Sunday, 10 June 2012

The No 1 Man in Hooterville

The terms “Also appearing” and “featured in the cast” have prefaced names of countless actors, but how many of them can say they went on to be the most popular man in Hooterville?

Only one. Frank Randolph Cady, the man who played general store owner Sam Drucker. He died this past week at the age of 96.

Today, the name “Hooterville” brings about snickers from perennial 12-year-old boys. But, as ‘60s television viewers know, it was the name of the little farming hamlet that was the setting for “Green Acres.” It was also not far from the Shady Rest Hotel on “Petticoat Junction.” Both shows were created by former radio writer Paul Henning who found a way to tie them in with his first TV hit, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” And Cady, as Drucker, appeared on all three.

Rustic shows somehow seem appropriate for him. Cady’s grandfather, also named Frank, was sheriff of Lassen County in California, owned a waterworks and had once invited Teddy Roosevelt on a hunting expedition with the Pacific Coast Bear Club, which sounds more like a sitcom plot than anything else. Young Frank grew up in Susanville, the third child in the family. He ended up at Stanford University and appearing in plays. One review in the Oakland Tribune in 1937 stuck him at the end of the “also appearing” list.

Some time after graduation, Cady played a season in London as an apprentice and understudy at J.B. Priestley’s Westminster Theatre, then returned to Stanford by 1942, where he was director of radio activities, and won scholarships for writing and future dramatic studies.

Cady headed down the California coast and by August 1947 was a member of the Laguna Beach Gryphon Players, with another way-down-the-list newspaper mention of a stage performance. He had small roles in films in the early ‘50s but was found more work on television within a few years. Cady wasn’t anywhere near Hooterville, let alone a full-time role, on television when this syndicated profile was written about him, appearing February 13, 1959.

Brynner Makes Bald Actors Happy
By Harold Heffernan
North American NewspaperAlliance
HOLLYWOOD – Baldbeaded actors of Hollywood would like to do something in a great big way for Yul Brynner. He’s their boy. Repeated successes scored by Brynner in a string of slick-pated romantic roles have spilled over on a number of character actors hovering on the fringe of the entertainment field. Life has not only been made more tenable socially but, more important, their careers have taken a long leap forward.
“Why, they’re actually writing baldheaded roles into movies and television nowadays,” grinned former Stanford University speech and drama professor Frank Cady who walked out of his classroom one day in 1949 [sic] to try an acting fling on a first-hand basis. One of the most familiar baldies in both movies and TV, Cady says things have been going just great for him and other smooth-headed actors ever since the big Brynner boom hit fandom.
“I’ve never had much complaint, though,” said Cady, now playing a jittery theatrical agent to Henry Fonda’s producer role in “The Man Who Understood Women.” “I was always intensely interested in the theater but at 24 my head was as shiny as a cue ball on a billiard table. I naturally thought this meant curtains.
Actually I found it helped. When I was too young to play real character parts they mistook me for older because of the bald noggin. I got juicy roles right from the start. In the before-Brynner era, I did all right, but since his vogue struck I just can’t keep up with the offers.”
Sit-at-homers are on even more familiar terms with Cady’s pixie face than theater audiences. They’ve been seeing him as the comical Doc Williams on every fourth or fifth Ozzie and Harriet TV show. Twentieth-Fox had to wait three days for Cady to report on the Fonda movie until he finished TV assignments on a Desilu Playhouse and a Sugarfoot.
Cady points out that he landed two featured roles in one big picture—all because of that head. This was in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” the murder mystery starring James Stewart. “I’d just finished one scene with Jimmy when Mr. Hitchcock, ahead of schedule, decided he’d shoot one planned for the next day. But one actor was missing. He looked at me and said, ‘I’ve got a toupee back there that will just fit you.’ I pasted it on and played the other part.”

“Petticoat Junction” debuted in 1963 and Cady was on the first show. He soon became very busy on-camera—one newspaper story reveals he polished off 4½ pages of dialogue in 55 minutes before moving on to another gig that day—and United Press International had this bio on April 8, 1969.

Saga of Frank Cady, alias Sam Drucker
UPI Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD— Frank Cady, alias Sam Drucker, is becoming a force to deal with in television through sheer quantitative apperances.
Actor Cady is the balding, spindle-thin general store keeper, weekly newspaper editor, mayor and postmater of Hooterville—a big shot in “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres” and a growing power in “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
TO DATE he has appeared in 246 episodes in the three shows during a six-year period. Must be some sort of record.
Cady is not the star of any of the three shows. But he is the connecting link among the trio, all of which are produced by Paul Henning.
Frank began modestly enough as a free-lance actor during the first two seasons of “Petticoat Junction,” working in only 37 shows. Thereafter he was under contract and rapidly gained momentum.
THIS PAST SEASON he will have appeared in 56 shows—25 “Petticoat Junctions,” 23 “Green Acres” and eight “Beverly Hillbillies.”
A modest man, Cady said the other day, “I don’t make a big impact. I’m not a flashy guy."
This is true.
“If you hang around long enough to show these people what you can do, you have a chance in this acting business,” he reflected. “I’ve never had more fun in my life than playing this character. He’s closer to me than any other role I ever played.”
ONE SHOULD remember that Cady is not the only performer to outshine players billed above him on television.
There was Vic Morrow on “Combat,” who was supposed to play second fiddle to Rick Jason, but quickly took over the lead role.
Bob Denver outshone Dwayne Hickman when he played the second lead in the defunct “Dobie Gillis” series. And Jim Nabors won his own series, “Gomer Pyle” after stealing the thunder on the “Andy Griffith Show.”
THE SAGA of Frank Cady is comparable. But he appears in three shows simultaneously—which no other actor can claim.
Leo G. Carroll played a minor role in both “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” three years ago, but not with the dash and verve of Cady as Sam Drucker.
Moreover, all three of Cady’s shows are rated in the top 20.
Naturally, Frank doesn't take credit for this heady accomplishment.
“I don’t think the fact that I’m in three shows confuses the viewers,” he said. “In ‘Green Acres’ I’m one of the idiots that live at the crossroads. But in ‘Petticoat Junction’ Drucker is a solid citizen.”
BASED ON THAT, Drucker is a genius on “Beverly Hillbillies.”
No matter. Frank Cady has found his niche in television and Sam Drucker is fast becoming a popular man about Hooterville and environs

It was a case of feast or famine. Cady’s career screeched to a stop. “Petticoat Junction” was cancelled in 1970, his other two shows were unceremoniously tossed off CBS the following year. He showed up in the best-forgotten “AfterMASH” in 1983. A year later Cady declared he had “weaned himself” from show business and “burned the last bridge” turning down an offer to co-star in a TV pilot. The third-generation Californian packed up the art and antiques and moved to Oregon for the last two-plus decades of his life.

A syndicated television/movie column conducted a poll of readers about their favourite character on “Petticoat Junction” and released the results on June 10, 1970. I’m still not sure how they came up with their numbers. Had Bea Benaderet still been alive, the result might have been different (I’m partial to Charles Lane as Homer Bedlow myself). Regardless, one viewer summed up the reason why the show was such a success.

Sam Drucker best

Fans of “Petticoat Junction” rally in support of the axed program in TOP VIEW voting.
Did you think the featured actor, Edgar Buchanan, as Uncle Joe, was the most popular performer in the show? Don’t you believe it, because Frank Cady as the general store owner, Sam Drucker, steals first place:
Frank Cady (Sam), 70.8, good.
Mike Minor (Steve), 67.1, fair.
Lori Saunders (Bobbie Jo), 66.5, fair.
Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe), 65.8, fair.
June Lockhart (Janet), 65.8, fair.
Linda Kaye Henning (Betty Jo) 65.7, fair.
Meredith MacRae (Billie Jo), 65.1, fair.
Jonathan Daly (Orrin), 64.2, fair.
PETTICOAT JUNCTION has an “other world” nostalgic charm — relaxing, a far cry and escape from our present hurly burly, a definite restfulness. Oh, that we could all live in such easy, rustic, simple, soul satisfying peace, with only those minor problems! — Mary McDonald, Fitchburg, Mass. . . .
What a pity the producers (who are removing it) don’t bring its actors right into “Green Acres” (as they already do with Sam Drucker and his store) and make them one big family. It would give an appealing new dimension to “Green Acres.” — H. Anderson. Bartlett. Tenn. . . .
I felt like selling our TV when I heard the sad news. No other show compares. — M Coleman, Amherst, Neb.

Off-camera, Cady was involved with the Sherman Oaks Rotary Club. His wife Shirley was in the PTA. He was an ordinary, small-town guy. That’s the way he came across on camera, albeit a bit quirky at times. That’s why he had a long career in show business and that’s why he was the No 1 man in Hooterville.


  1. Cady reprised his Sam Drucker role in the 1990 TV movie, "Return to Green Acres".

  2. If you had done a pool back in 1963 on which of the older characters on "Petticoat Junction" would have made it into the 21st Century, odds are not too many people would have picked Frank Cady and Charles Lane (Homer Bedloe).

    Also, given that producer Paul Henning is pretty much the godfather of placing busty young women into strategic roles in TV sitcoms, I've wondered for a while now if the snickering 12-year-olds are right about the double-entendre on the town name. That's also about the level of humor then-CBS president Jim Aubrey would have enjoyed.

  3. Over the last two decades, there had been some confusion about whether Cady was still living or not, given that a "Who's Who" index book of celebrity deaths listed a Frank Cady who died in 1992. Alas, that Frank Cady was a local children's show host who was famous for his role as "Mr. Magic Show" on WJRT Channel 12 in Flint, MI.

  4. Frank Cady was a lead voice in Hanna-Barbera's dark age cartoon "TGhese are the Days" [dark age meaning 1970s-80s,1974 in this case].Steve