Max Baer Jr

Maxiliam Adelbert ‘Max’ Baer Jr. is a producer, comedian, director and actor, born on 4th December 1937 in Oakland, California, USA. His most recognizable role is that of Jethro Bodine in “The Beverly Hillbillies”, although he’s explored a number of genres over the years.


Max, who is of German Jewish and Irish descent, was brought up by his boxing champion father Max Baer and his mother, Mary Ellen Sullivan. Raised alongside his siblings, James Manny and Maude, Max studied at Sacramento’s Christian Brothers High School.

During the Korean War, Max was a medical technician in the US Air Force, then returned to university to study for a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a philosophy minor. His alma mater is Santa Clara University, whose notable alumni include Gavin Newsom and Shemar Moore.


Max’s first acting role was in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” in 1949. Eleven years later, he made minor appearances in “Cheyenne”, “Maverick”, and “Hawaiian Eye” to name a few TV series, before his breakthrough role when in 1962 he was cast as Jethro Bodine in “The Beverly Hillbillies”.

Jethro was played by Max in 272 episodes, as the somewhat dim-witted son of the main character Jed Clampett’s cousin, Pearl Bodine. Jethro brought the Clampett family to their new home in California, and decided to stay with them to further his education. In the first season Jethro was still in fifth grade, having repeated fourth grade twice and first grade once. He went to Oxford School, which was confused with Oxford University; the rest of the family boasted of his remarkably unimpressive education.

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Jethro’s endless career search became a long-running storyline, with many viewers fondly remembering the time he debated whether to become a fry cook or brain surgeon. Some of his other ambitions included becoming a telephone lineman, streetcar conductor, chauffeur, or psychiatrist. Despite Jethro trying his hardest to get a good job in order to meet attractive women, he only ever gained the affections of Miss Jane Hathaway.

As Max said no to appearing in “Return of the Beverly Hillbillies” in 1981, Jethro was recast and played by Ray Young in the TV movie. Max is the only surviving main cast member following the death of Donna Douglas in 2015. While playing Jethro Bodine, the Californian appeared in other shows including “Love, American Style” and “Vacation Playhouse”; when the series was cancelled in 1971, he found himself typecast and decided to focus on writing, producing and directing instead.

In 1974, Max wrote and produced “Macon County Line”, and portrayed Deputy Reed Morgan. With a $110,000 budget and $25 million box office earnings, the film was the highest-grossing movie per dollar invested until it was surpassed by “The Blair Witch Project” 25 years later. In 1975, Max wrote, produced and directed “The Wild McCullochs”, as well as playing Culver Robinson.

In 1976, Max acquired the rights to the hit song “Ode to Billy Joe” and made it the plot anchor and title of his next directing project, which took $1.1 million to make, grossed over 25 times its budget at the box office, with “Ode to Billy Joe” spawning over a hundred song-title movies in the motion picture industry; when Max tried to purchase the rights to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and was prevented from making the film, he filed a lawsuit and eventually won over $2 million.

Finally, Max directed the comedy movie “Hometown U.S.A” in 1979 before retiring to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In the mid-1980s, he became interested in the gambling industry, after learning that tourists were paying up to $6 to tour the famous “Ponderosa Branch” in Nevada, a cattle ranch which was used for filming exterior scenes of the popular TV show “Bonanza”.

With restaurants, Bonanza displays, a wedding chapel, and much more, “Ponderosa Ranch” was an attractive tourist location made even more appealing thanks to its link to “Bonanza”; ever the entrepreneur, Max thought that fans of the show would enjoy a similar experience with a location linked to “The Beverly Hillbillies”. As such, he began marketing his role as Jethro Bodine to delve into the gambling and hotel industry, obtaining the sublicensing rights to the show in 1991. Years later, 65 “Beverly Hillbillies” slot machines were built and placed in casinos around the US. According to Jethro’s business partner, it cost $1 million to obtain the rights and develop the ideas.

Although Max tried to redevelop a former Walmart into a “Beverly Hillbillies”-themed casino and hotel in 2003, building code conflicts and other issues made the project impossible. He put the property on the market in May 2007, and bought another parcel of land in Douglas County instead; Max’s lofty plans for the hotel and casino included 800 slot machines, 16 tables, an all-you-can-eat buffet, a cinema complex, and a showroom.

Unfortunately for Max, the project was indefinitely delayed due to ongoing litigation. Even so, the iconic actor is reportedly worth $50 million as of mid-2023, and has earned more than enough money to relax and take things easy in his golden years. He also made a couple of appearances, playing Johnny Wheeler in a 1989 episode of “Murder, She Wrote”, and in the same series. State Trooper Boone Willoughby in a 1991 episode. His last TV appearance came in 2005, when he interviewed Buddy Ebsen – aka Jed Clampett – during an episode of “Biography”;

Max’s current relationship status remains unknown; in 2008, his live-in girlfriend at the time – a 30-year-old model named Chere Rhodes – committed suicide at the actor’s home and mentioned relationship problems in her suicide note; Max was 70 years old when the incident occurred. As for children, the actor once told Fore Magazine: “I never had any kids because I don’t think I could have been the father that my father was to me.” Prior to dating Chere, Max was married to Joanne Hill from 1966 to 1971.

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