Best known for her portrayal of tomboy Ellie Mae Clampett on the popular early-'60s television series The Beverly Hillbillies, Donna Douglas (born Doris Smith) has devoted much of her recent attention to expressing mainstream Christian beliefs. In addition to recording two albums of gospel music, Donna Douglas Sings Gospel and Donna Douglas Sings Country and Gospel Back on the Mountain, Douglas has authored a children's book, Donna's Critters and Kids: Children's Stories With a Bible Touch.
Born in the small town of Pride, LA, Douglas grew up on her grandparents' farm in Baton Rouge. Blessed with natural beauty, she was named Miss New Orleans in 1957. Moving to New York at the age of 17, she continued to compete in beauty contests. A first-place finish in a newspaper-sponsored contest led to an appearance on the nationally broadcast Ed Sullivan Show and a screen test.
Signed by movie producer Hal Willis, Douglas made numerous guest appearances on such television shows as Dragnet and The Twilight Zone during the late '50s and early '60s. She served as billboard girl on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. The same year, she appeared in the musical film Li'l Abner. Cast in the role of Ellie Mae Clampett, Douglas helped to turn The Beverly Hillbillies into one of the most successful television shows of the early '60s. She remained a vital element of the show for nine years. In 1981, she reprised the role for the TV movie The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Appearing with Elvis Presley in the 1965 film Frankie and Johnny, based on a traditional folk song, Douglas developed a close relationship with the rocker while shooting the film. They spent hours talking about Christianity and about books that they had read. According to a biography by the E! Channel, she was so heartbroken after the movie was completed that she considered quitting The Beverly Hillbillies. Leaving show business, Douglas sold real estate during the 1970s and '80s. Most of her recent appearances have been limited to Christian events. ~ Craig Harris