In an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies in 1966 the nouveau riche
Clampett clan mistakenly believes the famed Hollywood film
star Gloria Swanson is in financial trouble and comes to her res-
cue. To raise money for her they put their economic capital and
acting talent into producing a new film starring Swanson. Cen-
tral to the episode’s comedy are the Clampetts’ contradictory
and inaccurate beliefs about the star: that she has continued to
play starring film roles into the present moment and that she
needs to make a comeback in order to hold on to her Hollywood
home. The former belief is based on the continued run of Swan-
son’s silent- era films in the Clampetts’ hometown of Tughussle
(where the psychic reality of the “backward” Clampett family
still resides); the latter is based on their misreading of a press
account about Swanson’s auctioning of her Hollywood home
and belongings for charity. As cultural text, The Beverly Hillbillies
seems to assume that we, like the Clampetts, have absorbed a
central lesson of postwar American media (one that explains
how the Clampetts can hold contradictory understandings of
Swanson’s stardom): that the changing symbols of American
culture can be tracked through the decline of the Hollywood
star system. What’s more, the show assumes that it would be
funny to reiterate this scenario with Swanson, whose film and
television career from the 1910s to the 1960s encompasses
both a glamorous stardom from the past and one of the most
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