Early Life and Background
Max Baer was born on February 11, 1909, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Jacob and Dora Baer. His father was a butcher by trade. Max was the fourth of five children. He had two brothers, Buddy and James, and two sisters, Frances and Bernice. Max was of German and Irish descent.
Maximilian Adelbert Baer, as he was originally named, grew up in a working-class family. His father was a strict disciplinarian, and Max had to work hard from a young age to help support his family. Despite the hardships, Max had a happy childhood and was an outgoing and popular boy.
Max was a natural athlete and excelled in sports from an early age. He played baseball, football, and basketball in high school, and was also an accomplished swimmer. Max was a talented boxer, and he began his amateur career at the age of 16. He quickly made a name for himself in the local boxing scene and soon turned professional.
Max Baer began his professional boxing career in 1929 and quickly gained a reputation for his innate talent and ability to deliver knockouts. His fights were not just fights; they were spectacles that drew large crowds eager to witness his raw power and showmanship.
Baer fought his way up the ranks and won the world heavyweight championship by knocking out Primo Carnera in 11 rounds in New York City on June 14, 1934. He lost the title to James J. Braddock on a 15-round decision at Long Island City, New York, on June 13, 1935.
Baer was known for his hard-hitting, entertaining, and charismatic style, and he was the fighter most responsible for maintaining the public’s interest in the heavyweight division during the early years of the Great Depression. He had a record of 66 wins, 13 losses, and 1 draw, with 51 knockouts.
Baer fought some of the greatest boxers of his time, including Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, Lou Nova, Tony Galento, and Tommy Farr. He knocked out former world champion Max Baer in the fourth round of their 1935 bout.
Baer was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1969, and his legacy as a world champion and knockout artist lives on to this day.
Hollywood and Television Career
Max Baer Jr. began his career in Hollywood in 1960 with the movie “Gold of the Seven Saints”. He went on to feature in over 20 movies and TV shows, most notably “The Beverly Hillbillies”, which aired from 1962 to 1971. In “The Beverly Hillbillies”, he played the character of Jethro Bodine, a naive and dim-witted but lovable character. The show was a hit and ran for nine seasons.
Baer Jr. also appeared in other movies such as “Africa Screams”, “The Harder They Fall”, and “The Prizefighter and the Lady”. He was known for his appearances in comedies, and his performances were well-received by audiences.
Apart from his appearances in movies, Baer Jr. also had a successful career in TV. He appeared in several TV variety shows and had his vaudeville act. He was a regular on “The Hollywood Palace” and “The Dean Martin Show”.
Baer Jr. continued to act in movies and TV shows throughout his career. He appeared in “Macon County Line”, “Ode to Billy Joe”, “The Wild McCullochs”, and more recently, “Get Smart”. However, he is best known for his role as Jethro Bodine in “The Beverly Hillbillies”.
Baer Jr. was a talented actor and comedian, and his performances in movies and TV shows were always entertaining. He was a popular movie star and an integral part of Hollywood’s golden age.
Personal Life and Legacy
Max Baer’s personal life was marked by both triumph and tragedy. He was married three times, first to Mary Ellen Sullivan, then to Dorothy Dunbar, and finally to Chere Rhodes. He had four children, including his son Buddy Baer, who also became a boxer.
Despite his success in the ring and on the screen, Baer faced personal struggles, including the suicide of his second wife, Dorothy Dunbar. He also struggled with alcoholism and financial difficulties later in life.
In addition to boxing and acting, Baer was an avid golfer and baseball player. He was also known for his physical strength and credited Charles Atlas with helping him develop his physique. Baer was also known for his clowning and kindness and was considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Baer passed away on November 21, 1959, at the age of 50. He was survived by his third wife, Dora Baer, and their daughter Maudie. Despite his struggles, Baer’s legacy as a boxer and actor continues to inspire and captivate audiences today.
Controversies and Challenges
Max Baer’s life was not without controversies and challenges. Despite his success in the boxing ring, he faced criticism and backlash from the public and media for his flamboyant lifestyle and showmanship.
One of the most significant challenges he faced was the tragic death of Ernie Schaaf, a fellow boxer whom he defeated in a fight. Schaaf suffered a brain injury during the match and died two days later. The incident haunted Baer for the rest of his life, and he was deeply affected by it.
Baer’s reputation as a showman also led to criticism from some boxing fans and pundits, who accused him of not taking the sport seriously enough. However, his talent and success in the ring cannot be denied. He was the heavyweight champion of the world in the 1930s and won 70 of 83 fights, 52 by knockouts.
Baer’s controversial lifestyle and behavior also put him at odds with some powerful figures of his time. He was known to have close ties with Hollywood celebrities, including Humphrey Bogart, and was once accused of having ties to the Nazi regime in Germany. However, there is no evidence to support these claims, and Baer himself vehemently denied them.
In addition to the controversies, Baer faced personal challenges as well. He suffered a heart attack in 1941, which forced him to retire from boxing. He also struggled with alcoholism and financial difficulties later in life.
Despite the challenges he faced, Baer’s legacy as a boxer and showman endures. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1969, and his larger-than-life personality and boxing skills continue to be celebrated today.
Max Baer in Popular Culture
Max Baer’s larger-than-life persona made him a popular figure in popular culture during his time and beyond. He was known for his flamboyant lifestyle and showmanship, which made him a natural fit for Hollywood. Baer appeared in several films, including “The Prizefighter and the Lady” (1933), “The Life of Jimmy Dolan” (1933), and “The Harder They Fall” (1956). In the latter film, he played a character based on himself, which showcased his acting abilities.
Baer’s boxing career was also the inspiration for the 2005 film “Cinderella Man,” which starred Russell Crowe as boxer James J. Braddock. In the film, Baer was portrayed by actor Craig Bierko, who captured Baer’s larger-than-life personality and showmanship.
Baer’s legacy also extended beyond the boxing ring and Hollywood. He was an avid baseball fan and owned a minor-league baseball team in Lake Tahoe. Baer was also known for his charitable work and was a supporter of the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Despite his success and popularity, Baer’s legacy is not without controversy. He was criticized for his behavior during his fights, which some saw as unsportsmanlike. Baer’s fight with German boxer Max Schmeling in 1933, which Baer won by knockout, was particularly controversial due to Baer’s pre-fight taunts and insults towards Schmeling, who was a symbol of Nazi Germany at the time.
Overall, Max Baer’s larger-than-life personality and accomplishments in boxing, Hollywood, and beyond have cemented his place in popular culture and sports history.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Max Baer known for?
Max Baer was a professional boxer who became the world heavyweight champion in 1934. Later, he pursued a career in acting and appeared in several movies and TV shows, including “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
How old was Max Baer when he died?
Max Baer died on November 21, 1959, at the age of 50.
Is Max Baer still alive today?
No, Max Baer passed away in 1959.
What is Max Baer Jr.’s net worth?
As of 2021, Max Baer Jr’s net worth is estimated to be $50 million. He earned his wealth from his acting career and real estate investments.
Who is 103 from the Beverly Hillbillies?
The only surviving cast member of “The Beverly Hillbillies” is Donna Douglas, who played Elly May Clampett. However, Max Baer Jr, who played Jethro Bodine, is still alive today at the age of 83.
How old was Max Baer on The Beverly Hillbillies?
Max Baer Jr was born on December 4, 1937, and he started playing Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1962, when he was 25 years old.