James Albert Varney Jr. (June 15, 1949 – February 10, 2000) was an American actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his role as Ernest P. Worrell, who was used in numerous television commercial advertising campaigns and films and for which he won a Daytime Emmy Award. He gained further notability for playing Jed Clampett in the film version of The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and providing the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999).

Illness and death[edit | edit source]

During the filming of Treehouse Hostage in August 1998,Varney started developing a bad cough. At first, it was thought that he might have caught a cold because of the climate of the area where the movie was being filmed. However, as the cough became worse, Varney began noticing blood on his handkerchief and, after filming was complete, he went to a doctor. A chain smoker, Varney had developed lung cancer. The disease slowly became worse, yet Varney continued to film movies. Upon being diagnosed, he reportedly threw his cigarettes away and quit smoking. Varney had filmed an anti-smoking public service announcement as Ernest in the 1980s, though it is often mistakenly assumed to have been filmed after his diagnosis.

Varney finally returned to Tennessee, where he went through chemotherapy in the hope he could beat the disease. However, it failed and he died on February 10, 2000, in his home in White House, Tennessee, a city north of Nashville, at the age of 50. He was buried in Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky. Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which was released a year after his death, was his final role. The film was dedicated in his memory.

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