This Full House guest star became Elly May Clampett for Nineties kids
In the Full House episode "Last Kiss," Uncle Jesse is stoked to go to his high school reunion until his old flame Carrie reaches out to reconnect, putting his current relationship in jeopardy.
By this time in the series, Jesse has already linked up with Becky, whom his character marries.
Playing the alluring Carrie in this episode was Erika Eleniak, perhaps best known to TV audiences as one of the original Baywatch babes.
Eleniak started acting when she was just 10 years old, with her first big role coming at the age of 12 when she appeared in the 1982 movie E.T. as Elliot’s girlfriend.
She said she had no idea the movie would become as big as it did.
"All I knew was that it was about a boy and an alien, and when you’re 12, you’re going, ‘Oh great!’" Eleniak said.
Her costar Henry Thomas did not think their kissing scene was as great as Eleniak did.
Whether Thomas liked her or not, from that point on, Eleniak was typecast as the "pretty girl," taking on guest roles on hit shows in the Eighties before joining the cast of Baywatch in 1989.
Her Full House episode aired in 1990, at a moment when Eleniak didn’t have the hots for Uncle Jesse, but actually was growing feelings off-screen for her Baywatch costar and onscreen love Billy Warlock.
Ultimately, Eleniak left Baywatch in 1992, ending her relationship with Warlock and leaving room for Pamela Anderson to start running the beach.
This decision freed up Eleniak for more movie roles.
Soon after, Eleniak was cast in the 1993 movie revival of The Beverly Hillbillies, starring as Elly May Clampett alongside comedy veterans Jim Varney as Jed, Cloris Leachman as Granny and Lily Tomlin as Jane Hathaway.
Favorably reviewed on its release, the Los Angeles Times critic described the reboot as a bridge between Baby Boomers and younger audiences: "The boomers watching this film can re-experience their childhood gooniness without too much strain while the teens who currently catch the show in syndication can feel as if they’re playing with a bigger and brighter version of an old toy."
One of the movie’s most controversial moments, however, came in the opening scene that shows Elly May wrestling with a bear and winning the fight.
A critic in The Missoulian wrote in 1993 that this scene was "blasphemy" to "all true fans" of The Beverly Hillbillies, who know Elly May would never harm a critter, let alone beat up a bear.
But that critic ultimately forgave the blip in the character read, proclaiming that Eleniak "sounds exactly like Elly May and looks better than the Donna Douglas original."
For Eleniak, playing Elly May led to more movie roles, but Eleniak never felt she stepped out of the shadow of her Baywatch years. She’s continued acting since, though, and most recently she’s set to star as another famous blonde, Marilyn Monroe, in a new biopic.
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