The Beverly Hillbillies: Elly Mae Clampett Settles Lawsuit

Elly Mae Clampett of Beverly HillbilliesAs her cousin Jethro found out many times, Elly May Clampett may look like a “sweet little gal” but she can hold her own in a fight. That’s what CBS and Mattell have found out about Donna Douglas, the actress who played Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Douglas, now 78 years old, filed a lawsuit earlier this year against CBS Consumer Products Inc. and Mattel Inc. for using her likeness and name on a Barbie doll. She contended that the companies needed to get her permission, failed to do so, and she sought at least $75,000.

In court documents, CBS and Mattel said that they didn’t need permission because CBS owns the exclusive rights to the character. The Elly May doll and packaging (with Douglas’ photo on it) was part of a TV icon doll series, along with Samantha Stevens (Elizabeth Montgomery) from Bewitched and Jeannie (Barbara Eden) from I Dream of Jeannie.

An attorney for Douglas says that the two sides have now settled for an undisclosed amount. It’s been confirmed in a one-sentence order entered Dec. 27th in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge. Douglas was born in Baton Rouge and currently makes her home there.

Douglas co-starred on The Beverly Hillbillies for all nine seasons on CBS, along with Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Nancy Kulp, Raymond Bailey and Max Baer, Jr. The sitcom was the top show in its first two seasons and remained in the top 20 for eight seasons. To this day, a 1964 episode is the most watched half-hour episode of a sitcom in US television history.

What do you think? Have you seen the dolls? Do you think the performers from old shows should still have some control over their likenesses?

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6 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Bethany says

    I would love these dolls but have not seen them anywhere. I say WTG Donna Douglas. If they are going to make money from her likeness, then she should get a part of that. So many bad deals were struck back in the day, and these people became in many cases almost like parts of our own families being on shows as iconic as these. I would have expected my sister, aunt, or whoever to get paid for something like this, and I am glad to see she not only stood up for what was right, but the court agreed.

    • Russ says

      I’m happy that she got some money out of the deal because back in the day, the actors were not paid much and got no residuals. (I think Max Baer Jr. said he got $500 a week and that was all he made from each episode – look at the enormous sums paid to actors today.)

      That said however, the doll is clearly a BARBIE doll with a curly blond hairdo and actually looks nothing like Ellie Mae.

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