Paul William Henning (September 16, 1911 – March 25, 2005) was an American producer and writer. Most famous for the successful TV sitcomThe Beverly Hillbillies, he was crucial in the development of several "rural" comedies for CBS.
He was born and grew up on a farm in Independence, Missouri. While working in a drugstore as a teenager, he met future President Harry S. Truman, who advised him to become a lawyer. Although he did attend the Kansas City School of Law, his ambition was to be a singer on the radio. When the local radio station KMBZ (KMBC at the time) had no money for writers to create the "filler" between songs, he became a writer as well as a singer.
Writing proved the more lucrative of the two and he abandoned singing, eventually writing for such series as Fibber McGee & Molly and the The Burns & Allen Show, and later such television series as The Dennis Day Show, The Real McCoys, and The Andy Griffith Show. Henning was also the creator, writer and producer of The Bob Cummings Show, where he first met many of the actors who were subsequently to appear in his later series. Another series produced by Henning was The Ray Bolger Show. He also wrote or co-wrote such feature films as Lover Come Back(1961), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) but lost to William Inge and also wrote for Bedtime Story (1964).
Most popular television series
In 1962, Henning created the CBS series, The Beverly Hillbillies; a sitcom based on his past experiences while camping in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the popular theme song, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett".
The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the highest-rated series of all time, even becoming a feature film about three decades later. After the major success of Hillbillies, CBS gave Henning another half-hour timeslot on their schedule. In 1963, Petticoat Junction debuted on CBS and was a great success as well. This series had a starring role for Henning's daughter (who shared a September 16 birthday with her father), Linda Kaye Henning, who was simply billed as "Linda Kaye". In 1965, Henning and his colleague, Jay Sommers, created Green Acres, and once again found a hit.
All three programs were popular, achieving major ratings success during most of their runs. However, changing times led their parent network, CBS to look down on the so-called "ruralcoms" and move in a more "adult", sophisticated direction with series such as All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Thus in 1971, The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres were canceled as a result of the "rural purge", joining Petticoat Junction (which ended the year before) in syndicated reruns.
Personal life and death
He married Ruth Barth in 1939 and the couple had three children; Linda Kaye Henning on whom Paul partially based the character of Elly May Clampett, Carol Alice and Paul Anthony Henning.
Ruth Henning often told her husband about how she and her female cousins often visited her grandparents at the tiny hotel they owned near the Rock Island Railroad station located in Eldon, Missouri. This later became the concept for Petticoat Junction. Later in life Henning and his wife Ruth donated land to a conservation area near Branson, Missouri. The conservation area is 1,534-acres of oak and hickory forest, steep hills, and glades with four designated trails created by the Missouri Department of Conservation and one longer trail created largely by the members of Boy Scout Troop 2001. His wife Ruth Barth Henning died, aged 88 from a heart attack on January 15, 2002 at their home in Los Angeles, California.
Henning retired to Toluca Lake, California, dying in a Burbank hospital on March 25, 2005, aged 93.