Nancy Jane Kulp (August 28, 1921 - February 3, 1991) was an American character actress best known as Miss Jane Hathaway on the popular CBS television series The Beverly Hillbillies.
Kulp was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as the only child of Robert Tilden Kulp, a traveling salesman, and his wife, Marjorie C. Snyder Kulp, a teacher and school principal. The family moved from Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, to Dade County, Florida, sometime before 1935.
Kulp received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the Florida State University in 1943, then known as the Florida State College for Women, and she started pursuing a master's degree in English and French at the University of Miami. She was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Early in the 1940s she worked as a feature writer for the Miami Beach Tropics newspaper, writing profiles of celebrities, including Clark Gable and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
In 1944 Kulp left the University of Miami to volunteer for service in the US Naval Reserve during World War II. As a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Ltjg. Kulp received several decorations, including the American Campaign Medal, She left the service in 1946.
Kulp moved to Hollywood, California, not long after she married Charles Malcolm Dacus (in April 1951), to work in a studio publicity department, where director George Cukor convinced her that she should work in front of a camera.
She made her film debut as a character actress in 1951 in The Model and the Marriage Broker. She then appeared in other films, including Shane, Sabrina, and A Star is Born. Kulp has an uncredited bit part in a crowd scene as a fan of Donald O'Connor in one of the opening scenes in Anything Goes. After working in television on The Bob Cummings Show, she returned to movies in Forever, Darling, The Three Faces of Eve, The Parent Trap, Who's Minding The Store (1963), and The Aristocats.
Kulp was once described as television's most homely girl or, as one reviewer put it, possessing the "face of a shriveled balloon, the figure of a string of spaghetti, and the voice of a bullfrog in mating season." Others described her as tall and prim and praised her comedic skills.
In 1953 Nancy had an uncredited part in the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movie, "The Caddy". She played Emma, the wife of an inebriated man who had stayed out too late. Her only line was "Well, I don't know where you've been, but at least you came home with first prize". In 1955 Kulp joined the cast of The Bob Cummings Show (a.k.a. Love That Bob) with Bob Cummings, portraying pith-helmeted neighborhood bird-watcher Pamela Livingstone.
In 1956 she appeared in the episode "Johnny Bravo" of the ABC/Warner Brothers series Cheyenne, with Clint Walker. Kulp appeared in 1955-1956 as Anastasia in three episodes of the NBC sitcom It's a Great Life. In 1958 she appeared in Orson Welles' little known TV series The Fountain of Youth. In 1960, she appeared as Emma St. John in the episode "Kill with Kindness" of the ABC/WB detective series, Bourbon Street Beat, starring Andrew Duggan.
Kulp appeared in one episode of I Love Lucy. In the 1956 episode "Lucy meets the Queen," Kulp portrayed an English maid, showing Lucy and Ethel how to curtsy properly before the Queen. She also appeared in episodes of The Real McCoys, Perry Mason (The Case of the Prodigal Parent, 1958), The Jack Benny Program,87th Precinct, Pete and Gladys, The Twilight Zone, and The Outlaws, and she briefly played a drunken waitress with slightly slurred speech in a 1959 episode of Maverick, featuring James Garner, entitled "Full House." Kulp played a housekeeper in a pilot for The William Bendix Show, which aired as the 1960-61 season finale of CBS's Mister Ed under the episode title "Pine Lake Lodge."
In 1962 she landed her breakout role of Jane Hathaway, the love-starved bird-watching perennial spinster, on CBS's The Beverly Hillbillies television series. She remained with the show until its cancellation in 1971. In 1967, she received an Emmy Award nomination for her role.
In 1966, she appeared as Wilhemina Peterson in the film The Night of the Grizzly, starring Clint Walker and Martha Hyer. In 1978, she appeared on The Love Boat in a segment titled "The Kissing Bandit" and she played Aunt Gertrude in a segment titled "America's Sweetheart".
After The Beverly Hillbillies Kulp appeared on The Brian Keith Show and Sanford and Son. She also appeared in Broadway productions, including Morning's at Seven in 1981.
Politics, academia and retirement:
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 Republican incumbent, Bud Shuster, in a Republican district, Kulp was the underdog.
Sixty-two years old at the time, Kulp said some people 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, Hillbillies co-star Buddy Ebsen called 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 she and Ebsen '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, or just 33.6% to Shuster's 117,203 votes and 66.4%, she lost.
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.
She subsequently retired; first to a farm in Connecticut and later to Palm Desert, California.
Kulp was diagnosed with cancer in 1990, then she received chemotherapy. By 1991 the cancer had spread, and Kulp died on February 3 at a friend's home in Palm Desert, California. Her remains are interred at Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.
Kulp married Charles Malcolm Dacus on April 1, 1951, in Dade County, Florida; they divorced in 1961.
Later in life, Kulp indicated to author Boze Hadleigh in a 1989 interview, that she was a lesbian. "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."
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^ "Obituary: Nancy Kulp". Arrangeonline.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17. ,
^ "Obituary: Nancy Kulp". Articles.latimes.com. 2000-01-21. Retrieved 2012-11-17. ,
^ Nancy Kulp at Find a Grave,
^ 1930 U.S. Federal Census Record, viewed on Ancestry.com on 7 June 2010.,
^ US Federal Census Record, viewed on Ancestry.com on 7 June 2010.,
^ Nancy Kulp, 69, Dies; Film and TV Actress, The New York Times, February 5, 1991,
^ "Nancy Kulp; Foil in 'Beverly Hillbillies'". Articles.latimes.com. 2000-01-21. Retrieved 2012-11-17. ,
^ The Model and the Marriage Broker at the Internet Movie Database,
^ ""I Love Lucy" Lucy Meets the Queen (1956)" at the Internet Movie Database,
^ AP (1984-02-02). "CAMPAIGN NOTES - Actress in Pennsylvania To Run for Congress". Pennsylvania: NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-17. ,
^ CAMPAIGN NOTES; Actress in Pennsylvania To Run for Congress, New York Times, 1984-02-02,
^ Feudin' Hillbillies. Jed Clampett Opposes Miss Hathaway's House Bid" Palm Beach Post. November 4, 1984. Retrieved December 12, 2014,
^ Former 'Hillbilly' Loses, New York Times, 1984-11-08,
^ Kulp Goes From Miss Hathaway to Pennsylvania College Professor,Lakeland Ledger,1985-11-29,
^ Johns, Howard (2004). Palm Springs Confidential: Playground of the Stars!. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books. p. 126. ISBN 9781569802694. LCCN 2004041116. OCLC 54392060. LCC PN2285 .J56 2004,
^ Marriage license on Ancestry.com, which cites the marriage of Nancy Jane Kulp and Charles Malcolm Dacus as occurring in Dade County, Florida, in 1951. The marriage certificate number is 1315 and is held in Volume 7097.,
^ Boze Hadleigh, "Hollywood Lesbians" (Barricade Books, 1992)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license