Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Born Today In 1921, Character Actress Nancy Kulp

Nancy Kulp was born today, August 28, in 1921.  She was an American character actress best known as Miss Jane Hathaway on the CBS television series The Beverly Hillbillies.

Kulp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She was their only child. Kulp's father was a traveling salesman, and her mother was a school teacher and later a principal. The family moved from Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, to Miami-Dade County, Florida, sometime before 1935.

In 1943, Kulp graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Florida State University, then known as Florida State College for Women. She continued her studies for a master's degree in English and French at the University of Miami, where she was a member of the sorority Pi Beta Phi. Early in the 1940s, she also worked as a feature writer for the Miami Beach Tropics newspaper, writing profiles of celebrities such as Clark Gable and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

During World War II, Kulp left the University of Miami in 1944 to join the women's branch of the United States Naval Reserve. She obtained the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, and received several decorations while in the service, including the American Campaign Medal. She was honorably discharged from the Reserve in 1946.

In 1951, not long after marrying Charles Malcolm Dacus, Kulp moved to Hollywood, California, to work in MGM's publicity department. Director George Cukor at the studio soon convinced her that she should be an actress, so the same year she began her publicity job at MGM, she also made her film debut as a character actress in The Model and the Marriage Broker. She then appeared in other films, including Shane, Sabrina, and A Star is Born. After working in television on The Bob Cummings Show, Kulp returned to movies in Forever, Darling, The Three Faces of Eve, The Parent Trap, Who's Minding the Store? and The Aristocats.

Kulp appeared on I Love Lucy in the 1956 episode "Lucy Meets the Queen," performing as an English maid, who shows Lucy and Ethel how to curtsy properly before Queen Elizabeth. Kulp also appeared in many other TV episodes in the 1950s and 60s. 

Shortly after her performances on My Three Sons in 1962, Kulp landed her breakout role as Jane Hathaway, the love-starved, bird-watching, perennial spinster, on the CBS television series The Beverly Hillbillies. In 1967, she received an Emmy Award nomination for her role, and she remained with the show until its cancellation in 1971. 

Kulp also performed in the Broadway production of Morning's at Seven in 1980 to 1981 as Aaronetta Gibbs as a replacement for Elizabeth Wilson.

In 1984, after working with the Democratic state committee in her home state of Pennsylvania "on a variety of projects" over a period of years, Kulp ran unopposed as the Democratic nominee for the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 9th congressional district. As an opponent of the Republican incumbent Bud Shuster in a Republican-dominated district, Kulp was the decided underdog. Sixty-two years old at the time, Kulp said some voters might feel her background as an actress was "frivolous"; but she noted that Ronald Reagan had taken the route from screen to politics, and she said anyone who "listens and cares" can do well.

To her dismay, her Hillbillies co-star Buddy Ebsen contacted the Shuster campaign and volunteered to make a radio campaign ad in which he called Kulp "too liberal." Kulp said of Ebsen, "He's not the kindly old Jed Clampett that you saw on the show... It's none of his business and he should have stayed out of it." She said Ebsen and she "didn't get along because I found him difficult to work with. But I never would have done something like this to him." Garnering 59,449 votes—just 33.6% of the ballots cast in the election—to Shuster's 117,203 votes and 66.4%, she lost. After this according to her close friends and family Ebsen was regarded as "Persona non grata" to Kulp and she made it clear to people not to bring him up in conversation around her with the exception of interviews related to her time on Hillbillies. In his later years, especially after Kulp's death, Ebsen privately expressed remorse for doing the ad.

After her defeat, she worked at Juniata College, a private liberal arts college in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, as an artist-in-residence. Later she taught acting.

Kulp married Charles Malcolm Dacus on April 1, 1951, in Dade County, Florida; they divorced in 1961. After her retirement from acting and teaching, she moved first to a farm in Connecticut and later to Palm Springs, California, where she became involved in several charity organizations, including the Humane Society of the Desert, the Desert Theatre League, and United Cerebral Palsy. 

In 1989, Kulp gave an interview to author and homosexual activist Boze Hadleigh in which she said, "As long as you reproduce my reply word for word, and the question, you may use it ... I'd appreciate it if you'd let me phrase the question. There is more than one way. Here's how I would ask it: 'Do you think that opposites attract?' My own reply would be that I'm the other sort — I find that birds of a feather flock together. That answers your question." Hadleigh asserts that Kulp was indicating that she was a lesbian.

Kulp was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, for which she received chemotherapy. By 1991, the cancer had spread, and she died on February 3, 1991, aged 69, in Palm Desert, California. 

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