Who was Donna Douglas?
The late American actress and singer Donna Douglas was born as Doris Ione Smith in Pride, Louisiana USA, on 26 September 1932, meaning that Libra was her zodiac sign. She appeared in 43 TV series and movies, and is perhaps still remembered best for starring as Elly May Clampett in all the 274 episodes of the family comedy series “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which Paul Henning created, and which also starred Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan. It follows a hillbilly family who’ve just become wealthy and have moved to Beverly Hills; the series aired from 1962 through 1971, and won three of its 21 award nominations.
Education and early life
Donna was raised in Pride alongside her one older sibling, by their mother Elma (nee Robinson) who was a housewife, and father Emmett Ratcliff Smith Sr. who worked at Standard Oil.
Donna became interested in acting while attending St. Gerard Catholic High School, while she was also into playing basketball and softball with her peers. She matriculated in 1951, and then found work to financially support herself, while she was named Miss Baton Rouge sometime in the mid-1950s, and Miss New Orleans in 1957, and then moved to New York City to pursue a career in the movie industry.
Roles in TV series
Donna made her debut TV series appearance in the 1959 comedy “The Steve Allen Plymouth Show”, and the same year saw her play Nancy in the episode “The Casino” of the crime drama “Tightrope”; she could then have been seen appearing in an episode of the family comedy “Bachelor Father”, the adventure “Whirlybirds” and the critically acclaimed family comedy “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”.
She was mostly focused on shooting for “The Beverly Hillbillies” in the ‘60s, and only appeared in a couple of other TV series in the decade, such as the drama “Sam Benedict”, the crime drama “The Defenders” and the family fantasy comedy “Mister Ed”.
From 1970 through 1972, Donna played Annabelle and Gloria Gilchrest in the romantic comedy “Love, American Style”, which starred William Callaway, Barbara Minkus and Stuart Margolin, and is a collection of short love stories; the series won four of its nine award nominations. Donna also remains known for playing Mrs Ferrell in the science fiction “Project U. F. O.”, created by Harold Jack Bloom, and which starred Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter; it follows two men employed by the US government as they’re investigating UFO sightings.
Donna retired from acting in 1981, but returned to voice Ellie Mae in the 1989 episode “Mario Hillbillies” of the animated action adventure “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!”, and to play a supporting character in the 1999 episode “California, Here We Come” of the romantic family comedy “The Nanny”.
WHEN DONNA DOUGLAS SUED DISNEY OVER THE FILM SISTER ACTREAD HERE:…
Roles in movies
Donna’s debut film role was playing Woman on Sidewalk in the critically acclaimed 1959 action adventure mystery “North by Northwest”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and which starred Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. It follows an advertising executive who’s trying to hide from a group of foreign spies, as they believe him to be a government agent; the film won nine of its 22 award nominations, including three Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction – Set Direction, Color and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen.
Some of Donna’s following roles were in the drama “Career” and the family musical comedy “Li’l Abner” both in 1959, and the 1960 romantic musical comedy “Bells Are Ringing”.
In 1961, she portrayed Deborah, Peter’s Secretary in the romantic comedy “Lover Come Back”, directed by Delbert Mann, and which starred Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall. It follows a man who’s been left with a campaign for a product which is yet to be invented, and the film won two of its eight award nominations, including an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen.
Donna had only two other film roles prior to retiring, playing Frankie in the 1966 romantic musical comedy “Frankie and Johnny” and Elly May Clampett in the 1981 comedy “The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies”, while she was later featured in the 2008 short family drama “Chronicles of Life Starfish” and the 2013 family drama “Chronicles of Life Trials”.
Donna sang the song “Look Out Broadway” in the 1966 movie “Frankie and Johnny”, and the song “Real Love” in the 1999 video game “Grand Theft Auto 2”.
Some of her talk-show appearances were in “TV Land’s Top Ten”, “Biography” and “The Jim Bakker Show”.
Awards and nominations
Donna was named Miss Golden Globe in 1963, and won a 2004 TV Land Award for Favorite ‘Fish Out of Water’, for her and her colleagues performance in “The Beverly Hillbillies”.
Career after acting
Donna became a real estate agent upon retiring from acting, but only worked the job for two years as she then returned to the film industry, appearing in several TV series and movies, and helping friends with writing and producing their projects.
She became a motivational speaker, giving speeches at schools and churches across the USA, and was also a gospel singer. Donna published her first children’s book “Donna’s Critters and Kids: Children’s Stories with a Bible Touch” sometime in the 2000s, and it was followed by her second “Miss Donna’s Mulberry Acres Farm” in November 2011; she published her cookbook “Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood” in 2013.
Love life and marriages
Donna was married twice. She and her first husband, non-celebrity American Roland Bourgeois Jr. exchanged vows in 1951, and Donna gave birth to their son Danny Bourgeois in 1954; she and Roland divorced in the same year, for unknown reasons.
Her second husband was the late American film editor and director Robert M. Leeds; they married in 1971 and divorced in 1980.
Donna didn’t speak about other men whom she had perhaps been with, she was single at the time of her death, had married twice and had a son with her first husband Roland Bourgeois Jr.
Interesting facts about Donna
She enrolled at Rhema Bible Training Center in 1982, graduating with a degree in children’s ministry in 1984.
Her closest friend was the late American actor and dancer Buddy Ebsen (born as Christian Ludolf Ebsen Jr), who passed away aged 95 on 6 July 2003.
Donna and Curt Wilson filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company and some of its employees on 10 June 1993, claiming that their 1992 comedy movie “Sister Act” was plagiarized from the book “A Nun in the Closet”; The Walt Disney Company won the case. She also filed a federal lawsuit against CBS Consumer Products and Mattel on 4 May 2011, claiming that they used her appearance for a Barbie doll; the case was settled on 27 December 2011.
Donna spent the last years of her life answering her fan mail, being with her friends and family members, and gardening.
Death, appearance and wealth
Donna was 82 when she died from pancreatic cancer on 1 January 2015, at Baton Rouge General Hospital, and so would’ve been 90 today. She had blue eyes and blonde hair, was 5ft 7ins (1.7m) tall and weighed around 150lbs (67kgs).
Donna’s net worth was estimated at over $500,000 at the time of her death.