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!