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/
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!
Leave it to Beaver 50th Anniversary – 2007 – Good Morning America
Happy anniversary Leave it to Beaver! Our very first episode aired on October 4, 1957 and we then shot 235 episodes. The last first-run was in June of 1963. The show then went into re-runs and is still airing today…the longest running scripted show in television history!
Leave it to Beaver has had a great run and it is still relevant and humorous. I am glad to have had the privilege of being a part of this iconic television phenomenon which has made me friends all over the world. I truly treasure all my memories of the cast, crew and fans, many of whom are lifelong friends. When I look back, all of this has contributed to a great life!
Before Leave It to Beaver, Hugh Beaumont and I filmed a promotional commercial for Rose Hills Memorial Park. Many thanks to my dear mother who told Hugh that the producers from Leave It to Beaver were looking to cast the father in the new television series that I was just hired for, and she thought he would be perfect. He auditioned, got the part and the rest is history!
Here is the 1955 film in living color!
I marvel at all the Internet can accomplish. It has risen historical research to unbelievable heights and refreshed as well as restored memories to people today that past generations could not even have conceived possible. That’s how the wonder of it all struck me when I saw that a small, commercial film Jerry did about 55 years ago about Rose Hills Memorial Park had been retrieved and I could view it on this website.
It brought back memories of a pleasant summer morning when Jerry and I walked into the Jerry Fairbanks Studio in Hollywood to work in a small commercial film.
During the day, as there were break times in the filming, I became acquainted with the actor, Hugh Beaumont, who was playing the role of Jerry's father. He was a nice looking, very personable man and soon we began an interesting conversation about the state of things in Hollywood at the time.
To digress a bit - this was a time, that today seems to be forgotten, when television was just entering into the average home and families were wildly excited to get their entertainment right in their own living rooms. Prior to this phenomenon of TV they went frequently to a neighborhood theater to watch movies. This lack of audiences for movies was devastating to the film industry and resulted in the big studio lots being empty of production and millionaire movie moguls going bankrupt. Working actors were devastated as there just wasn't any work to be had.
Hugh lamented how bad things were for him as he had a wife and three children to support. He said he was thinking of getting out of acting and into some other line of work. Well, as providence would have it, I had something very interesting to tell him. I told him my son, Jerry, had done a pilot which had sold and was going into production very soon and that they were replacing the original father and holding auditions. I said, "It might be too late. They may have already cast someone but here's the information where the interviews are being held."
That night, when Jerry was saying his bedtime prayers, he ended with, "Please God make the actor I worked with today my father in the new series."
When Jerry walked into that very first day of rehearsals for Leave it to Beaver he was overjoyed to see his prayers were answered and Hugh Beaumont was cast as Ward Cleaver!
Here is the commercial…