Donna Douglas

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Donna Douglas
BornDora Smith [1]
September 26, 1933
Near Pride, La East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, U.S.
SpouseRoland John Bourgeois Jr. (1949-54; divorced)
Robert M. Leeds
(1971-1980; divorced)
ChildrenDanny P. Bourgeois (September 14, 1954) (son)
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Donna Douglas
BornDora Smith [1]
September 26, 1933
Near Pride, La East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, U.S.
SpouseRoland John Bourgeois Jr. (1949-54; divorced)
Robert M. Leeds
(1971-1980; divorced)
ChildrenDanny P. Bourgeois (September 14, 1954) (son)

Donna Douglas is an American actress best known for her role as Elly May Clampett, in the long-running television series The Beverly Hillbillies.


Early life

Donna Douglas was born Doris Smith September 26, 1933 near Pride La, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, Louisana.[2] She was the only daughter of Emmett Ratcliff Smith Sr. (1907–1988)][Footnotes 1] and his wife, the former Elma Robinson (1910–2003).[Footnotes 2]

Douglas attended St. Gerard High School where she played both softball and basketball.[2] She was a member of the school's first graduating class. She married Roland Bourgeois in 1949 but they divorced several years later after their son's birth. She was a “Miss Baton Rouge”[2] and was named "Miss New Orleans" in 1957.[3]

Acting career

Douglas moved to New York to pursue a career in entertainment and started out as an illustration model for toothpaste ads.[4] She was featured as the “Letters Girl” on The Perry Como Show in 1957, and as the “Billboard Girl” on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. These and other TV appearances led New York photographers and newspaper reporters to award her the “Miss By-line” crown, which she wore on The Ed Sullivan Show.[5]

Producer Hal Wallis saw the Sullivan episode and cast her in the role of Marjorie Burke in the movie drama Career (1959) starring Anthony Franciosa, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine. This was followed by a bit part in the musical comedy Li'l Abner (1959) and the role of a secretary in the comedy/romance Lover Come Back (1961) starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

She made numerous TV appearances in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including a notable episode of The Twilight Zone, entitled "The Eye of the Beholder" (1960). She also appeared in episodes of Tightrope, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Bachelor Father, Route 66 and Thriller.

The Beverly Hillbillies

The turning point in Douglas’s career came when she was chosen to play the role of the tomboy Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She starred on the program for all nine seasons, along with Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Nancy Kulp, Raymond Bailey and Max Baer, Jr. The Beverly Hillbillies became the number one show in the United States in its first two years.[6][7]

During the 1966 summer hiatus for the show, Douglas made her only starring motion picture appearance, cast as Frankie in Frederick de Cordova's Frankie and Johnny (1966) opposite Elvis Presley.[8] The film proved popular, and is among Presley’s most broadcast films on television, but did little to open the door to a film career for Douglas. In 1981, she returned for a made-for-TV reunion movie called The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies.[8]


Douglas's 1st husband was Roland John Bourgeois Jr. (married 1949, divorced 1954), with whom she had a son Danny P. Bourgeois (born September 14, 1954).[9] She married Robert M. Leeds (1920–2000), the director of The Beverly Hillbillies, in 1971, and they divorced in 1980.

Elly May Clampett Pop Culture Icon

Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett became one of the most popular and recognizable television personalities during the 1960s, a guest star on a number of other television programs and the subject of paper dolls, dolls, coloring books, and various toys during the show's heyday. She was also the only cast member to be on all seven of the series' TV Guide covers.

In December 2010, Mattel released a new collection of three Barbies called the Classic TV collection. These dolls were Bewitched (played by Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens), I Dream of Jeannie ( played by Barbara Eden as Jeannie), and The Beverly Hillbillies ( played by Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett).[10]

Sister Act Lawsuit

On June 10, 1993, Douglas and her partner Curt Wilson in Associated Artists Entertainment,INC., filed a $200 Million dollar lawsuit against Disney, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, their production companies, and Creative Artists Agency claiming the film Sister Act was plagiarized from a book A Nun in the Closet owned by the partners. Douglas and Wilson claimed that in 1985 they had developed a screenplay for the book. The lawsuit claimed that there were over 100 similarities and plagiarisms between the movie and the book/screenplay owned by Douglas and Wilson. The lawsuit further claimed that the developed screenplay had been submitted to Disney, Goldberg, and Midler three times during 1987 and 1988.[11]

In 1994, Douglas and Wilson declined a $1 Million dollar offer in an attempt to win the case. The judge found in favor of Walt Disney Pictures and the other defendants. Wilson stated at the time, “They would have had to copy our stuff verbatim for us to prevail.”[12]

Barbie Doll Lawsuit

On May 4, 2011, Douglas filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Mattel and CBS Consumer Products used her name and likeness for a Barbie doll in the Classic TV Collection without her authorization. The suit alleged that packaging for the "Elly May" Barbie doll featured a photo of her portraying the character. Douglas maintained she never endorsed the doll or gave Mattel permission to use her name to promote its sale.[13]

On December 27, 2011, Douglas settled her suit against CBS Consumer Products and Mattel, in which she had been seeking at least $75,000. In the lawsuit Douglas claimed that CBS and Mattel needed her approval to design the doll, while CBS and Mattel maintained that they didn't need her consent or approval because the network holds exclusive rights to the character. Details of the settlement were confidential; however, both sides claimed to be content with the outcome.[14]

Later career

Donna Douglas as Grand Marshal at a parade in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

Douglas received her real estate license after The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air. She did not work in that field long, however, as she remained in show business and found other projects.

Douglas frequently performs as a gospel singer and speaks at churches across America. She has recorded several gospel albums, the first being released in 1982. She has recorded a few minor country music records during the 1970s and 1980s. (A British pop singer in the 1960s also named Donna Douglas recorded a number of recordings including a U.K. hit "Message in a Bottle" and occasionally her discs are mistaken for those of the "Hillbillies" star.)

She has also written a children's book titled Donna's Critters & Kids: Children's Stories with a Bible Touch, which has Bible stories featuring animals and is combined with a coloring book for ages two to seven.

Douglas has remained busy making appearances, speaking for church groups, youth groups, schools and colleges. One key focus of her charitable work has been to appear and speak in support of various Christian children's homes, mostly in her native South. She has also appeared at conventions and trade shows. In 2005 she filmed two pilot episodes for a children's program titled Mirror, Mirror.

In November 2011, Douglas released a new children's book, "Miss Donna's Mulberry Acres Farm".



Selected TV appearances


  1. ^ Her father's obituary, published in The Baton Rouge Advocate, October 9, 1988 , states the following: "Emmett R Smith Sr. — Died 2:30 p.m. Friday, October 7, 1988, near Port Allen, as the result of a boating accident. He was 81, a native of Baywood and resident of Zachary. He was a retired Standard Oil Co. employee with 37 years service. Visiting at Galilee Baptist Church, Deerford, 12:30 p.m. to religious services at 2 p.m. Sunday, conducted by the Rev. Tommy Jackson. Burial in Bluff Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Bluff Creek.... "
  2. ^ Her mother's obituary, published in The Baton Rouge Advocate, January 2, 2004, states: "SMITH, ELMA ROBINSON In her early life, she was a telephone operator and was a joy and blessing to all who knew her. She died Wednesday, December 31, 2003, at 6:05 a.m. at Zachary Manor Nursing Home. She was 93, born in Olive Branch/Clinton and a resident of Zachary. Visiting was at Charlet Funeral Home Inc., Zachary, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, with recitation of the rosary at 7 p.m. Visiting at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church from 10 a.m. until service at 1 p.m. Friday, conducted by the Rev. Kenny Laird. Burial in St. Isidore Catholic Church Cemetery, Baker..."


  1. ^ Cox, Stephen (2003). The Beverly hillbillies : a fortieth anniversary wing ding (Rev. and expanded. ed.). Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House. ISBN 1-58182-302-9. 
  2. ^ a b c Britt, Donna (Posted: Mar 23, 2009 Updated: May 07, 2009), Actress Donna Douglas grants rare interview, WorldNow and WAFB 9 News,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  3. ^ Brennan, Sandra. "Donna Douglas". Allmovie. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ "A FEW MOMENTS WITH... Donna Douglas Elly May Wtill Loves Her Critters". Orlando Sentinel. June 12, 1994. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Donna Douglas". Filmbug. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ US TV Nielsen Ratings 1962-1963,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  7. ^ US TV Nielsen Ratings 1963-1964,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  8. ^ a b The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies, IMDB,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  9. ^ Coffee, Jack, Eleventh Generation, Ancestors of Marguerite Lucy Bourgeois Laurent (1910-2002), The Coffey cousins,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  10. ^ Classic TV Collection, Mattel, Inc.,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  11. ^ Haring, Bruce (June 10, 1993), $200 mil suit targets 'Sister Act', Variety,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  12. ^ Friend, Tad (September 1998), $Copy Cats: Hollywood Stole My Story!, The New Yorker,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  13. ^ O'Neill, Ann, Actress sues over 'Elly May Barbie' doll, CNN,, retrieved January 2, 2012 
  14. ^ McConnaughey, Janet (December 29, 2011, 6:03PM ET), Settlement in Elly Mae Clampett Barbie doll suit, The Associated Press,, retrieved January 2, 2012 

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