Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Non Beverly Hillbilly

Almost nothing about The Beverly Hillbillies was subtle. Even the supposedly ordinary characters on the show were over the top. (A case can be made that Buddy Ebsen, as Jed Clampett, was the one actor who gave a grounded performance).

Despite bouts of overacting, Raymond Bailey was convincing as banker Milburn Drysdale. So much that some people treated him like a real financial panjandrum. Witness these stories from United Press International. The first appeared in papers in late 1963.

Hillbillies Banker Has Exacting Television Role

HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 30 (UPI) —Raymond Bailey has one of the toughest jobs in television, a chore which demands that he bring staid old banking principles to "The Beverly Hillbillies."
THAT'S THE equivalent of wearing lace cuffs on an Ozark mountain coon hunt.
Bailey plays the role of bank president "Milburn Drysdale" on "Hillbillies." He's the zealous protector of $25,000,000 that mountain family amassed through the discovery of oil on their down home property.
With such riches, the show's "Clampett" family moved to a Beverly Hills mansion. Bailey was waiting with outstretched hands and a stuffy, social climbing wife.
Bailey, a former sailor, laborer and shipping clerk, is currently enjoying more notoriety than ever before in an acting career that had shaky beginnings in the silent film days.
THE SUCCESS of "Hillbillies" (CBS-TV) has been remarkable. As banker "Drysdale," Bailey should rightfully share in that success. He provides the contrast needed between that new rich family and their upper crust city neighbors.
"I think we work off each other pretty well," Raymond says. "The family respects Mr. Drysdale. And they don't call his wife a snob. He is a bit of a snob but not as much as his wife."
Bailey's career got a boost with the show, a series he expects to last for a long time.
"There is a long way to go with this show," he said. "You can bring in all these personalities who live in Beverly Hills or work in the movies." Bailey's bank role might tend to offend those viewers who dislike too much formality. But if it has, he's not aware of any animosity.
* * *
"WHAT IS THERE to dislike about him," he asks. "He's a fuddling old guy, I enjoy playing him. It's a field day, comedy.
And I've played this kind of part in dozens of shows. I was the publisher in the 'My Sister Eileen' series. That part was the same type of comedy."
Whenever Bailey gets a little too uppity with his folksy depositors, he ends up on the short end, an unusual situation for most bankers.
Youngsters sometimes recognize Bailey as the video banker, and supermarket shoppers occasionally eye him at the [missing word]. On one occasion when Bailey entered a bank, the establishment's assistant manager looked up from his desk, and said, "here comes a famous banker."
He's also robbery proof. Who would ever stick up a television set?

UPI chatted with him again. This story appeared in papers starting October 23, 1965.

Banker in "Hillbillies" Believes in High Living

UPI Hollywood Correspondent
Hollywood (UPI)—Raymond Bailey, the stuffy banker plagued by the antics of "The Beverly Hillbillies," is more a rustic than any member of the bizarre Clampett family.
He is, in fact a hillbilly in the literal sense of the word.
Both his homes are perched on mountain sides.
His favorite hangout is a rustic, two-story mountain cabin just off the 17th green of the Lake Arrowhead Country club. He and his Australian-born wife of 14 years, Gaby, spend summer vacations there and whatever time they can steal from the C.B.S. television series during the year.
A-frame in structure, the mountain retreat has three bedrooms, a den, a spacious basement (rare in southern California) and an enormous sun deck that runs completely around the house commanding a spectacular view of the pine-covered mountains.
On a typical day Bailey plays golf, followed by a siesta on the deck breathing air heavily perfumed by wild flowers. A couple of martinis before dinner prepared by Gaby—and then to bed.
The Bailey pets enjoy the mountains, too. A poodle named Pierre and Nicholas, a Weimaraner, chase squirrels while the Siamese cat Suki stalks birds.
During the work week, though, the Baileys can be found in a small home overlooking the San Fernando valley. It's ultra-modern and includes a swimming pool.
On a typical morning Bailey is off to General Service studios and ready for work by 8. He's home for dinner by the time it gets dark.
In the city or in the mountains, the 60-year-old actor can be found in old, comfortable clothes. His wardrobe, however, is filled with the formal banker-type attire he wears on the show.
His characterization has made him a hero with bankers across the country. Bailey is in great demand for speeches, personal appearances at conventions and the like, much as Raymond Burr, in his role as attorney Perry Mason, is besieged by law groups.
"I've been made a member of the Southern California Independent Bankers Association," Bailey says. "And I've made trips around the country to accept plaques. It's a lot of fun.”
In his youth Bailey was a bank messenger for two years, but abandoned banking as being too dull for his tastes.
A veteran of 34 years in show business, Bailey has few acquaintances among actors in Hollywood. His friends are businessmen and professional men with whom he plays bridge. They entertain casually and enjoy watching "The Beverly Hillbillies."
The graying performer answers as readily to the name Milburn Drysdale as he does to his own after four years with the C.B.S. series. He doesn't mind the association with the character and, in fact, is rather pleased by it.
Never a star, Bailey is content to roll along with the series reaping the rewards that television provides popular character actors.
"Who could ask for more?" he says.

The Beverly Hillbillies disappeared from first-run TV in 1971. I don’t recall seeing Bailey again on the screen except in reruns. He died in 1980 at his home in Irvine, California.


  1. According to IMDB, his only post-Hillbillies roles were in two Disney movies, Herbie Rides Again (1974) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Wikipedia says, "He reportedly began suffering symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, which visibly affected his performance in the last episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, and he was completely unable to work after 1975."

    It's always interesting to see Bailey in earlier roles sans toupee. Often it's the voice that gives him away first. I saw him recently as a banker, of all things, on an episode of Perry Mason.

    John Stephenson is another actor who sometimes appeared without his hairpiece, including on PM, yet was recognizable because of his voice. Both men, I must say, looked far better with their toupees than without them.

  2. The virtues of toupees can long be debated. :)

  3. I agree that Buddy Ebsen's performance was the most consistantly grounded, but I would also argue that Raymond Bailey was grounded in the FIRST season, very business-like and realistic, as were all the principal cast members. In the second season, performances got broader and broader, and by the time the series went to color (4th season?) it was nigh on unwatchable. I wish I could forget those episodes towards the end where Bailey and Jethro are chasing each other around Griffith Park in a tank and a Kaiser uniform! Garbage garbage garbage.

    1. Look at it as Drysdale slowly being driven insane, season by season, from his association with the Clampetts.

      For better or worse, most long-running sitcoms tend to become broader and more farcical in tone toward the end of their run.

  4. Bailey and the show's writing staff, led by Paul Hennning, did a great job of making Drysdale flawed, but sympathetic at the same time (it was Milburn's wife who was played as the 'heavy' for most of the series, along with occasional guest stars like Fred Clark, until the show's last couple of seasons, when the quality of the writing took a dive into the cement pond).

    Bailey was a semi regular in Season 3 of 'Dobie Gillis' as the president of the junior college Dobie and Maynard were attending, and the show was produced by Rod Amateau, who had been the first director on Henning's 1950s series, 'The Bob Cumnmings Show' (and both of which tie back into 'The Burns and Allen Show' where Bailey was used three times when Amateau was producer and Henning was in partnership with George Burns and Cummings on the other show, after being head writer for B&A in the late 1940s and early 50s).

  5. My earliest memories of Raymond Bailey go back to a very short, and early appearance in Universal's " Black Friday " circa 1940/1941. He played a gangster who gets "iced " so to speak. By the 1950s, at Universal-International, Bailey was cast as generals, scientists, teachers, etc. All with a much calmer demeanor than Drysdale, and all sans toupee. I agree with J Lee, it was Harriet MacGibbon's character who was the " heavy " in " The Beverly Hillbillies ". Always coming up with schemes to send the Clampetts back home.