‘Leave it to Beaver’: Jerry Mathers Said Show Had to Move On from ‘Original’ Wally Cleaver for One Reason

by Emily Morgan
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Fans recognize Tony Dow for his role as Wally Cleaver on the sitcom “Leave it to Beaver.” For six years, fans fell in love with the Cleaver family every time they tuned it to watch an episode. However, Tony Dow wasn’t always a member of the fictional family. In fact, there was someone else who played little Beaver before Dow.

During an interview with MeTV, Jerry Mathers, revealed the reason directors decided to find a new Wally.

“The original Wally was, like, 5′ 7″ when we did the pilot, but he grew to about 6’5″, and he was almost as big as Hugh, and that’s when they went back and found Tony,” Mathers said. The “original Wally” Mathers is referring to is Paul Sullivan. Sullivan appeared on the show’s pilot titled, “It’s A Small World.”

The pilot episode aired on April 23, 1957, but never aired as an episode within the series. The pilot was misplaced but was found and aired as the third season premiere for the 1980s revival series “The New Leave It to Beaver” on October 4, 1987, 30 years after the original series premiered on CBS. Unfortunately, Sullivan wouldn’t be able to reprise Wally’s role in other episodes due to an inevitable growth spurt.

Mathers On His Relationship With Dow On ‘Leave It To Beaver’

After the directors decided to give the role to Dow, he would go on to be a permanent fixture on the show until its end. When asked about his relationship with Dow, Mathers fondly recalled their relationship on set.

“We’re very good friends. We spent a lot of time together. But he was in high school and I was in grade school, so we had separate teachers. I’d work with him all day, then we’d go home to our families. We actually became much closer as adults, because in the ‘80s we toured together for 18 months in a play called “So Long, Stanley” and spent a lot more quality time together.”

Outsider.com