31.1 Today: the curious connection between Cousin Pearl Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies and Kate Bradley on Petticoat Junction.
31.2 Now the reason there can be a connection at all is because these 2 shows, along with Green Acres, all take place in the same television “universe.” There are numerous crossover episode where characters from one show appear on another…you’ll recall that Sam Drucker of General Store fame was a regular on both PJ and GA. And the reason for that is the creator of all 3 shows was one person, Paul Henning. That’s why of the 3 Bradley sisters, only Betty Jo was played by the same actress for the entire run of the series, Linda Kaye Henning, Paul’s daughter (billed as “Linda Kaye.”). She also provided the voice of Jethrine, Jethro’s sister on TBH, portrayed in drag by Max Baer, Jr. For the record there were 2 Bobbie Jo’s: Pat Woodell and Lori Saunders, and 3 Billie Jo’s: Jeanine Riley, Gunilla Hutton, and Meredith McRae.
31.3 And while I’m thinking of it, don’t confuse, as many do, Gunilla Hutton…who went on to spent 22 bucolic years on Hee Haw…with Gunilla Knutson, 1961 Miss Sweden and Miss Universe finalist, famous for the “Take it off, take it alllll off” Noxema commercials. They’re not the same person, capeesh?
31.4 Just about everybody knows, or at least think they do, the familial relationships on The Beverly Hillbillies, which was the first of the 3 shows, debuting in 1962. I’ll quickly review them and surprisingly for such a long-running series, 10 seasons, there really aren’t many serious inconsistencies to jump out at you. Jethro calls Jed “Uncle,” when they are really 1st cousins once removed, but due to the generational difference, that’s normal, probably done in “real” families more often than not. And whenever Jethro and Elly May are said to be “cousins,” just think 2nd cousins, since their parents are 1st cousins, and you’ll be A-OK.
31.5 You may hear it said that Jed and Pearl are brother and sister. This is completely wrong, and never said on the show, even as a slip-up. It’s based on the assumption that “cousins” Jethro and Elly May must be first cousins, which of course they are not. In fact, Chart 105 is confirmed in one episode when Jed explains it all to Jethro, and to us: “Strictly speakin’, Granny ain’t really your granny. She’s Elly’s granny because I married Granny’s daughter. Your maw, Cousin Pearl, is my cousin because my Paw and her Maw were brother and sister.” After this solid start, he gets a little confused, concluding with “Anyway, I think that makes you a great-nephew.” Jethro says, “Thank’ee, and I think you’re a swell uncle!” To which, in true 2-dopes-are-better-than-one fashion, Jed replies, appreciatively, “Thank’ee.”
31.6 As you can see, Granny, whose actual name is Daisy Moses, is blood kin to no one else on the show. True, in the 1981 reunion movie “Return of the Beverly Hillbillies,” due to the death of Irene Ryan, Imogene Coca played “Granny’s Maw,” despite the fact that Granny once told a psychiatrist, played by Richard “Mel Cooley” Deacon, that her mother had drowned, hence her own fear of water. I think that was a pretty sorry move, but they were in the midst of the “reunion” craze, and I guess they felt they needed a wiry old lady in the piece. Imogene was 6 years younger than Irene, but that’s show biz.
31.7 Granny also told Dr. Klinger the shrink how Pearl had a fear of water too, as her husband Fred Bodine, “a handsome rascal who came up from Branson and swept her off her feet” also drowned, in a fishing accident. Here’s her family rundown: “Pearl is Jethro’s mama. She’s first cousin to Jed, Elly’s pa. That makes her Elly’s second cousin, but Elly calls her Aunt Pearl just like Jethro calls Jed Uncle even tho strictly speaking they’re second cousins too.” OK, she should have said first cousins once removed. But in one battle over kitchen supremacy in the first season, Pearl told Granny: “Blood cousin trumps mother-in-law!” …so all in all, it hangs together remarkably well, as these things go.
31.8 Now the connection between Pearl Bodine and Kate Bradley, mother of the three B’Jo sisters and proprietor of the Shady Rest Hotel, was an inside joke because the same actress played them both, and that’s Bea Benaderet. She was the first choice to play Granny, until they decided the peripatetic Irene Ryan would be a better fit. She was offered the role of Cousin Pearl, and played her for one season, then left for Petticoat Junction. But talk about being runner-up! She was also Lucille Ball’s first choice to play Ethel Mertz, having played Lucy’s best friend Iris Atterbury on the radio comedy My Favorite Husband, the precursor of I Love Lucy. But she’d already signed on to play next-door neighbor Blanche Morton on Burns and Allen, so that was out. Gale Gordon* was her husband Rudolph Atterbury, and needless to say, he was first up for the role of Fred Mertz, but was committed to Our Miss Brooks as the pompous Osgood Conklin. Now both were terrific comedic actors, but I can’t help but opine that it worked out for the best, don’t you thin’?
*And just to show you how intertwined all this stuff is, Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet had the lead roles in a radio comedy called Granby’s Green Acres, which was, you guessed it, the inspiration for the TV version of Green Acres…sheesh!
31.9 And Uncle Joe Carson? Some say he’s Kate’s brother, but they’re full of beans. He’s Kate’s uncle…meaning her maiden name is Carson? Maybe…see below. But at any rate, in the fall of 1968 they decided that Granny would visit Hooterville as part of the Betty-Jo-and-Steve-have-a-baby story line. This crossover took place over 3 episodes, 2 of BH (“Granny Goes to Hooterville” and “The Italian Cook”) on consecutive Wednesday nights, with PJ the Saturday night in between (“Granny the Baby Expert”)
31.10 And I have to tell you, despite what you may hear or read (from Uncle Wiki, for instance), the relationship between Pearl and Kate is never, I repeat absolutely never, spelled out. It’s not sisters, it’s not cousins, it’s not anything specific. There is some distant relationship, that’s all. In fact, a running gag in “Granny Goes to Hooterville” is Granny trying to explain it to Jed, who remarks: “This is as confused as I ever been with Jethro out of the house!” Elly May and Jethro are similarly mystified when they get nowhere with Granny.
31.11 But here’s where it gets interesting, because it’s odd that Jed doesn’t know who Kate Bradley is. What happens is, the clan has just gotten back from London, England, and there’s a letter waiting from Pearl. She sprained her back in a waltz contest, and can’t help care for the new Hooterville arrival Kathy Jo Elliott, so could Granny come pinch hit? Why Granny? As we’ve seen, Granny is no blood kin to Pearl, who is simply Granny’s son-in-law’s 1st cousin. Still, Pearl obviously knows that’s kin enough for Granny. But the $64,000 Question: Why Pearl, of all people, and after all this time, to help with Kate’s first grandchild? That’s where the inside joke comes in, and on the PJ episode, Granny sees a photo of Kate and remarks at the resemblance to Pearl.
31.12 And this is where this whole thing gets kind of sad, because 2 weeks before these episodes aired, Bea Benadaret died. She had been ill with lung cancer for some time…and when Granny is in Hooterville, Kate isn’t, away tending to some other ailing relative. Kate’s previous scenes with her daughter and newly arrived granddaughter are done with Bea’s recorded voice, and a stand-in actress seen only from the back.
31.13 But here’s also where it gets really interesting, for those of us who like to play the Fan Logic game. That’s when you take everything that’s said or can be inferred from a show and see if you can tie it all together. Sometimes that’s simply not possible…the inconsistencies are too great, and you must chalk it up to the nature of the beast, and let it go at that. But where there’s room to wiggle, you can let your imagination run wild…and with box-set in hand, watch every episode, and turn an offhanded comment into a key piece of the puzzle. Now I haven’t seen every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies or Petticoat Junction…so I’m sure there are relations and connections I’m unaware of (for example, see here: xxxxxx ) But something Miss Hathaway says, meant to be just another “who-is-Kate-Bradley?” gag, leads to some grand speculation.
31.14 Miss Hathaway tells Mr. Drysdale she’s going to help out the Clampetts while Granny’s away tending the granddaughter of Kate Bradley. Mr D: Who’s Kate Bradley? Miss H: I made the mistake of asking Granny that same question. Would you care to hear the saga of the Beasley family who lived behind Buzzard Ridge? Mr. D: Not unless there’s money in it!
31.15 The Beasley family, eh? There’s no further mention of them, but we’ve got enough! Combine them with the fact that we’re never told either Pearl Bodine’s or Kate Bradley’s maiden name, as far as I know…and remembering that Jed doesn’t seem to know Kate (Granny: You remember Kate Bradley. Jed: Word of honor, I don’t.)…implying they’re not related on the Clampett side…and you get something like this…
31.16 Pretty nifty if I do say so myself. But are you worried that if Kate and Pearl were first cousins, even if on the Beasley side and not on the Clampett side, Jed would still likely as not have gotten wind of it? So OK, shove Grampa Beasley back a generation, making Kate and Pearl’s fathers first cousins, and the ladies now second cousins. As I like to say, done and done.
31.17 Actually not quite. Remember, I haven’t “box-setted” Petticoat Junction yet…what if it turns out that Kate was a Carson after all…that is, the siblings are Joe and her father, instead of as I have it, Joe and her mother? How does that change things…and how the heck is Granny connected to the Beasleys? Sounds like a sequel or 2 is in order…anybody got a used box-set of either show they’d like to donate to the cause? I thank’ee…
But listen, if it means something when characters are played by the same actor, then Milburn Drysdale had a cousin who was not a banker, but a lawyer. In a 1957 episode of The Real McCoys, “Grampa Sells His Gun,” Raymond Bailey played Emmett Peabody, looking like Richard Deacon/Mel Cooley, a lawyer for the lady who holds the mortgage on the family’s farm. (BTW, in this episode we learn that Amos’s father was named Benjamin.) Um, does this mean Mr. D. wore a rug? I report, you decide…
Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved