Jerry Mathers was a star at a young age. He wasn’t even ten when he took on the role of the youngest Cleaver boy in “Leave it to Beaver.” The show remains one of the most popular shows to ever hit the airwaves. Mathers didn’t let the fame change him, though. Even at a young age, he knew what he wanted and didn’t want. Likewise, he knew that there were some things he wouldn’t do. That’s why when one script came in, he refused to go along with it.
The “Leave it to Beaver” star spoke about the classic show and his life with The Television Academy. During that interview, they asked if Mathers ever had any influence on the scripts for the show. He said that sometimes anecdotes from his life would get worked into episodes. He also noted the one time he refused to do a scene. His refusal to follow the script caused the writers to revise the episode.
The scene in the “Leave it to Beaver” script that made Mathers balk had the Cleaver brothers in their underwear. In the episode, the boys were supposed to be getting ready for a big party. The original draft had both brothers standing in their underwear tying their ties in the mirror.
The writers thought it would be cute. On the other hand, Mathers thought it would be humiliating. The “Leave it to Beaver” star said he couldn’t do it. He didn’t want the whole world to see him in his underwear. Even worse for the young actor, his sister would see him in his underwear. He flat-out refused to do the scene. In the end, the writers respected his wishes and re-wrote that scene. In this final draft, the Cleaver brothers were wearing pants for the scene.
There Wasn’t Much Mathers Wouldn’t Do for “Leave it to Beaver”
In the same interview, Jerry Mathers talked about some of the things he did do for “Leave it to Beaver.” He said that one episode called for him to crawl into a giant bowl of soup. The writers got the idea from a real-life cigarette ad in Times Square. Apparently, the billboard featured a giant smoking cigarette.
They wanted to add something like that to “Leave it to Beaver,” but they didn’t want to use cigarettes. So, they decided on a giant steaming bowl of soup. In the episode, Beaver’s friend Whitey talks him into climbing up the signage to see if there is actually soup in the bowl. He climbs up and ends up getting stuck in the bowl. In the end, the fire department has to be called to rescue Beaver from the giant bowl.
Interestingly, Mathers was fine with climbing a giant soup bowl but parading around in his jockey shorts was out of the question. He stuck to his guns, though, and the show changed to fit him. This interplay between the actors and creative team is part of what made “Leave it to Beaver” the legendary program that it is today.