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‘Leave It to Beaver’ Cast — Find Out What Happened to the Cleaver Family

In TV history, few sitcoms have the same lasting heartfelt effect as this beloved cast

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It’s been 66 years since it began, but Leave It to Beaver, and, of course, the Leave It to Beaver cast, has lost none of its connection with television viewers who have handed the show down from one generation to the next.

It ran from 1957 to 1963, bringing families together week after week for six seasons and 234 episodes, and the audience couldn’t get enough of the gentle comedic dynamics of the Cleaver clan. Starring were Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley as parents Ward and June Cleaver, with Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers playing their sons, Wally and Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver. And what’s kind of amazing is that lightning would strike again in the form of the 1983 TV movie Still the Beaver, which was so popular that it spawned the made-for-cable television series The New Leave It to Beaver, which itself ran four seasons and 101 episodes that brought together the Leave It to Beaver cast with the exception of Beaumont, who had passed away in 1982.

Join us for a look back at the stars of this beloved sitcom.

(MUST READ: 1950s Sitcoms — 40 Classic (and Not So Classic) Shows, and Where to Stream Them)

Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver

Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont
Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as June and Ward Cleaver.©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

If ever there was a voice of reason on a family sitcom, it was Hugh Beaumont, head of the Leave it To Beaver cast, and what he brought to the role of Ward Cleaver. Born Eugene Hugh Beaumont on February 16, 1909 in Endora, Kanas, he would graduate in 1946 with a Master of Theology degree from the University of Southern California.

Interestingly, he was drawn to the world of acting just as much as he was theology. He got started on the former by becoming a radio performer and working in nightclubs and on stage. Phantom Raiders (1940) was his first movie, though it was an uncredited role. Between that film and the premiere of Leave It to Beaver, he would appear in 86 movies. Strangely, there would only be one movie after the show ended its run, The Human Duplicators (1965).

John Agar, Cynthia Patrick and Hugh Beaumont
John Agar, Cynthis Patrick and Hugh Beaumont in the 1956 sci-fi flick The Mole People.©NBCUniversal/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

On television he made a couple of dozen guest appearances on different shows, and starred in 33 episodes of Racket Squad (1952 to 1953). When Leave It to Beaver ended, he only appeared on episodes of shows like Lassie, Wagon Train, Petticoat Junction, The Virginian, Mannix, Medical Center, Marcus Welby, M.D. and his final role, a 1971 episode of The Most Deadly Game.

Jerry Mathers and Hugh Beaumont
Jerry Mathers and Hugh Beaumont in Leave It to Beaver.©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

YouTube user Dave Sundstrom said of Beaumont, “During breaks between jobs, Hugh and his family would spend their time in Minnesota, far away from the entertainment industry and all the trappings that came along with it. Hugh absolutely loved the time away. it allowed him to focus on being a better man, a better husband and a better father to his kids.”

Although he did some community theater work, in 1972 he suffered a stroke that he never really recovered from. He moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where he became a Christmas tree farmer. Accompanying him was his wife, Kathryn Adams Doty, who he married in 1941; and their three kids: Hunter, Kristy and Mark. Beaumont died of a heart attack on May 14, 1982.

MUST-READ: Hugh Beaumont — Get to Know the Dad from Leave It to Beaver

Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver

Barbara Billingsley
Barbara Billingsley on Leave It to Beaver and at a 2004 event.Getty

When you think of TV moms from the 1950s it’s really hard to beat June Cleaver as portrayed by Barbara Billingsley. Not only did she seem to have infinite patience for her boys, but she cleaned the house in dresses and pearls. Did your mom do that?

Born Barbara Lillian Combes on December 22, 1915 in Los Angeles, she left Los Angeles Junior college after a year to become part of a revue titled Straw Hat. She accompanied the show on its move to Broadway, not realizing it would close five shows in. Undaunted, she decided to stay in New York to look for work, which she found as a fashion model.

A 1945 contract with MGM led her to move back to LA, where she starred in a large number of films, but in uncredited roles. Unsatisfied, she thought she would give television a try and that ended up being a very different situation. There were many guest star roles, as well as a starring one in the single season sitcom Professional Father in 1955. Just two years later, she became part of the Leave It to Beaver cast.

Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers
A mom and son moment between Barbara Billingsley’s June Cleaver and Jerry Mathers’ Beaver Cleaver. ©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

Like most actors from that era, when her hit show came to a close, she found herself terribly typecast. That being said, it turned out that there was a whole new audience waiting to see her as the passenger in 1980’s Airplane who reassures the flight attendant that “I speak jive,” so that she can help a couple of sick Black passengers. It was hysterical and she was delighted to do it, telling, the Archive of American Television, “I was cast because I’d been June Cleaver. I was sent the script and I thought it was the craziest script I’ve ever seen. My part wasn’t written. It just said I talked jive. I met the producer and I said I would do it. I met the two black fellows that taught me jive … It wasn’t hard for me to learn.” And it went over so well that she found she had become as well known for that part as she had been for Leave It to Beaver.

That being said, June re-entered her life in 1983 when, co-starring with Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow in the TV reunion movie and follow-up series. That show connected with the audience due to the fact it was very much in the vein of the original, only this time Wally and Beaver were parents dealing with their own kids.

She was married three times and had two kids. She died at the age of 94 on October 16, 2010 of polymyalgia.

Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers
Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers.©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

Of her most remembered role, she told TV Guide in 1997, “Some people think she was weakfish, but I don’t. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I think the character kind of became me and vice versa. I’ve never known where one started and where one stopped.” We definitely understand.

MUST-READ: Barbara Billingsley — 12 Secrets About June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver

Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver

Tony Dow
Tony Dow on Leave It to Beaver and at an event in 2017.L-R: ©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com; Hollywood to You/Star Max/GC Images

One of the admirable things about the Leave It to Beaver cast is the fact siblings Wally and Beaver never really got into insulting each other or hurting each other’s feelings in anything more than a passing way. Obviously the scripts had a lot to do with it, but some credit has to go to actor Tony Dow, who was probably one of the most mellow older brothers in sitcom history. Even when he was upset, he spoke in a relatively calm voice.

Dow was born on April 13, 1945 in Hollywood. Rather than pursue it, he found himself more or less accidentally getting in to the entertainment business. When he was younger, swimming was his life and he had become a junior diving champion with a national record. A lifeguard, who was trying to become an actor, had an audition for a father role and, thinking that he and Tony had a resemblance to each other, asked his mom if the boy could accompany him.. She said yes, but irony decided it would be funny for the older guy not to get the part, but Tony to get hired.

As Tony told Fox News, “The show was called Johnny Wildlife and would’ve been the first color series on television about a wildlife photographer and his son. It was way ahead of its time.” The pilot did not go to series, but Wally and the Beaver — eventually retitled Leave It to Beaver — did.

Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow Leave It to Beaver Cast
Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow in a behind-the-scenes moment from Leave It to Beaver.©CBS/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

A few guest appearances followed the end of the show, but, as with the rest of the Leave It to Beaver cast, getting noticed for something else was tough. In 1977, the creators of the movie Airplane wrote the spoof Kentucky Fried Movie, which featured a courtroom scene that included Dow as Wally. Additionally, he joined Billingsley and Mathers in The New Leave It to Beaver, which opened up the possibility for him to direct. Following its run, he went on to helm episodes of Harry and the Hendersons, Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Tony Dow in Kentucky Fried Movie Leave It to Beaver Cast
Tony Dow has some fun with Leave It to Beaver in the 1977 film Kentucky Fried Movie.©United Film Distribution/YouTube

As time went on, Dow was diagnosed with clinical depression and withdrew a bit, which had the one benefit of allowing him to devote himself to become a sculptor of abstract bronze statues. Sadly, though, he also waged a battle with liver cancer, which he died of on July 27, 2022 at the age of 77. He was married twice and had one son.

Jerry Mathers as The Beaver

Jerry Mathers Leave It to Beaver Cast
In February 2023, Jerry Mathers attends The Hollywood Show held at Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport. Getty

Outside of Ron Howard, you’d be hard-pressed to find another child actor who survived a childhood in front of the TV cameras with the exception of Jerry Mathers. Born Gerald Patrick Mathers on June 2, 1948 in Sioux City, Iowa, he actually started his career at the advanced age of 2, becoming a model for a department store ad. Then came a PET Milk commercial featuring vaudeville comedian Ed Wynn; followed by four movies, including director Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Trouble with Harry (1955). By the time he joined the Leave It to Beaver cast, he was already an old pro.

Following the cancellation of the series, Mathers decided to try living something of a normal life, attending Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. At the same time he was part of a band called Beaver and the Trappers. Then, when he attended high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserves. Although he achieved the rank of sergeant, he never actually saw combat. From there, he worked as a bank loan officer in the 1970s, and then elected to use his savings from his acting days to involve himself in the world of real estate.

Jerry Mathers Leave It to Beaver Cast
Jerry Mathers when he was in the Air ForceUS Air Force

He and Tony Dow starred in the stage comedy Boeing, Boeing, which enjoyed a 10-week run in Kansas City. Next up was an 18-month dinner theater tour of the show So Long, Stanley. Clearly still looking to try different things, in 1981 he worked as a disc jockey before he and the rest of the Leave it To Beaver cast reunited for that movie and follow-up series. All of which was thrilling to him.

“All of us were determined to do the show the exact same way,” he told Closer Weekly, “which meant all of the episodes are, again, from real life and not situation comedy. The show was very easy for me to do, because I knew everybody. These are people that I grew up with and liked. There wasn’t anybody where we said, ‘Oh, we don’t want that person back.’ You know, we’d see each other every once in a while over the years, but it wasn’t like a day to day thing. So it was a wonderful reunion.”

In 1996 his life took a bit of a turn when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a situation he’s worked on ever since, even going so far at one point as becoming a spokesperson for Jenny Craig and spending a great deal of his time making the public aware of the disease and what they can do to combat it.

Currently 75, Mathers has been married three times, the most recent being to Teresa Modnick, who he wed in 2011. He has three children.


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