‘Leave It To Beaver’: The Original Wally Cleaver Was Replaced After a Growth Spurt

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Here’s something classic TV fans might not know and that’s Tony Dow was not the original choice to play Wally on Leave It To Beaver. That’s right. He happened to get the role while accompanying a friend to the studio. But the original actor who played Wally in the pilot had an issue. Let’s take a look at the situation.

Actor Paul Sullivan played Wally Cleaver in the show’s pilot. What happened to take him out of the spotlight? A growth spurt. Yes, after filming the pilot, Sullivan was growing and, well, grew out of the role. Sullivan would have been a household name for years to come. Still, that didn’t happen. Out was Sullivan and in was Dow. The rest, as they say, is television history. We get more from MeTV.

Nuclear Family Just One Aspect Of ‘Leave It To Beaver’ For Fans To Watch

Leave It To Beaver was a show that would reflect the nuclear family at a time when it was popular. Shows like Father Knows Best also reflected this pattern, too. But watching how the Cleaver family would deal with life’s issues has provided hours of enjoyment. This sitcom often would take the silliness of family life and make it bigger. It’s been reported over the years that the show’s creators would use real-life events for storylines.

About that coffee cup on the billboard? Well, it might have been something from real life. Also, it might have been something taken out of context and blown up for a sitcom. The show remains beloved because people tend to laugh and enjoy seeing what the Beaver gets into all the time.

Jerry Mathers Talks About The Timeless Elements Of TV Sitcom

One time, Jerry Mathers described the show as timeless. “It’s kind of a timeless story of a boy growing up in the United States of America,” he said in an interview. “It’s things that happened to kids in the 50s, 40s, 30s, are still happening today, happened in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. So, it’s a timeless story about a child growing up in America.

“You have Wally, his big brother, who really knows the ropes and kind of guides him through,” Mathers said. “You have Eddie Haskell [Ken Osmond], he’s – not the villain, but – he’s kind of the wise guy who always gets Beaver in trouble. I think it’s something all children can relate to. Everyone knows what it’s like to be the little kid, and have your parents tell you to do something that maybe you don’t want to. [A] Lot of them have a friend… who’s always telling you, ‘Your parents told you to do that, but this’ll be a lot more fun.'”