‘Leave It to Beaver’: Gilbert Actor Recalls Set as ‘Friendly’ for Child Stars

by Joe Rutland

Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert in the classic TV show Leave It to Beaver, had a lot of acting experiences in his career. His face not only was seen on the sitcom but in shows like The Twilight Zone and even The Lucy Show. Sometimes, being a child actor can bring problems with it. Yet in looking back on his time as part of the show, Talbot remembers that the set was a pretty welcoming place for child stars.

“We were professionals,” Talbot said in an interview with Best Classic Bands. “My dad [actor Lyle Talbot] always stressed have fun, do it as long as you like it. But remember, it’s a job. We all knew that we were working in an adult world. There were some times when there was pressure on the set, too many takes. The Leave It to Beaver set was really friendly and low-key compared to most. But even then, there were tensions. The one guy who would rile us up and cause trouble was Richard (Correll). He would get us to flub lines.”

Stephen Talbot Of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Remembers One Uptight Director

Talbot would also remember one director for the show starring Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow named David Butler. This man, according to Talbot, directed many of the show’s episodes and even did some Shirley Temple movies. He picks up that story here. “He was a big man and an old pro,” Talbot said. “In one episode, we were supposed to be running around, jumping over couches in the Cleaver living room, and Richard riled us up and we were just wrecking scenes.”

This did not sit well with the director as Talbot recalls the scene. “The director finally called us over and he was so nervous, the poor guy, he lit a cigarette and put it into his mouth and started to smoke it the wrong way,” Talbot said. “I remember looking at this guy and thinking, oh my God, this is really serious. We’d better chill here.”

Child Actor Would Leave Business, Go Into Making Documentaries

After being a child actor, Talbot actually left show business as a young teenager. He wanted to do things most teenage boys did like play sports. His parents would also ask him if he had a test coming up and understand if he didn’t want to work. Yes, it was work for Talbot. But his life would still involve him being in front of a camera.

It just wasn’t as an actor. For some people who are avid public television viewers, then his face might be pretty familiar. Talbot would go on to have a career with PBS and San Francisco station KQED. He would do documentaries about a lot of different subjects.