Buddy Ebsen passed away. Now, I don’t think that I’ve ever watched an episode of Barnaby Jones or Davy Crockett, but I always found him consistently strong and effective in probably his most famous roll, Jed Clampett of The Beverly Hillbillies. He maintained that consistent sense of character even when the show itself degenerated (as with many shows of that era, the black and white episodes are typically much better than the color ones.)
I also found it interesting the way that the actor chose to relate to his roles. Many actors shun being connected to their popular roles, as it seems to discourage casting directors from using them in other roles. (I perceive, perhaps without due foundation, that actors are more likely to be happy being associated with roles that continue to bring them royalties.) Buddy was just the opposite.
There was Beverly Hillbillies retrospective produced in the 1990s for which they planned to do it like most such retrospectives — have the actors come on and talk light-heartedly about the episodes. Buddy, however, would have none of that. He insisted that if he do the retrospective, he do it not as Buddy, but as Jed. And so decades later, the surviving Hillbillies were talking about the past episodes of their lives.
His willingness to be associated with his characters showed up at other times. When The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was being launched, the show had promos with Buddy playing Jed (which I thought was a nice touch and quite appropriate.) He would also play Barnaby Jones as a cameo in the lackluster Beverly Hillbillies movie and, as Mark Evanier points out, on a Tonight Show appearance. And there’s something nice about him wanting to be how the public saw him.
(Looking up the Beverly Hillbillies retrospective on IMDB, I find that the database includes the odd recommendation “If you like this title, we also recommend… National Geographic: The Battle for Midway (1998) (TV)“.)
With Ebsen gone… well, that’s most of the key cast of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that’s no longer with us. Peppard’s gone, Hepburn’s gone, Balsam’s gone, and yet that gem still twinkles. Power of the movies.