Max Baer Junior Bio

He is one of those actors who entered the entertainment industry by a combination of circumstances – Max Baer Junior rose to prominence by being in the right place at the right time. He was having lunch with a friend at Warner Brothers, and somebody from the American Broadcasting Companies (ABC) approached him and asked if he would like to act.

He was cast to play his most notable role as Jethro Bodine in the series “The Beverly Hillbillies”, a family comedy-drama about a hillbilly family who after becoming rich through selling their land on which oil had been discovered, moves to Beverly Hills and according to the trailer, ‘shakes up the privileged society with their hayseed way of life’.

If you would like to know more about Max, what this role meant to him, and where he is now, keep on reading.

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Early life, family, and education

Maximilian Adalbert ‘Max’ Baer Junior was born in Oakland, California USA, on 4 December 1937, which means that soon, he will celebrate his 85 birthday. He was raised alongside his brother James and his sister Maude by their mother, housewife Mary Ellen Sullivan, and father Max Baer, a boxing champion.

Max Baer was the world heavyweight champion (1934-1935) and was ranked #22 on The Ring magazine’s list of 100 greatest punchers. Their uncle Buddy Baer, was also a boxer, and later he launched his acting career.

We could say that Max Junior followed in his uncle’s steps, although he hadn’t dreamed of becoming an actor. He was also into sports, but played golf, and twice won the junior title at the Sacramento Open golf tournament.

When it comes to his educational background, Max attended Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California, and upon matriculating in 1955, enrolled at Santa Clara University from which he graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in philosophy.

Acting career

Max made his acting debut portraying Ticket Taker in the series “Maverick” in 1960. He followed with his recurring role in “Surfside 6” (1960-1961), and was concurrently seen in “Bronco”, “The Roaring 20’s”, and Sugarfoot”, and Max also made appearances in several episodes of the series “Cheyenne”, “Hawaiian Eye”, and “77 Sunset Strip” during the same period.

In the following year, he was cast to play Jethro Bodine, a son of Jed’s cousin, who drove the family to their new home and stayed there to continue his education. Jethro is naïve and a bit of an idiot, so his adventures made viewers laugh.

The series was aired from 1962 until 1971, and Max was seen in 273 episodes – in 2004, he was awarded the TV Land Award-Favorite “Fish Out of Water” which he shares with his co-stars, Donna Douglas, Buddy Ebsen, and Irene Ryan. “The Beverly Hillbillies” had 11 award nominations, including seven for Primetime Emmys, and won three.

Maximilian Adalbert "Max" Baer Jr., 79 – American actor, screenwriter, producer, and director; best known for playing Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies

Posted by Real Old-school Cool on Sunday, December 4, 2016

Concurrently with his role as Jethro, Max guest-starred in the series’ “Follow the Sun”, “It’s a Man’s World” in 1962, and “Vacation Playhouse” in 1963.

He made his big-screen debut portraying Sergeant Luther Liskell in the 1967 movie “A Time for Killing”, which was based on the novel “The Southern Blade” by Shirley and Nelson Wolford; although the movie had no nominations, the audience loved it.

In 1971, Max was seen as Tanker in the TV movie “The Birdmen” starring Doug McClure, an historic war drama about an American soldier sent to Norway to help escape a scientist working on an atomic bomb for the Germans,.

During 1972 and ‘73, Max had a recurring role in the series “Love, American Style”, followed by his role as Deputy Reed Morgan in the 1974 movie “Macon County Line”.

In the following year, he was cast to play Culver Robinson in “The Wild McCullochs”, and later in the decade he guest-starred in the series “Fantasy Island”, and then was seen in the TV movies “The Asphalt Cowboy” (1980) and “The Circle Family” (1982).

Next, Max appeared in two episodes of the series “Matt Houston” in 1984, and his last role before his retirement was in the series “Murder, She Wrote”, in the episode “Jack and Bill” in 1989, and in “Who Killed J.B. Fletcher” in 1991.

Other credits

Max produced his first movie, entitled “Two for the Money” in 1972. Two years later, he worked as a writer and producer on the movie “Macon County Line”, and then in 1975, he wrote, produced, directed and also starred in “The Wild McCullochs”.

In 1976, he produced and directed “Ode to Billy Joe”, and his last work as a producer was for the 1979 movie “Hometown USA.” Soon afterwards he retired, and went to live in his home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada US.

Love life, wife, and children

During his acting career, Max wasn’t the subject of any rumors or affairs, and he seems to have led a peaceful life with his wife Joanne Kathleen Hill, whom he married in 1966. The couple didn’t have children together, but in 1971 they divorced, but haven’t shared the reason for their separation.

Reportedly, after the divorce, Max dated actress, Victoria Principal, and one of his girlfriends was model Chere Rhodes; in January 2008, she committed suicide in Max’s house in Lake Tahoe where they lived together – allegedly, her suicide note mentioned ‘relationship problems’. At the time of her death, she was 30 years old, and Max was in his 70s.

As of October 2022, it seems that Max is single. He was once married and doesn’t have children.

What is he doing today?

After he retired from acting, Max shared in one of his interviews that his role as Jethro ‘hurt his acting career’. According to him, it was hard to get cast in other projects, since people only saw Jethro in him. He tried to take advantage of it, so he began using this role as a marketing opportunity in the gambling industry.

In 1999, 65 ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ slot machines were installed in 10 casinos in Nevada. Max even bought a former Walmart location in Carson City, Nevada, and planned to build a ‘Beverly Hillbillies’-themed hotel, but due to some conflicts, he sold the property.

In 2007, he bought another parcel in Douglas County, near Carson City, where he planned to build a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) gambling area, named ‘Jethro’s Casino’, however, the project was suspended in 2012.

Max has no social media accounts, and his last interview was back in 2017, so it’s hard to find more information about his life now. What we do know is that he is the only cast member of “The Beverly Hillbillies” still alive.

Net Worth

The drama “Macon County Line” which Max wrote, produced, and starred in, was made for around $100,000, and earned nearly $25 million at the box office. Until 1999, the movie held the record as the highest net-grossing movie.

Thanks to his acting career, and his work as a writer, producer and director, plus his business ventures, Max has earned decent wealth for himself. According to sources, his net worth has been estimated at over $50 million, as of late 2022.

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