Saturday, January 3, 2015

In case you were wondering, I...

... haven't stopped reading the New York Times obituaries. I just didn't have much to say about Mario Cuomo's death (above, delivering his famous keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention), or 

Edward Herrmann's (seen very young here, at 1:18 and 1:39, in the trailer from the 1973 movie, The Paper Chase), or

even John Goodlad's, except that his could have doubled as my Name of the Day. 

But then I saw that Donna Douglas, who played Elly May in the 1960s sitcom, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” died at age 82. She was the daughter, you may recall, of Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen.* I was a little shocked by her death because I had always assumed she was in her twenties when the show was first broadcast in 1962. (Didn't you?) But according to my math, Ms. Douglas would have been 30 years old when "The Hillbillies" debuted and 39 when it went off the air in 1971.

* Ebsen, by the way, was originally cast as the Scarecrow in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Ebsen then swapped roles with actor Ray Bolger, who was originally cast as the Tin Man. Ebsen recorded all his songs as Tin Man, went through all the rehearsals, and started filming. However, he soon began experiencing cramps and shortness of breath, eventually leading to hospitalization. Doctors determined that Ebsen was suffering an allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in the Tin Man makeup; he was forced to leave the production for health reasons.

In an interview, Ebsen recalled that the studio heads did not believe he was sick until someone tried to order him back to the set and was intercepted by an angry nurse. Ebsen was replaced by Jack Haley, with the makeup quickly changed to a safer aluminum paste. Until his dying day, Ebsen complained of lung issues from involvement in "that damned movie." Ironically, Ebsen outlived all of the major cast members of "The Wizard of Oz" by at least 16 years.

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