Leave it to Beaver aired from 1957 to 1963 and quickly rose in popularity as the archetypal suburban family of this wholesome era (or at least some sort of idealized alternate universe). Despite its cheesy quaintness from today’s point of view, the iconic family show imparted some solid life lessons to multiple generations of viewers around the world and has earned its place in TV history. It was one of the first primetime sitcom series written from a child’s point of view, and it is still a fan favorite today. Here are some facts about the classic show you might not have heard before.
1. It was never revealed what state the Cleaver family lived in
Many people tried to figure out where the Cleaver’s lived but it was never specified. One time Beaver wanted to buy a surfboard which led people to believe that they might be close to the beach. Another time Wally mentioned the governor living in Madison which led people to believe that they were in Wisconsin. They left it vague so it could be anywhere (kind of like The Simpson’s Springfield).
2. The stock town footage came from Illinois
There is one episode where footage of Mayfield is shown, which was shot it in Skokie, Illinois. None of the actors were there for this filming.
3. There’s a reason June Cleaver always wore heels
June Cleaver was always seen in heels from a certain point in the show on, but it wasn’t just because they looked nice or fit into her prim and proper character description. The producers actually suggested the wardrobe choice when her TV sons started going through growth spurts and were threatening to tower over her.
4. There’s also a reason she wore pearls
The pearl necklace was ever present on June, but that was not a character choice either. Actress Barbara Billingsley made that choice herself since the necklace was good at covering up a surgical scar that she had on her neck.
5. The show had the first “series finale” with flashbacks
Prior to Leave it to Beaver only one show ever had a designated “series finale” to finish it off, which was Howdy Doody in 1960. Leave it to Beaver ended with a retrospective flashback episode called “Family Scrapbook” where all the characters gather to reminisce over old photographs. It was a nice way to wrap up a series rather than just ending abruptly with some random episode. Flashbacks are now a commonly used device on TV sitcoms and dramas, and most long running series cap off with a grand finale.
6. Hugh Beaumont resented the show
Hugh Beaumont, who played patriarch Ward Cleaver, was a deeply religious man who was actually an ordained minister. He only started acting to supplement his income when he was assigned to be a pastor in a community that didn’t pay. He chose to live in Minnesota and commute for work on the show. His family had to drive out to LA once the pilot was picked up but, sadly, on the way they got in a car accident that killed his mother-in-law. He never got over the regret.
7. Tony Dow had no acting experience
Tony Dow had no acting experience when he was cast as big brother Wally on the show. He had been suggested for a different pilot because of his athletic experience as a Junior Olympics diving champion. While that show didn’t sell, the producers remembered him when it came time to cast Leave it to Beaver and the rest is history.
8. But Jerry Mathers had plenty
Jerry Mathers began his professional career at the age of two and a half. He was shopping with his mom at the Broadway Shopping Mall in downtown Los Angeles where he was spotted by a store employee who wanted him to model in their catalogue. Things just took off from there, including commercials and multiple movies.
9. Frank Bank claimed to be a ladies man
Frank Bank played Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford, on of Wally’s pals, and he made sure to let people know that he did not have the same troubles with the ladies that his character did on screen. He wrote in his autobiography that he had slept with over 1,000 women. Good to know.
10. He also couldn’t get any roles after the show ended
Frank Bank was so typecast from the show that he ended up quitting the business. He was once offered a role in a pilot about the Archie comic books, but it didn’t work out. A rep for one of the potential sponsors of the show said: “I love the show, but I can’t get it out of my head that that’s Lumpy on screen, not Archie.”
11. So he became a stockbroker instead
Frank Bank became a stockbroker and ended up pulling in around $300,000 a year by the time he was 30. His client list included Jerry Mathers (Beaver), Tony Dow (Wally Cleaver), and Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), so Lumpy did alright for himself.
12. Hugh Beaumont was not the first choice to play the father
A different actor, Max Showalter, was initially cast to play the stalwart dad in the show and he even shot the pilot. The episode never aired and they ended up replacing him with Hugh Beaumont, who is forever Ward in our hearts and minds.
13. The show did not end because of bad ratings
Generally shows get their plug pulled when the ratings drop and they are no longer profitable, but this was not the case with Leave it to Beaver. What happened was Jerry Mathers was headed to high school and wanted to focus on his studies. Production knew it wouldn’t be the same without him, so they ended things there after six great years.
14. Jerry Mathers was turned down by the Marines
There were once rumors circulating that Jerry Mathers died in Vietnam, but he was actually turned down by the Marines. At the time that he went to enlist, a football player had recently died on duty and they needed want any more negative publicity for losing All-American icons. He joined the Air National Guard instead.
15. Eddie Haskell became fodder for urban legends
There were also plenty of rumors and urban legends about what happened to Ken Osmond, who played the obnoxious sycophant Eddie Haskell. Some said the actor was the rock star Alice Cooper, while others said he had become a porn star! The truth is that he became a policeman in Los Angeles and was actually shot in the line of duty, a scare that he survived.
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