6 Things You Didn't Know About Leave It To Beaver!

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Picture 7.pngGee, Ms. Kovalchik, that's a lovely TV-Holic column you have this week"¦ Whenever someone needs to describe the idyllic American life in one capsulated phrase, they usually utter Leave It to Beaver. On one hand, those black-and-white reruns do make the Cleaver family seem as if they existed in some pristine alternate universe, where everyone dressed for dinner and Mom always had cookies and milk at the ready. But on the other, many of the situations were very real and still resonate today. Younger brothers still feel left out when their older siblings discover girls, there are stupid dares that will intimidate even the most level-headed kid in class into attempting dangerous stunts, and parents are still often clueless when it comes to what a kid has to do to not be labeled a "creep."

1. The Reason June Cleaver Always Wore Heels and Pearls

Picture 51.pngOne common criticism of Leave It to Beaver is that June, the Cleaver matriarch, always vacuumed and washed dishes while wearing high heels. However, actress Barbara Billingsley actually wore flats during the first season of the show; she started wearing heels at the suggestion of the producers once her TV "sons" experienced growth spurts. They wanted June to tower above her boys if at all possible. And that omnipresent strand of pearls was strictly Billingsley's idea "“ she used them to conceal a surgical scar on her neck.

2. Beaver Gets Turned Down by the Marines for being Too American

Picture 61.pngJerry Mathers got into show business at the tender age of two and a half. His mother had taken him shopping at the Broadway Shopping Mall in downtown Los Angeles and was approached by a store employee. The store was shooting photos for its Christmas catalog up on the 10th floor, and the employee thought young Jerry would be a perfect model for children's clothing. By the time he auditioned for the role of Beaver Cleaver, his resumé was filled with TV and film credits. Contrary to urban legend, Jerry Mathers did not die in Vietnam; however, he was turned down by the Marines when he tried to enlist. A very prominent former NFL star had just been killed in action, and Mathers was told that the Marine Corps could not afford any further negative publicity should a popular former child star suffer the same fate. If he insisted upon enlisting, he would be kept Stateside. Mathers joined the Air National Guard instead.

3. Eddie Haskell Grows up to be a Cop

Describe someone today as an "Eddie Haskell" and most people will immediately know what you mean. Actor Ken Osmond played the oily and unctuous Eddie to such perfection that 40 years later his character is a cultural reference. Osmond (no relation to the singing family), like Mathers, was the subject of a couple of urban legends. Just to clarify "“ he didn't grow up to be either shock-rocker Alice Cooper or porn star John Holmes. He grew up to be an L.A. police officer who was shot three times in the line of duty and was saved by his body armor. Enjoy this bit of typical Eddie behavior as he smoothly transitions from sucking up to the parents to getting Wally and Beav in a heap o' trouble:

4. Why Mr. Cleaver Resented the Show

Hugh Beaumont was a deeply religious man and obtained his Master of Theology degree from USC in 1946. He only turned to acting after he was assigned as pastor to a community that couldn't afford to pay him. To supplement his income, he first did ads and serials on radio. When he made the transition to television, he was usually cast as the "bad guy" until Leave It to Beaver came along. Beaumont was always professional on the set and friendly to the kids, but he harbored a deep sadness that he blamed on the show. He lived with his family part of the year in Minnesota, and he usually drove his crew to L.A. when it was time to work. However, because filming on Beaver began rather abruptly after the pilot sold, Beaumont had to fly to California, leaving his son Hunter to drive Beaumont's wife and her mother out west. Hunter lost control of the car along the way, and Beaumont's mother-in-law was killed in the crash.

5. A Pool of Talent

Picture 33.pngUnlike his TV brother, Tony Dow had no previous acting experience. A Junior Olympics diving champion, he went to his first audition at the request of the lifeguard who worked at the pool where he worked out. (The lifeguard was up for a role and needed an athletic youth who could dive off of cliffs to play his son.) That particular pilot didn't sell, but the producers remembered Dow when they were casting the role of Beaver's older brother, a high school jock who lettered in almost every sport.

6. Lumpy Pulls a Wilt Chamberlain

Picture 11.pngJust like his character Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford, actor Frank Bank was the only one of the LITB kids to own his own car. But that was about the only thing Bank had in common with the lumbering Daddy's boy he portrayed. Bank was quick to point out in his autobiography that he has bedded over 1,000 women. That's right "“ Lumpy Dumpy the Big Smelly Ape had something of a Wilt Chamberlain vibe. Or so he says.

What's your favorite Beaver episode? The one where he falls into the giant soup bowl? Or maybe the one where Wally insists on being allowed to buy his own suit and returns home with a multi-pocketed yellow plaid number? It's hard for me to choose, but I tend to lean toward "Wally's Haircomb," where Wally adopts the latest hairstyle, the Jellyroll. The producers let the audience know just how subversive and counter-cultural this style was by playing wild hep-cat music every time the greasy "˜do was shown onscreen. Do take time after watching this clip to share your LITB memories.

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March 20, 2009 - 8:01am
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