‘Leave It to Beaver’ Actors Jerry Mathers and Stephen Talbot Discuss the Art of ‘Looping’

by John Jamison

From 1957-1963, “Leave It to Beaver” depicted the ins and outs of everyday life for the Cleaver family. Jerry Mathers, the actor responsible for the title character Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, picked up plenty of show business knowledge during his time on the show.

Nearly 60 years later, Mathers and his co-star, Stephen Talbot, who played Gilbert Bates, sat down to talk about some of the experiences they shared on “Leave It to Beaver.” In a Youtube video reunion from March 2021, the pair of former co-stars discussed a few tricks of the trade.

Back in the “Leave It to Beaver” days, the technique for adding dialogue to something after it was already filmed was called looping.

“For people who don’t know, that’s when you go outside, airplanes fly over and big trucks drive by. So then you’re watching yourself on the screen and you have to perfectly match whatever you said. And it can be a long line and everything has to match otherwise it’s out of sync. So if you ever see an out-of-sync person talking outside it’s because they didn’t loop very good,” Mathers said in the video.

Basically, if a plane flies over the set in the middle of a take, the audio becomes unusable. In post-production, actors will watch the scene as they speak their lines into a studio microphone.

“It’s called looping because it’s a loop of tape and it just goes around with your couple words over and over. You try to get it exactly the same rhythm so your lips will match,” Mathers added.

“Yeah, and what I remember, at Universal, there was the airport, now Bob Hope. But the airport wasn’t that far away so we did get planes outdoors,” Talbot responded.

These ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Techniques Are Still Used Today

You will rarely ever notice someone’s lips moving out of sync with the actual audio in a show or movie. But you’d be surprised by how often the voices you’re hearing are recorded after the scene itself. And while it used to be done with a physical loop of tape for reference, it’s all managed digitally now. These days, the art is commonly referred to as ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement).

The best example of obvious ADR is in a dubbed show or movie. Say a movie was filmed in Chinese. If the version you’re watching is dubbed in English, the audio will never match the actors’ lips. The voice-over actors will still try their best to match the timing, but it will always look a little off. This became a signature of martial arts movies over the years.