Pat Buttram was a talented and versatile actor who entertained millions of people with his distinctive voice and hilarious characters. He was best known for playing the sidekick of Gene Autry in many western films and TV shows, and for portraying the scheming Mr. Haney in the sitcom Green Acres. But how did he die and what legacy did he leave behind? In this article, we will explore the life and career of Pat Buttram, and the circumstances of his death.
Early Life and Career
Pat Buttram was born Maxwell Emmett Buttram on June 19, 1915, in Addison, Alabama. He was the son of a Methodist minister and considered entering the ministry himself. He studied at Birmingham-Southern College to pursue his future career as a minister. But, it was during his time in college that he acted in plays and performed on his local radio station. He had been bitten by the acting bug and decided to pursue acting as his career.
In the 1940s, he moved to Hollywood to try his luck. He became a sidekick to Roy Rogers, but was soon dropped because Rogers already had two regulars. He then met Gene Autry, who had just returned from his World War II service in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and offered him a job as his new sidekick. Buttram accepted and began a long and fruitful collaboration with Autry. He co-starred with him in more than 40 films and in over 100 episodes of The Gene Autry Show. He also joined him on his radio show Melody Ranch and on his personal appearances.
Buttram developed a unique comic persona as a bumbling and naive cowboy with a high-pitched voice that, in his own words, “never quite made it through puberty.” He often provided comic relief and contrast to Autry’s heroic and serious character. He also displayed a knack for improvisation and ad-libbing, which added to the charm and spontaneity of their scenes.
Green Acres and Beyond
In 1965, Buttram landed the role of Mr. Eustace Haney in the CBS comedy Green Acres. The show was about a New York lawyer, Oliver Wendell Douglas, and his glamorous wife, Lisa, who moved to a rundown farm in the rural town of Hooterville. Mr. Haney was the previous owner of the farm, who sold it to Oliver with a lot of hidden defects and problems. He also ran a mobile general store, where he tried to sell useless and overpriced items to the unsuspecting customers. He was a master of deception and manipulation, who always had a clever excuse or explanation for his shady deals.
Mr. Haney was one of the most popular and memorable characters on the show, thanks to Buttram’s brilliant performance. He made Mr. Haney a lovable and hilarious rogue, who often stole the scene with his outrageous schemes and witty remarks. He also had a great chemistry with the other cast members, especially Eddie Albert, who played Oliver. The show ran for six seasons and became a cult classic.
Buttram continued to work in films and television after Green Acres ended in 1971. He did voice work for several Disney animated features, such as The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He also appeared in shows like The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Waltons, and Frasier. He had a cameo in Back to the Future Part III, which was his last film role. His final voice-over was A Goofy Movie, released a year after his death.
Death and Legacy
Buttram died on January 8, 1994, at the age of 78, of kidney failure in Los Angeles. He was interred at the cemetery at the Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church in the Pebble community near Haleyville, Alabama. He was survived by his two children, one of whom was adopted. His wife, actress Sheila Ryan, had died in 1975.
Buttram was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and one on the “Alabama Stars of Fame” in Birmingham, Alabama. He also founded the Golden Boot Awards in 1982, to honor actors, directors, stunt people and other industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the western film genre. The proceeds from the annual event are donated to the Motion Picture Health and Welfare Fund.
Buttram was a beloved and respected figure in the entertainment industry, who left a lasting impression on generations of fans and colleagues. He was a gifted and versatile actor, who could play both dramatic and comedic roles with ease and flair. He was also a generous and humble person, who supported many charitable causes and helped many aspiring actors. He was a true legend of the screen and a genuine friend to many. He will always be remembered and missed by those who knew and loved him.