Leave it to Beaver 60th Anniversary Memories
It’s hard to believe that our television show Leave it to Beaver has now been continuously airing since its premier on October 4th, 1957. For me, it has always been a great adventure. At the young age of 8 years old, I was starting on a life’s journey that has not only enriched me, but has brought me countless fans and friends all over the world. Who would have thought that such a simple tv show titled Leave it to Beaver about a boy and his brother growing up in a small town in mid- America in the 50’s and 60’s would ultimately become the longest continuously running show in television history.
As I look back over these last 60 years, the greatest gift that this wonderful program has always given me is all of the friends, fans and acquaintances that I have made who were a direct outcome of such a simple show. The Leave it to Beaver story lines were taken from real life and the situations that occurred then are still relevant and happening to children and families today. Lifestyles and fashions may have changed but the perspective of a child’s view of the adult world while growing up, is still relevant, relate-able and fun to watch. I wish to thank all of my many fans over these 60 years for enjoying the show along with me and hope that the family values of Leave it to Beaver will continue to be relevant and timeless.
The Twist (1960) by the great Chubby Checker. Video includes dance clips from the early 60’s along with movie and television scenes.
Is this twisted or what? Take a look at the dude with the moves at time code 1:10!
Leave it to Beaver – “Beaver Fever” t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies for my LITB fans!
I actually worked with Hugh Beaumont even before we started shooting Leave it to Beaver. I was cast with him in a promotional film for Rose Hills Memorial Park. One thing I remember is that during a scene, I was supposed to cry on cue. Hugh asked me if I had ever done that before and I told him, no. He said, “Put your face into your hands and laugh really hard. It’s an old actor’s trick because the sound of laughter and crying are very closely related. Sure enough, I tried it and it worked! Here is the Rose Hills film: http://www.jerrymathers.com/hugh-beaumont-and-jerry-mathers-rose-hills-memorial-park-commercial/
When we shot the pilot of Leave it to Beaver, Hugh was not the original father. But, when they re-cast the role for the series, Hugh was one of several people brought in for an audition. My mother actually suggested for him to go in for the interview! When I saw him, I was so happy because he was the nice man that I worked with on the Rose Hills shoot. So, when we read a short scene together, we had a good chemistry and Hugh got the part of Ward Cleaver. I was very glad that he was picked for the role and we had a wonderful friendship for his entire life until he passed away in 1982 from a heart attack. Hugh and my dad had become friends and he occasionally came to our house to play cards with my father and some of his friends.
What most people don’t know is that Hugh was an ordained minister before Leave it to Beaver. He graduated with a Master of Theology degree in 1946 from the University of Southern California (USC). Hugh had a long and illustrious career and did many films and television series in addition to Leave it to Beaver. One of his most famous characters was Michael Shayne who he played in 5 films. He was a hard drinking, heavy cigarette smoking detective in this part, in the style of Mickey Spillane. I think he was much more comfortable as Ward Cleaver because it fit his ‘real life” personality so much better!
As I mentioned above, here are some of my mother’s cherished memories of Hugh and how she was so instrumental in having him cast as Ward Cleaver!
Here is my interview about my audition for Leave it to Beaver. This was produced for the Archive of American Television by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
As most people know, Tony Dow was my big brother on Leave it to Beaver. Ironically, he was really “the Beaver” in his real life family because he only had an older brother and he was the youngest. I on the other hand was the eldest of my 4 siblings so I actually was the “Wally” in my real family.
How Tony Dow got the part on Leave it to Beaver
Tony was a phenomenal athlete and had trained to be a swimmer and diver from a very early age. He received many accolades and awards through the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) including Junior Olympics diving champion. Before Leave it to Beaver, he had hopes of someday competing in the Olympics. Although I had been an actor since the age of 2 years old, Tony’s only acting job prior to Leave it to Beaver was in a pilot for a television series similar to Tarzan where he played the “Boy” character. The show did not sell and Tony’s second foray into acting on television was in Leave it to Beaver. He wasn’t in our original pilot which was called “It’s a Small World.” The boy who played Wally grew about 5 inches between the time the pilot was filmed and we went into production of the series. He was almost as tall as Hugh Beaumont so the producers decided to put out another casting call for a boy who was more height appropriate for that age. Tony’s true life ability as an athlete was a perfect fit for Wally, he was cast for the part, and the rest is television history!
– Leave it to Beaver DVD’s, Jerry Mathers movies, and other favorite tv shows! www.jerrymathers.com/dvds-and-more/
Barbara Billingsley was a good friend and an even better mentor. For me she was like the favorite teacher that we all had in school. I was lucky enough to work with her for six years and have a life-long relationship with her. She was a very kind woman and a generous philanthropist who supported many charities always ready to give anyone in need a helping hand. Barbara was even more sparkling and fun than June Cleaver. Every once in a while she would get frustrated or upset and we always knew when that was because she would say, “Hell’s bells” and then put her hands over her mouth with her cutest “oops” look. This was the only “curse word” that I ever heard her say. And she always looked flustered and turned red when she realized that other people had heard her say that. She would then apologize profusely.
Barbara was always eager to teach a rambunctious lad (i.e. Me) proper civility and manners. An example of this was when I would rush ahead of her to see what was beyond the next door. She would reach up and grab me by the very short hairs at the nape of my neck and pull me back very gently and say, “Jerry, ladies always go first.” And, this is what she was—a truly regal lady. I miss her very much.
Here is a tribute to some of the great TV moms! Who are some of your favorites?
Remembering TV mothers
June Cleaver, portrayed by Barbara Billingsley, talks with her son, Beaver, played by Jerry Mathers in an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” (Special photo)
From left are Mackenzie Phillips, Ann Romano and Valerie Bertinelli of “One Day At A Time.” (Special photo)
Phylicia Rashad and Keshia Knight Pulliam starred as Claire and Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” (Special photo)
Wendi McLendon-Covey’s Beverly Goldberg masters the art of “smothering” on “The Goldbergs.” (Special photo)
The Ingalls family of “Little House on the Prairie,” was led by matriarch Caroline Ingalls, played by Karen Grassle. (Special photo)
Happy Mother’s Day to one and all; enjoy this very special day with your mom. Remember the good times and how she helped shape your life. If you are blessed to be able to spend this day with your mother, treat it as a special gift because that’s precisely what it is.
Lavish her with love and affection because the day will come when you wish you could.
Believe me, I know.
And, remember, the most important thing you can give her is your presence and not presents.
In addition to our biological mothers, there have been a lot of moms who entered our houses on a regular basis during the past six decades through the medium of television.
Some were kind, caring and loving.
Others were off the proverbial wall.
Here is a list of some of the best-known TV mothers who spent time with us on a weekly basis.
Hope you enjoy the trip down television’s memory lane with some of the medium’s most renowned mothers and their children.
The list starts with Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg, believed to be television’s first mother, in “The Goldbergs.” The show first aired in 1949 – a whopping 65 years ago. The list concludes with Wendy McLendon-Covey who plays Beverly Goldberg on “The Goldbergs,” the highly rated first-year series.
The list is in chronological order and includes shows from the major networks and excludes animated series.
Molly Goldberg (Gertrude Berg) – “The Goldbergs,” 1949-54. Child: Sammy (Larry Robinson).
Gracie Allen (herself) – “George Burns & Gracie Allen Show,” 1950-58. Child: Ronnie (himself).
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) – “I Love Lucy” 1951-57. Child: Little Ricky (Joseph A. Mayer and Michael Mayer).
Harriet Nelson (played herself) — “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet,” 1952-66. Children: David and Ricky (played themselves).
Margaret Anderson (Jane Wyatt) – “Father Knows Best” 1954-60. Children: Betty (Elinor Donahue), Bud (Billy Gray) and Kathy (Lauren Chapin).
June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) – “Leave it to Beaver” 1957-63. Children: Wally (Tony Dow) and Theodore “Beaver” (Jerry Mathers).
Donna Stone (Donna Reed) – “The Donna Reed Show” 1958-66. Children: Mary (Shelly Fabares), Jeff (Paul Petersen) and Trisha (Patty Petersen).
Laurie Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) – “Dick Van Dyke Show” 1961-66. Child: Richie (Larry Mathews),
Samantha Stevens (Elizabeth Montgomery) – “Bewitched” 1964-72. Child: Tabitha (Erin Murphy).
Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) – “The Brady Bunch” 1969-74. Children: Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb), Cindy (Susan Olsen), Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland).
Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones) – “The Partridge Family” 1970-74. Children: Keith (David Cassidy), Laurie (Susan Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Tracy (Suzanne Crough) and Chris (Brian Forster).
Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) – “All in the Family” 1971-79. Child: Gloria (Sally Struthers).
Olivia Walton (Miss Michael Learned) – “The Waltons” 1971-81. Children: John-Boy (Richard Thomas and Robert Wightman), Jason (Jon Walmsley), Mary Ellen (Judy Norton), Ben (Eric Scott), Erin (Mary McDonough), Jim-Bob (David W. Harper) and Elizabeth (Kami Cotler).
Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) – “Good Times” 1974-79. Children: JJ (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (BernNadette Stanis) and Michael (Ralph Carter).
Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross) – “Happy Days” 1974-84. Children: Chuck (Gavan O’Herlihy), Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran).
Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle) – “Little House on the Prairie” 1974-83. Children: Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Carrie (Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush).
Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) – “One day at a Time” 1975-84. Children: Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli).
Kate Lawrence (Sada Thompson) – “Family” 1976-80. Children: Nancy (Meredith Baxter Birney), Willie (Gary Frank) and Buddy (Kristry McNichol).
Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) – “Family Ties” 1982-89. Children: Alex (Michael J. Fox), Mallory (Justine Bateman) and Jennifer (Tina Yothers),
Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) – “The Cosby Show” 1984-92. Children: Sondra (Sabrina LeBeauf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam).
Angela Bower (Judith Light) – “Who’s the Boss?” 1984-92. Child: Jonathan (Danny Pintauro).
Maggie Malone Seaver (Joanna Kerns) – “Growing Pains” 1985-92. Children: Mike (Kirk Cameron), Carol (Tracey Gold), Ben (Jeremy Miller) and Chrissy (Ashley Johnson).
Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal) – “Married … With Children” 1987-97. Children: Kelly (Christina Applegate) and Bud (David Faustino).
Norma Arnold (Alley Mills) – “The Wonder Years” 1988-93. Children: Karen (Oliva d’Abo), Wayne (Jason Hervey) and Kevin (Fred Savage).
Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) – “Roseanne” 1988-97. Children: Becky, (Alicia Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and D.J. (Michael Fishman).
Katharine Howser (Belinda Montgomery) – “Doogie Howser” M.D. 1989-93. Child: Doogie (Neil Patrick Harris).
Vivian Banks (Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid) – “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” 1990-96. Children: Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hillary (Karyn Parsons) and Ashley (Tatyana M. Ali).
Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson) – “Home Improvement” 1991-99. Children: Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Mark (Taran Noah Smith).
Nora Walker (Sally Field) – “Brothers & Sisters” 2006-2011. Children: Kitty (Calista Flockhart), Sarah (Rachel Griffiths), Kevin (Matthew Rhys), Tommy (Balthazar Getty) and Justin (Dave Annable).
Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) — “Modern Family” 2009-present. Children: Alex (Ariel Winter), Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Luke (Nolan Gould).
Beverly Goldberg (Wendy McLendon-Covey) — “The Goldbergs” 2013-present. Children: Adam (Sean Giambrone), Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Haley Orrantia).
Frank Wilcox Film Festival
March 21-22, 2014 in De Soto, Missouri
Frank Wilcox was an American character actor who made appearances in more than 150 films and nearly 200 episodes of television programs. I remember him as a very kind man when he worked with us on three episodes of Leave it to Beaver which included:
The State Versus Beaver (1958) … District Court Judge
The Tooth (1959) … Dr. Frederick W. Harrison, DDS
Eddie Quits School (1962) … Mr. Farmer
Frank’s best known television role was that of the oil executive John Brewster in the first season of the CBS sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies. He also played many other memorable characters in The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys, I Love Lucy, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Perry Mason, The Untouchables, The Munsters, and The Lone Ranger, to name only a few!
Some of Frank’s most famous film roles include They Died with Their Boots On, Santa Fe Trail, and The Greatest Show on Earth starring Charlton Heston.
The second-annul Frank Wilcox Film Festival will kick off on March 21-22, 2014, in De Soto, Missouri which was Frank’s birth place. Come join us!
Santa Claus Lane Parade 1960!
Here is vintage footage of the Santa Claus Lane parade in 1960. You will see Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and me at 12:12 in the video. Hugh Beaumont was in Minnesota at his property where he grew Christmas trees. He brought them out to Los Angeles and sold them at his Christmas tree lot.
This brings back lots of memories! Who else in the parade do you remember?