The iconic Max Baer Jr is 77 years old today. He will always be remembered as Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies. When I was a kid, I hated that character. I didn’t have much of an appreciation for stupid characters. I liked Elly May — not because she was gorgeous (although she was), but because she was brilliant. Regardless, I wasn’t much of a The Beverly Hillbillies fan anyway. I would probably like it more now.
Baer’s father was the great boxer Max Baer. If you aren’t a boxing fan, you probably only know him from his portrayal in Cinderella Man. And you would get entirely the wrong idea about him. By all accounts he was a decent guy. But the movie is quite good. Just don’t believe what it says about Baer. But that has nothing to do with Max Baer Jr, who I am writing about, at least in theory.
After nine seasons and 274 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, Baer tried his hand at at feature filmmaking — the sort of films I remember watching at drive-ins when I was just a kid. He had the knack! In 1974, he produced and co-wrote Macon County Line. It is a revenge film with a twist. Well worth checking out! Baer and director Richard Compton made the film for about a hundred thousand dollars and made $30 million. Here is the totally awesome trailer (it is not a true story):
He went on to make a few more films — generally quite successfully. The biggest film was Ode to Billy Joe. I actually hate the film, but that isn’t his fault. I just love the song so much, and the film destroys it by making the story concrete. What’s brilliant about the song is that other than the emotional core, the listener has no idea what’s actually happened.
After roughly five years of writing, producing, and directing, Baer pretty much retired at the age of 40. And why not? He was ridiculously wealthy by that time. He did, apparently, try to get the film rights for “Like a Virgin.” That could have been an awesome film too!
Happy birthday Max Baer Jr!