The First Beverly Hillbilly

The First Beverly Hillbilly

The Untold Story of the Creator of Rural TV Comedy

Book - 2017
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A warm and funny memoir written from a Midwestern perspective, Ruth Henning shares the story of her husband Paul's rise from a scriptwriter on some of Kansas City's earliest radio shows to the genius behind America's beloved rural TV sitcoms and their lives together as part of Hollywood's golden inner circle. Paul created one of the highest rated TV series of all time, "The Beverly Hillbillies," as well as "Petticoat Junction," in which their daughter Linda played Betty Jo Bradley, and he was the executive producer behind "Green Acres." Paul's other writing credits included radio shows, as well as movies, such as the Oscar-nominated Doris Day/Rock Hudson classic "Lover Come Back" and the 1980s hit "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."


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Oct 26, 2017

I am not quite old enough to remember watching The Beverly Hillbillies when it was on weekly. I do, however, recall watching many reruns as a child and watching them with my children -- we even have some on DVD. The show still had its universal appeal.

The publication of this book intrigued me for two reasons: 1) I work for Mid-Continent and am aware of the work being done at Woodneath at the Storytelling Center. What a privilege to read one of the books published through their work. 2) I did not know the story behind the creation of the series. What a treat to find out that the man behind the series hailed from our area.

Ruth Henning's book is most certainly a loving tribute to her husband and a fresh view of tinsel town by a someone who was happily married for 63 years in the middle of show biz. Many of the names she mentions are unfamiliar to me, especially in the years before the 50's. That does not diminish the experience the Hennings had and the impact their midwestern good sense had on those they encountered.


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Independence, Missouri, native Paul Henning is one of the most influential players in TV history that you’ve likely never heard of. An accomplished producer and screenwriter, Henning was responsible for the creation of such major hits as The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, igniting America’s rural TV comedy movement of the 1960s.

After moving to Hollywood, Paul developed his beloved sitcoms based in part on his wife Ruth’s childhood stories about her family in the Ozarks. Prior to her death in 2002, Ruth wrote a memoir about her and Paul’s life together and their rise to success in Hollywood. The book titled The First Beverly Hillbilly was shuffled away in a collection of papers belonging to longtime Independence Examiner reporter Sue Gentry.

Through MCPL’s publishing arm, Woodneath Press, in conjunction with the Jackson County Historical Society, The First Beverly Hillbilly is being published and will be released to the public on September 26, 2017—the 55th anniversary of the debut of The Beverly Hillbillies.


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"Paul Henning and Stanley Shapiro wrote a very funny, Oscar-nominated screenplay for my second film with Rock Hudson, "Lover Come Back." Rock and I had such great laughs, and working on the film was truly a joy."
Actress Doris Day


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