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Max Baer Jr Had an Irreversible Loss in His Love Life & Furiously Defended His Famous Father's Image

Stephen Thompson
Mar 04, 2022
04:20 A.M.
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American actor Max Baer Jr. was unfortunate in his love life and has done well to defend his late father and boxer,  Max Baer's image. Get inside his relationships and life.

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Max Baer Jr. is an actor known for portraying the dimwitted Jethro Bodine in "The Beverly Hillbillies." He is also from a famous family as he is the son of the late boxing champion Max Baer and his wife, Mary Ellen Sullivan. 

In the book "Max Baer and Barney Ross: Jewish Heroes of Boxing" by Jeffrey Sussman, Baer Jr. gave a glimpse of his childhood.

Picture of actor Max Baer Jr. [left]. Picture of the cast of TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies" [right] | Source: Getty Images

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He revealed how his dad usually woke up early in the morning to go around town collecting garbage from restaurants. Afterward, he would bring it to the ranch and slop it up to their pigs. 

Baer Sr. did such seven nights per week and got paid 35 cents each night. Baer Jr. explained that such living conditions made boxing a big deal for his father because, through the sport, he could earn in one night what he earned in three months. 

Photo of actor Max Baer Jr., circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images

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With the Depression starting, Baer Sr. asked for more fights and would have been happy to fight several nights a week. Baer Jr. said:

"He just wanted the money. He never loved boxing."

THE PUNCH THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING

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On August 25, 1930, Max Baer Sr. and Frankie Campbell, local fighters then, entered the ring on a foggy night in the Mission District in San Francisco for a bout. 

However, the night ended when Baer Sr. landed a right hook that left Campbell dead. After that, Baer Sr. spent some time in jail. 

Although Baer Sr. escaped spending more time in jail, Campbell's death cemented his reputation as the "Livermore Larruper," the crazy showboat whose strong right hand could kill a man. 

Boxer Max Baer Sr. with his wife and son on January 20, 1938 | Source: Getty Images

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Baer Sr. was never the same after the tragedy and got distressed by it so much that he lost four of his next six fights after Campbell. 

That fatal punch turned Baer Sr.'s reputation around. For example, the film "Cinderella Man" reopened the controversy as it portrayed Baer Sr. as a loathsome, womanizing thug and claimed that he boasted of killing Campbell. 

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Baer Jr. was furious with the way his dad was portrayed in the film. He said his dad's portrayal in "Cinderella Man" could not have been more wrong and inaccurate. Baer Jr. said the only thing the film's producer Ron Howard got right about his father was his name. He added

"They turned a good-hearted, fun-loving, friendly and warm human being who hated boxing into Mr. T from Rocky III with no redeeming characteristics."

Baer Jr. revealed that nothing haunted his dad more than the fight with Campbell. He disclosed that Baer Sr. did not return to the ring for four months after the fight. 

Actor Max Baer, Jr attends a party in Los Angeles, California, circa 1962 | Source: Getty Images

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Baer Sr. finally fought after Campbell's death at Madison Square Garden against Ernie Schaaf on December 19, 1930. Schaaf outfought and outboxed Baer Sr. for ten rounds and won unanimously. 

Baer Sr. later wrote, "Nothing that ever happened to me — nothing that can happen to me — affected me like the death of Frankie Campbell." 

Max Baer, Jr. as Jethro Bodine in "THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES" episode, "Granny's Garden" which aired on October 9, 1963 | Source: Getty Images

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Baer Sr. was no longer the same fighter. He lost his fury while his tenacity came and went. He often held back during fights and pulled his punches when he felt his opponents were beaten as he was afraid of hurting them. 

Baer Jr. said his dad had nightmares about his fight with Campbell for the rest of his life. He would have a dream and wake up at night sweating and muttering, "You're okay! Please be okay!" Max Baer Sr.'s nightmares usually involved Campbell lying flat on the canvas while he tried in vain to revive him. 

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BAER JR.'S CAREER

Baer Jr. began his acting career in 1960 after earning a bachelor's degree in business administration from Santa Clara University. 

He made appearances in television shows like "Cheyenne," "77 Sunset Strip," "Maverick," and "Hawaiian Eye." His fortunes turned around a bit after starring on "The Beverly Hillbillies." 

Baer Jr. was broke and starving before starring in "The Beverly Hillbillies." He reportedly had one quart of milk to sustain him for four days. 

Max Baer Jr. attends the 2016 Chiller Theater Expo at Parsippany Hilton on April 23, 2016 in Parsippany, New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

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Also, he had just one threadbare suit of clothes and was down to his last two weeks of unemployment insurance. Baer Jr. also said he was two months behind in his rent and lost so much weight.

Baer Jr. studied the works of Andy Griffith and Jonathan Winters to play the part of Jethro Bodine in "The Beverly Hillbillies." After the show, it was hard for Baer Jr. to get roles in other films. Hence, he took matters into his hands. 

Max Baer Jr., Jethro from the show Beverly Hillbillies, speaks at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Auditorium during the memorial service for actor Buddy Ebsen August 30, 2003 | Source: Getty Images

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In the 1970s, he worked as the writer/producer/director and co-star of a series of low-budget but successful films like "Macon County Line" (1974), "The Wild McCullochs" (1975), and "Ode to Billy Joe" (1976).

In the 1980s, he licensed the Jethro character and elements of "The Beverly Hillbillies" for casinos, restaurants, and similar ventures, but his plans did not materialize.

Baer Jr., the only surviving member of "The Beverly Hillbillies" cast, made some television guest appearances between the 1980s and 1990s. Baer Jr. has been married once in his lifetime to Joanne Kathleen Hill. Their marriage lasted for five years, from 1966 to 1971. 

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Actor Max Baer Jr. attends the ceremony honoring legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 13, 2003 in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

BAER JR.'S GIRLFRIEND TAKES HER LIFE

In 2008, Baer Jr. found himself in the news again after his live-in girlfriend Chere Rhodes, 30, apparently shot herself and died several days later.

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Baer Jr. had summoned authorities to his Lake Tahoe home on January 24, 2008, after finding Rhodes with a single gunshot wound to her chest. 

Max Baer Jr. attends the party for Buddy Ebsen on March 20, 1992 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

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She was found conscious at the scene and told officers that she had tried killing herself. She also had a suicide note that read "relationship problems." Douglas Country Sheriff's Seargent Jim Halsey said Baer Jr. and Rhodes were having some relationship issues. He added:

"Whether the relationship was going to end or they were just having difficulties, I don't know."

Baer Jr. broke his silence about Rhodes' death three months after her passing. He disclosed that he was horrified when he discovered her and added that there was blood everywhere. He also said the police performed a paraffin test on him to ensure he did not shoot her. 

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Actor Max Baer Jr attends the 2nd Annual TV Land Awards held on March 7, 2004 at The Hollywood Palladium, in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

MAX BAER JR. TODAY

Baer Jr. has appeared in public a few times in the last decade. In 2012, he appeared at the Thunder Valley Resort and was interviewed by Sam Smith.

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He signed guests' autographs at the resort and cut the ribbon to introduce "The Beverly Hillbillies" ™ Millionaire Mile® slot machine, featuring humorous TV clips and three unique bonuses influenced by actors from the hit show.

Max Baer Jr. during 2nd Annual TV Land Awards at The Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

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In 2014, Baer Jr. was in the news after suing CBS over Jethro BBQ. He claimed a secret deal between the television network and Moines-based Jethro's BBQ was interfering with his opportunity to cash in on his role as Jethro Bodine.

A 2016 YouTube shorts video showed Baer Jr. wishing a friend a Happy Birthday. He wore a navy blue and white jacket and shades while making the wishes. 

Today Baer Jr. is 84 years old, and not much is heard about him. However, he has done the best he could for his career and would always be remembered for his exploits in his heydays. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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