‘Leave it to Beaver’ Actors Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow Reflected on Unlikely Success of the Show

by Joe Rutland
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“Leave it to Beaver” continues to remain a television staple, a show that has not left the small screen in more than six decades.

A family-friendly show, “Leave it to Beaver” turned Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, and Hugh Beaumont into household names.

Back in 2017, Dow and Mathers appeared on “Today” on NBC with hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb to celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary.

“You know, it’s the longest-running show in television history,” Mathers said. “It hasn’t been off the TV in 60 years.”

“It’s pretty amazing, you know,” Dow said. “Who would’ve thunk it.”

Jerry Mathers Was 6 When Doing ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Pilot

Mathers said he was 6 years old when he did the pilot episode “but it took time to sell the pilot.”

“Every season we would think that we might not come back,” Mathers said. “We did it for 6 (seasons), which is 234 episodes, but every season it was ‘Well, we might not be back.’ We’d all say goodbye.”

“A Variety reporter said if this show lasts over two weeks, I’ll eat my hat,” Dow said. “Well, we sent him a hat.”

Both Mathers and Dow expressed that they were friends from the get-go on “Leave it to Beaver.”

“Tony was a great athlete,” Mathers said. “I’m the oldest in my family so I never had a big brother. But he (Dow) was an AAU swimming and diving champion.”

“And he was a great actor from the time he was 6 years old,” Dow said of Mathers. “He showed me how to do it.”

Hugh Beaumont Took Role While Being Methodist Minister

Mathers offered kind words about his TV father, Hugh Beaumont.

“Hugh Beaumont was interesting because, in reality, he was a Methodist minister,” Mathers said of his TV father. “After World War II, he went down to L.A., I mean the worst parts of L.A., and started a ministry down there.”

Beaumont and Billingsley, who played June Cleaver, offered parental roles following the norms of TV family sitcoms at the time. There were other character actors who played additional parts that added to the show’s mystique. Ken Osmond portrayed Eddie Haskell, Richard Deacon played Fred Rutherford, and Frank Bank portrayed Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford.

Mathers and Dow share some other insights, too, in this interview about “Leave it to Beaver.” Enjoy these few minutes they appear on “Today.”

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