According to Leave it to Beaver star Tony Dow, life on the set of his classic TV show was just as wholesome off-screen as it was on.
The 1950s and 60s series followed the life of all-American kid Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver. Each week, he got himself into some good-natured trouble. And after, his adoring family would be by his side to teach him some loving lessons over a home-cooked meal.
Leave it to Beaver quite literally defined the ideal suburb lifestyle during its run and portrayed how a well-manner family was supposed to behave. But despite the Cleavers appearing so perfect to viewers, nasty rumors surrounded the actors’ real-life relationships.
During a 2019 interview with Fox News, Tony Dow, who played Beaver’s older brother Wally, shared that people were constantly claiming that the cast members would argue between scenes. But Dow said those stories couldn’t be further from the truth. And furthermore, his TV bosses strived to make sure he and his fellow child star didn’t turn into prime time divas.
“We never had any of that [fighting],” he admitted. “They wanted us to be as much of a family as possible, for Jerry[Mathers] and I to very much be like regular kids.”
The Leave it to Beaver execs had a clever tactic to keep Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers humble, too. They instructed the boys’ families to keep their fame under wraps.
“They actually asked our parents not to let us watch the show on TV so we wouldn’t get a big head,” he shared. “So there are probably some episodes that I haven’t seen yet… And there was no swearing on set at all, not even from the crew. They wanted to keep it as family-friendly as possible at all times.”
But, of course, those efforts only went so far.
Tony Dow Didn’t Want his ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Character Define Him
Because Leave it to Beaver was a smash hit, Tony Dow’s family couldn’t shield him from stardom for long. It was only a short time before every family in America knew about Beaver and Wally’s misadventures. And almost everyone could recognize the stars on the street.
And though Dow was only a kid when he started with the show, it didn’t take long for him to realize that playing Wally would define his life. Unfortunately, that revelation led to years of discontent.
While talking with the CBS Sunday Morning Show, Dow admitted that his role stunted his career. He felt that he had peaked too early. And when he grew up and wanted to continue a career in film, directors couldn’t see past Wally Cleaver.
Because of that, the actor spent years of his life suffering from severe anger and depression.
“It’s a very powerful thing,” Dow said. “And it’s had a lot of effect on my life.”
Luckily, his wife Lauren helped Dow navigate his feelings and come out the other side. And while he never again reached the same level of screen side fame as he did in Leave it to Beaver, he still made a lifelong career in Hollywood.
“I’m very proud of him for talking about it, for dealing with it, and for sharing it with others,” Lauren said.