Max Baer, Jr. (born December 4, 1937) is an American actor, screen writer, producer, and director.
He was born Maximilian Adalbert Baer, Jr. in Oakland, California, the son of legendary boxing champion Max Baer and Mary Ellen Sullivan. His brother and sister are James Baer (born 1941) and Maude Baer (born 1943). His first acting role was in Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Blackpool Pavilion in England in 1949.
Baer grew up in Sacramento, California. He attended Santa Clara University, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a minor in philosophy and domestic science.
His acting career began in 1960 at Warner Bros., where he appeared on television programs including Maverick, Surfside 6, Hawaiian Eye, Cheyenne and 77 Sunset Strip.
In 1962, Baer was cast in the role of the doltish "Jethro Bodine" on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. It was a role for which he continues to receive notoriety. This would prove to be the high point of his acting career.
The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most successful television series in history. The hit comedy also starred Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, and Donna Douglas. During the nine-year run of the show, he also appeared on Vacation Playhouse, Love, American Style, and in the Western movie A Time for Killing.
After The Beverly Hillbillies went off the air in 1971, Baer made several guest appearances on TV, but found himself typecast. His major contribution to the entertainment industry was in the field of feature motion pictures.
Baer wrote and produced the drama Macon County Line (1974), in which he also played Deputy Reed Morgan. It was the highest-grossing movie per dollar invested at the time (a record that would later be dwarfed by The Blair Witch Project). Made for US$110,000, it garnered almost US$25,000,000 at the box-office.
He wrote, produced, and directed the drama The Wild McCullochs (1975), in which he also played Culver Robinson. Baer then conceived the idea of using the title of a popular song to make a movie and acquired the rights to a 1967 Bobbie Gentry hit song.
Baer produced the drama Ode to Billy Joe (1976), which turned a big profit. Made for US$1.1 million, it grossed US$27,000,000 at the box office, plus earnings in excess of US$2.65 million in the foreign market, US$4.75 million from television, and US$2.5 million from video. The movie starred Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor.
Since the success of Ode to Billy Joe, the first movie made at the time based on a popular song, the motion picture industry has capitalized on the trend, producing over 100 song title movies. Baer later decided to pursue the rights to the hit song "Like a Virgin," recorded by the singer Madonna in 1984. When ABC tried to prevent him from making the movie, he sued, and won a judgment of more than US$2,000,000.
He directed the comedy Hometown USA (1979), then retired to his home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, making occasional guest appearances on TV.
In 1985, Baer began studying the gambling industry. He noticed that tourists would pay US$5.00 to US$6.00 admission to tour the "Ponderosa Ranch", which was the location for filming some episodes of TV's Bonanza. Once inside, all there was to see was a working ranch, but people enjoyed it because of the Bonanza connection. Baer decided if tourists would pay to see a ranch because of a well-known series, then they would pay to see something dealing with the series "The Beverly Hillbillies." He came to terms with his "Jethro Bodine" identity and began to see it as a marketing opportunity toward the gambling and hotel industry. Baer obtained the sublicensing rights, including food and beverage rights, to "The Beverly Hillbillies" from CBS in 1991. His business partner estimates the cost of obtaining the rights and developing the ideas has been US$1 million. Sixty-five "Beverly Hillbillies" slot machines were built in 1999 and placed in ten casinos.
In late 2003, Baer attempted the redevelopment of a former Wal-Mart location in Carson City into a Beverly Hillbillies themed hotel and casino, but was unsuccessful due to building code conflicts and other developers on the neighboring properties. On May 4, 2007, Baer announced the sale of the property and the purchase of another parcel just outside of Carson City, in neighboring Douglas County, where he expected less resistance to his plans. Baer purchased a 2.5-acre (10,000 m2) parcel in north Douglas County for $1.2 million, and will purchase an additional 20 acres once he has obtained the required zoning variances. The plans are for a 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) gambling area with 800 slot machines and 16 tables, flanked by various eateries including "Jethro's All You Ken Et Buffet." The project would feature a showroom, cinema complex and a 240-room, five-story hotel.
Plans for Baer's casino included a two-hundred foot tall mock oil derrick spouting a 20 to 30-foot (9.1 m) flame. This was the most controversial portion of his casino plan, considered "tacky" by some residents of Carson City, a traditionally less experimental portion of Nevada, as compared to Las Vegas.