Edgar Buchanan almost became a dentist instead of an actor

Image credit: The Everett Collection

You might know Edgar Buchanan's face from his time as Uncle Joe Carson on the hit series Petticoat Junction (1963), but some out there know Buchanan from his other work — as a dentist.

Buchanan had one of those faces many swore they had seen somewhere else, and with a long-acting resume packed with over 150 TV shows and at least 80 films, the entire country became familiar with his acting. 

As much as he was a great actor, he was also a diligent dentist. 

According to a 1967 interview with the Calgary Herald, Buchanan had been practicing dentistry for at least 10 years in Oregon before making the jump to acting. He majored in medicine at the University of Oregon before attending the North Pacific Dental College in Portland. 

At the North Pacific Dental College, he met his wife, Mildred, who was also a practicing dentist. It seemed as though much of Buchanan's life was set up with the intention of him becoming a dentist, yet, he had other plans for himself.

"It's not such a far cry for dentists," Buchanan said. "I don't know why. But you'd be surprised: I must have had a dozen letters from dentists all over the country who said, 'I think I could have been an actor.' And even my own daddy, who was a dentist for 50 years, when I finally got a little successful in acting, he said, 'You know, I always thought I could be an actor.'"

Maybe the family was just following the wrong calling, and Buchanan was the first one to figure it out, or maybe his decision was enough to inspire those around him. Buchanan stopped practicing dentistry around 1940 but said he still kept his license.

"You don't throw a thing like that away," Buchanan said. "Even my wife keeps hers up and she only practiced five years. I've done it a couple of times since. It comes in handy."

The character of Uncle Joe Carson fits Buchanan like a glove. We're sure his role on Petticoat Junction made it worth giving up his original profession; just working with Bea Benaderet is enough to convince anyone. 

He brought somewhat of a Western tinge to his role as Uncle Joe, and fans all across the country fell in love with his character, as did Buchanan. Uncle Joe's main contribution to Petticoat Junction was a genuine feeling of a small town — something Buchanan knew all about from his real-life experiences. 

"You know the kind of town," Buchanan started. "Like the town that was so poor they couldn't afford a town drunk... You know, I think that's why people like our show and watch it. The tradition of a small community, it's an old American tradition and it's fast disappearing, and people like to see it. They've heard about it, or they lived there, and they see our show and they say, 'I remember Aunt Bessie such-and-such just like that,' and it's a heritage that should be preserved. That's why people like our little show."

Let's just all be thankful Buchanan was an actor on our TV screens and not our actual dentist.