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We-e-ell Doggie, What Sad News

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Sadness reigns over the Davis-Connolly house. Still. My moroseness continues over the recent passings of actor Katharine Hepburn and singer/producer/composer Barry White. And now we’ve learned of the death of another beloved legend: actor/dancer/novelist/”crimesolver” Buddy Ebsen.

I have loved Ebsen’s work since my childhood years. Of course, I liked his upstanding nouveau-riche millionaire Jed Clampett on ’60s TV sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I thought Ebsen was a natural as the jovial, loyal twinkle-eyed sidekick in the ’50s Disney TV series “Davy Crockett.” Being a passionate show-tune queen, I naturally was thrilled by his song-and-dance work in musical films, such as Shirley Temple’s Captain January. And the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s was made even more wonderful by Ebsen’s presence as Doc Golightly. But we — which includes rabid Ebsen fan Spousal Unit — really loved his TV stint in the ’80s as aging private investigator Barnaby Jones. No matter the case, wise old Barnaby could crack it. No more, except in rerun land and on video or DVD…

I do wish things had worked out back in 1939, when Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man in the classic film The Wizard of Oz alongside Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, and a superb cast. What — you recall Jack Haley in the woodsman’s role? Yes, you’re right: Ebsen had to leave the movie a few weeks after filming began when he suffered a terrible allergic reaction to the aluminum-dust makeup the part required. As terrific as Haley’s Tin Man was, I imagine Ebsen would have been at least as magical to watch. Ah, what might have been…

Rest in peace, Buddy Ebsen. Say hey now to Granny — oops, Irene Ryan — for me.

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