‘Leave It to Beaver’ Show Producers Were Under Pressure to Film the Show Each Day Due to Strict Rules

by Jennifer Shea

“Leave It to Beaver” was a show about idyllic if sometimes mischievous childhood times that aired from 1957 to 1963. And while it portrayed a somewhat slow-paced suburban lifestyle, behind the scenes, the creation of the show was anything but relaxed.

In a “Leave It to Beaver” reunion on “The Bob Katzen Show,” stars Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver Cleaver, and Steven Talbot, who played Beaver’s best friend Gilbert Bates, talked about the tight time constraints the show’s cast and crew faced when they were filming the show. Those stemmed from the strict rules pertaining to child actors on the set.

“People don’t realize it, but when we were there, we were under the gun, really, because we could only work 8 to 5 or 9 to 6” on ‘Leave It to Beaver,'” Mathers recalled. “So if they didn’t get us, that welfare worker would walk right in and say, ‘Sorry, the boys are leaving now.’ And they were going, ‘But wait a minute, we’ve got three more scenes to do!’”

Tight Time Constraints Affected ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Directors, Too

Then the grown-up child actors got to talking about the different directors they had to deal with while working on “Leave It to Beaver.” Their favorite was probably Hugh Beaumont. He also played Ward Cleaver.

“You would always get out early when Hugh Beaumont was directing [‘Leave It to Beaver’],” Mathers said.

“That’s right,” Talbot chimed in. But “the one guy, I’ll never forget, you said was a nervous guy… Remember David Butler?”

“Yes,” Mathers replied. “He was an old-time director that worked with a lot of the old movies that you see on the retro channels. But he was always probably the most nervous person. And he was always saying [on the set of ‘Leave It to Beaver’], ‘We’re behind, guys. Come on. You gotta help me. You’re killing me here. You’re killing me here. The kids are leaving in 20 minutes and we got 40 shots to shoot. Come on guys, run, run.’”

Butler was an actor, director, producer and screenwriter who died in 1979. He came from a family of actors and was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. In addition to directing “Leave It to Beaver,” he also directed more than 30 films, including Shirley Temple movies and “Kentucky,” for which Walter Brennan won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

“He was the guy – and I swear to God, I remember this so well – he was so nervous one time directing as we were behind, he lit a cigarette and put it into his mouth the wrong way,” Talbot recalled. “And I was just sitting there going like… ‘Wow, adults are really weird.’”