”, alongside James Garnet, Jack Kelly and Roger Moore. During the same year, he made several one-episode appearances in various TV shows, including “Surfside 6”, “Bronco”, and “The Roaring ‘20s”.
In 1961 he landed several recurring roles in TV shows, such as “Hawaiian Eye”, “Cheyenne”, and “77 Sunset Strip”. Reportedly, since Max was 24, he had been mentored by Buddy Ebsen, the famous actor who was also a family friend and a huge influence on Max.
Under Ebsen’s wing and guidance, Max landed the role of Jethro Bodine, the naïve but very cunning nephew of Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen in the CBS sitcom “Beverly Hillbillies”.
As encapsulated in the show’s title sequence, “Beverly Hillbillies” follows the Clampetts, a poor backwoods family who end up living in Beverly Hills, California, after Jed Clampett, an uneducated mountaineer, struck ‘black gold’, having found oil underneath his land. The sitcom quickly became a hit, and in the ’60s was regarded as one of the best shows and most-watched programs on TV, especially during its first two seasons.
Created by Paul Henning, the show earned critical acclaim and nine Emmy nominations during its nine-season run from 1962 to 1971. Besides Ebsen, it also starred Irene Ryan as Granny, the family’s matriarch, and Donna Douglas as Ella May, Jed’s pretty but naïve daughter.
Max’s portrayal of Jethro, the self-centered cousin who believes that his six-grade education should warrant him a Hollywood career, earned him fame and popularity and became his best known role.
During the show’s run, Max appeared in other TV shows and movies, including “Vacation Playhouse”, “It’s a Man’s World”, and “A time For Killing”. From 1966 to 1967, he co-hosted the reality game show “Dream Girl of ‘67”, and the following year he was chosen as a panelist for the game show “Hollywood Squares”.
His other roles and projects
According to reports, after the “Beverly Hillbillies” went off the air, Max had trouble booking gigs and parts, as his career was hampered by typecasting. Unable to distance himself from the role of Jethro Bodine, he began working behind the camera as a director, editor and producer. In 1971, he produced the made-for-TV movie “Two for the Money”, followed by his performance in the anthology comedy series “Love, American Style”.
Struggling to revive his career, Max would go on to write, produce and star in the drama movie “Macon County Line” (1974), portraying Deputy Reed Morgan and sharing the screen with Alan Vint, Jesse Vint and Cheryl Waters.
The movie was Max’s lucky break, as it became a huge commercial success, grossing over $30 million against a $225,000 budget, making it the highest-grossing film per dollar invested at the time. In an interview later, he said that he ‘would have had to sell door-to-door’ if “Macon Country Line” flopped’.
That was not his only successful project, as the future would show. Even though his drama movie “The Wild McCullochs”, which he wrote, produced and starred in didn’t cause as much of a commotion as his first project in 1976, he was back on the Hollywood map. Max, a cinematography pioneer, became the first person to use a popular single as a title and anchor of a film.
After he secured the rights to “Ode to Billy Joe”, by Bobbie Gentry, he produced and directed the eponymous movie, which made over $30 million on a $1 million budget. His last project was the comedy movie “Hometown U.S.A.” in 1979, after which he exited the scene, and apparently retired to his home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
In his opinion, his most recognized role as Jethro Bodine undermined his career, and when Paul Henning later, asked him to reprise the part in the movie “Return of the Beverly Hillbillies”, he rejected it.
However, he made an appearance in the 1993 TV special “The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies”. Accompanied by his co-star from the show, Donna Douglas, he also appeared at the 2004 TV Land Awards.
Following his retirement from the Hollywood scene, Max began exploring other avenues, such as the gambling industry. After having witnessed the financial potential of locations for filming scenes from popular series such as “Bonanza”, he thought he could benefit from a connection to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and make it profitable.
Max used his role in the series as a marketing strategy for the gambling and hotel industry, and after obtaining the rights from CBS in 1991, Max launched the “Beverly Hillbillies” slot machines.
Later in 2003, he had an idea for a “Beverly Hillbillies”-themed hotel and casino, but it was never realized due to building code conflicts.
Adamant in pursuing this endeavor, Max bought land in Douglas County and neighboring parcels, to build a large gambling area with 800 slot machines, 16 tables, restaurants, and a cinema complex and hotel. However, in 2012 his plans were suspended indefinitely, due to ongoing litigation between Max and Douglas County.
While his dating history is largely a mystery, in 1965 he began dating the actress Joanne Kathleen Hill. Max saw her photo on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, and paid her a visit on Valentine’s Day to express his infatuation with her. They married in 1966 in a small ceremony with their closest friends and family, however, the marriage didn’t last long, and after five years, they divorced in 1971.
Rumors were circulating that Max wanted to have children, while Joanne opposed the idea and chose to pursue her acting career.
Subsequently, it’s believed that Max had several short-term relationships, but never announced any of his relationships publicly. He’s never remarried, and it seems that he’s currently single.
Scandals and Rumors
Due to the lack of public appearances, over the years some rumors resurfaced about his death, but those have been proven false, as he’s currently living in Los Angeles, California.
What is his net worth?
According to the celebrity net worth, his estimated wealth is around $50 million, which he’s earned through his acting career, entrepreneurial ventures, and producing low-budget movies.
Physical stats and hobbies
Max is 6ft 4ins tall (193cm) and weighs around 187lbs (85kgs). His hair is brown, and his eyes are brown.
He’s been active throughout most of his life, playing golf, tennis and soccer. He’s also visited numerous countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
Max is an avid animal lover, owns several dogs and has a special liking for horses and bulls. Max is well-known for his bond with Ebsen and often talked about him and their collaborations in various interviews, saying: ‘Buddy was more of a surrogate father to me, because my dad had died in ’59 and this was ’62 and Buddy kinda took over, the same age as my dad, whom he knew pretty well. So, it was pretty easy for Buddy and me to become close.’
Buddy Ebsen died in a hospital bed in 2003, at the age of 92 from pneumonia. Both Max and Donna visited him before his death.
After Donna Douglas died in 2015, this left Max as the only surviving star of “Beverly Hillbillies”.
It appears that Max isn’t a fan of social media, and doesn’t use Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.