‘Leave It To Beaver’: Cleaver Family Member Actor Blamed Show for Tragic Family Death

by Chris Haney
leave-it-to-beaver-cleaver-family-member-actor-blamed-show-tragic-family-death

From 1957 to 1963, Americans tuned in to watch the lovable Cleaver family on Leave It To Beaver. However, one main cast member held a deep grudge against the show throughout the sitcom’s six seasons on-air.

The mid-century sitcom focused on Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) and his adventures at home, school, and in the suburbs. Fans also loved the rest of the Cleaver family, including Theodore’s brother, Wally, and his parents, June and Ward Cleaver. The show is known as an American television classic, with the Cleavers serving as a shining example of the idealized suburban family during that era.

Yet not everything within the Cleaver family was as perfect off-camera as it seemed to be on-air. In fact, Hugh Beaumont who played Mr. Ward Cleaver blamed the sitcom for a tragic death in his family. During the early days of the show, filming moved quickly into production after CBS purchased the pilot episode. As plans for Leave It To Beaver moved forward, the showrunners needed the cast in California right away, including Ward Cleaver. Beaumont’s rushed trip to California is what set off a chain of events that haunted him for years to come.

‘Leave It To Beaver’s Mr. Cleaver ‘Harbored a Deep Sadness’

Hugh Beaumont first started acting later in life as a way to supplement his income. He began doing ads and serials on the radio before moving to television where he often played the “bad guy.” That changed when TV executives offered him the role of Mr. Ward Cleaver. But unfortunately, he didn’t have as much time to plan his travels as usual.

Normally, Beaumont stayed with his family in Minnesota for the part of the year. When it was time to work in Hollywood, he would drive the family to Los Angeles. Since the filming of Leave It To Beaver began abruptly, the family had a change of plans. Beaumont would fly to L.A., and the rest of the family would drive across the country to meet him later on. The change of plans left his son Hunter to drive Beaumont’s wife and his mother-in-law to California. During the long drive, his son lost control of the family car and crashed. The mother of Beaumont’s wife did not survive the wreck.

The actor took the loss of his mother-in-law extremely hard. According to Mental Floss, Beaumont still treated his job with total respect on set, but he “harbored a deep sadness that he blamed on the show.” He resented the show for the car accident. In his mind, the abrupt start prevented him from driving the family from Minnesota to California himself.

Hugh Beaumont Took His Role Very Seriously Despite His Resentments

The father on Leave It To Beaver never thought much of a career in Hollywood. Early on, Beaumont studied theology and was a pastor before transitioning into acting. Following his success on the popular sitcom, Beaumont stayed grounded and never lost touch.

Beaumont would later admit that his role as Mr. Ward Cleaver was one of his proudest achievements. According to an interview with Closer Weekly from July 2020, his daughter said he never let fame go to his head. Additionally, she said her father was “just like” his Leave It To Beaver character.

“He had a lot of input into the character,” Kristan Beaumont told Closer Weekly. “When we got into trouble, we usually had a talk with dad, just like on the show. He’d never yell or get upset.”

In addition, his daughter said that her father took his role on the show “very seriously.” He may have blamed the show for the death of his mother-in-law, but he also appreciated the security Leave It to Beaver provided for his family.

“He took his responsibilities very seriously,” Kristan Beaumont added. “That was one of the reasons he did the series. It was a way to support his family.”

The actor was able to look past his resentment of the show and contribute solid performances to the iconic TV series during its six seasons. He even stayed in touch with his sons on the show for years to come, and became a mentor to them. In 1982, Beaumont passed away at the age of 72 after suffering a heart attack. His co-star Jerry Mathers shared some touching thoughts about his on-screen dad following the news of Beaumont’s death.

“When they re-cast the role for the series, Hugh was one of several people brought in for an audition,” Mathers wrote on his website. “I was very glad that he was picked for the role and we had a wonderful friendship for his entire life until he passed away in 1982 from a heart attack. Hugh and my dad had become friends and he occasionally came to our house to play cards with my father and some of his friends.”

Outsider.com