Leave It to Beaver
|Leave It to Beaver|
Season one title screen
|Also known as||Beaver|
|Created by||Joe Connelly
|Theme music composer||David Kahn
|Opening theme||"The Toy Parade"|
|Composer(s)||Pete Rugolo (1962–1963)
Paul Smith (1962–1963)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||234 (and 1 pilot) (List of episodes)|
Los Angeles, California
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Gomalco Productions (1957–1961)
Kayro Productions (1961–1963)
|Original channel||CBS (1957–1958)
|Original run||October 4, 1957– June 20, 1963|
|Followed by||Still the Beaver
The New Leave It to Beaver
Leave It to Beaver (1997 film)
Leave It to Beaver is an American television situation comedy about an inquisitive and often naïve boy named Theodore "The Beaver" Cleaver (portrayed by Jerry Mathers) and his adventures at home, in school, and around his suburban neighborhood. The show also starred Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as Beaver's parents, June and Ward Cleaver, and Tony Dow as Beaver's brother Wally. The show has attained an iconic status in the US, with the Cleavers exemplifying the idealized suburban family of the mid-20th century.
The show was created by writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. These veterans of radio and early television found inspiration for the show's characters, plots, and dialogue in the lives, experiences, and conversations of their own children. Leave It to Beaver is one of the first primetime sitcom series written from a child's point-of-view. Like several television dramas and sitcoms of the late 1950s and early 1960s (Lassie and My Three Sons, for example), Leave It to Beaver is a glimpse at middle-class, white American boyhood. In a typical episode Beaver got into some sort of trouble, then faced his parents for reprimand and correction. However, neither parent was omniscient; indeed, the series often showed the parents debating their approach to child rearing, and some episodes were built around parental gaffes.
With six full 39-week seasons (234 episodes), the show had its debut on CBS on October 4, 1957 (the day the Soviets launched Sputnik), and then moved to ABC the following year, completing its run on June 20, 1963. During the whole of the show's run, the series was shot with a single camera on black-and-white 35mm film. The show's production companies included comedian George Gobel's Gomalco Productions (1957–1961) and Kayro Productions (1961–1963) with filming at Revue Studios/Republic Studios and Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California. The show was distributed by MCA Television.
The still-popular show was canceled in 1963 because the stars wanted to move on. Jerry Mathers was entering his freshman year in high school and actor Tony Dow was about to graduate from high school.
Contemporary commentators praised Leave It to Beaver, with Variety comparing Beaver to Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer. Much juvenile merchandise was released during the show's first-run including board games, novels, and comic books. The show has enjoyed a renaissance in popularity since the 1970s through off-network syndication, a reunion telemovie, Still the Beaver (1983), and a sequel series The New Leave It to Beaver (1985–89). In 1997, a movie version based on the original series was released to moderate acclaim, and, in October 2007, TV Land celebrated the show's 50th anniversary with a marathon. Although the show never broke into the Nielsen ratings top-30 nor won any awards, it placed on TIME magazine's unranked 2007 list of "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME."
According to Tony Dow, "if any line got too much of a laugh, they'd take it out. They didn't want a big laugh; they wanted chuckles."
- 1 Production
- 2 Themes and recurring elements
- 3 Cancellation and subsequent developments
- 4 Media information
- 5 Reception
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Concept, pilot, and premiere
In 1957, radio, film, and television writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher developed a concept for a TV show about childhood and family life featuring a fictional suburban couple and their children. Unlike The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Father Knows Best, and other sitcoms and domestic comedies of the era, the show would not focus upon the parents, but upon their children, with the series being told from the kids' point-of-view. Working titles during the show's gestation period included It's a Small World and Wally and the Beaver. The pilot aired April 23, 1957 as "It's a Small World" on anthology series Heinz Studio 57.
Pilot stars Casey Adams and Paul Sullivan (as father and son Ward and Wally Cleaver) were replaced as series production neared. Six months after the pilot's broadcast, the series debuted on CBS Friday October 4, 1957 as Leave It to Beaver with the episode third in production order, "Beaver Gets 'Spelled". The intended premiere, "Captain Jack", displayed a toilet tank (which didn't pass the censor's office in time for the show's scheduled debut) and aired the week following the premiere. "Captain Jack" has claimed its place in television history as the first American TV show to display a toilet tank. In 1997, it was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
Sponsors and budget
Remington Rand was a potential sponsor during the show's conception, and counseled against the show's suggested title, Wally and the Beaver, believing viewers would think the show was a nature program. The show was ultimately sponsored by Ralston Purina, with General Electric and Chrysler Corporation sponsoring the later seasons (Ward Cleaver was seen driving a Plymouth Fury during the opening credits in the final season).
Episodes were budgeted at $30,000 to $40,000 each ($850,000 in 2012 dollars), making the show one of the most expensive to produce at the time. High production costs were in part due to many outdoor scenes. The most expensive single episode, "In the Soup" (in which Beaver gets stuck in an advertising billboard with a gigantic make-believe cup of soup, curious as to how "steam" came out of the cup), was budgeted at $50,000. Two billboards were built for the episode: one outside on the back lot, and the other inside the studio.
Characters and casting
Casting directors interviewed hundreds of child actors for the role of "Beaver" but kept calling back Jerry Mathers, an eight-year-old with substantial acting experience. At one of many auditions, Mathers wore his Cub Scout uniform and told casting personnel he was anxious to leave for his den meeting. Connelly and Mosher were charmed with Mathers's innocent candor and cast him in the title role. Barbara Billingsley, an actress with experience in several B-movies and one failed television series (Professional Father), was then hired to play Beaver's mother, June Cleaver. Preteen Tony Dow accompanied a friend auditioning for Johnny Wildlife to the studio, and, although Dow had no aspirations to an acting career, tried out for the role of Beaver's brother Wally Cleaver and was hired. Several adult candidates then auditioned for the role of Beaver's father Ward Cleaver, but Connelly and Mosher finally signed Hugh Beaumont, an actor and Methodist lay minister who had worked with Mathers in a religious film.
Recurring characters included Eddie Haskell (played by Ken Osmond), Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens), Hubert "Whitey" Whitney (Stanley Fafara), Gilbert Bates (Stephen Talbot), Judy Hensler (Jeri Weil), Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford (Frank Bank), Violet Rutherford (Veronica Cartwright) and Mary Ellen Rogers (Pamela Beaird). Burt Mustin played elderly fireman Gus, Richard Deacon played Ward's co-worker Fred Rutherford, and Sue Randall played schoolteacher Miss Landers.
Writers and directors
The show's chief writers, Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly, met while working in New York City for the J. Walter Thompson Agency. Once in Hollywood, the men became head writers for the radio show, Amos 'n' Andy and continued to write the well-received show when it moved to CBS television in 1950. Although both men initially wrote all the scripts for earlier episodes of Leave It to Beaver, after becoming executive producers, they began accepting scripts from other writers, refining them if necessary.
With Mosher the father of two children and Connelly six, the two men had enough source material and inspiration for the show's dialogue and plot lines. Connelly's eight-year-old son, Ricky, served as the model for Beaver and his fourteen-year-old son, Jay, for Wally, while Eddie Haskell and Larry Mondello were based on friends of the Connelly boys. Connelly often took the boys on outings while carrying a notebook to record their conversations and activities.
Other writers who contributed to the show were Bill Manhoff, Mel Diamond, Dale and Katherine Eunson, Ben Gershman, George Tibbles (who later became the head writer on My Three Sons), Fran van Hartesvelt, Bob Ross, Alan Manings, Mathilde and Theodore Ferro, John Whedon, and the team of Dick Conway and Roland MacLane, who wrote many of the shows for the last two seasons. Connelly told an interviewer, "If we hire a writer we tell him not to make up situations but to look into his own background. It's not a 'situation' comedy where you have to create a situation for a particular effect. Our emphasis is on a natural story line."
Connelly and Mosher worked to create humorous characters in simple situations, rather than relying on contrived jokes. The two often adapted real-life situations in the lives of their children. "The Haircut", for example, was directly based on an incident involving Bobby Mosher, who was forced to wear a stocking cap in a school play after giving himself a ragged haircut. Fourteen-year-old Jay Connelly's preening habits became Wally's frequent hair combing. Seven-year-old Ricky Connelly's habit of dropping the initial syllables of words was incorporated into Beaver's character.
Norman Tokar, a director with a talent for working with children, was hired to direct most of the episodes for the first three years and developed the characters of Eddie Haskell and Larry Mondello. Other directors included Earl Bellamy, David Butler (who had directed child actress Shirley Temple), Bretaigne Windust, Gene Reynolds, and Hugh Beaumont. Norman Abbott directed most of the episodes through the last three years.
For the first two seasons, Leave It to Beaver was filmed at Republic Studios/CBS Studio Center, 4024 Radford Avenue, Studio City, Los Angeles, California. For its final four seasons, production moved to Universal Studios. Exteriors, including the façades of the two Cleaver houses, were filmed on the respective studio back lots. Stock footage was occasionally used for establishing shots.
The script for an upcoming episode would be delivered to the cast late in the week, with a read-through the following Monday, awkward lines or other problems being noted for rewrites. On Tuesday afternoon, the script was rehearsed in its entirety for the camera and lighting crew. Over the following three days, individual scenes would be filmed with a single camera.
Filming was limited to one episode per week (rather than the two typical of television production of the period) to accommodate the large number of child actors, who were allowed to work only four hours a day. Scenes with children were usually filmed first, with adult actors having to wait until after 5:00 pm for filming.
Series cinematographers included Mack Stengler with 122 episodes between 1958 and 1962, Jack MacKenzie with 40 episodes between 1962 and 1963, and William A. Sickner with 37 episodes between 1957 and 1959. Fred Mandl (1962), Ray Rennahan (1958), and Ray Flin (1960) served as cinematographers on less than five episodes each.
Opening and closing sequences
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In the first season, each episode opens with a teaser featuring clips from the episode (or generic footage from other episodes) and a voice-over introduction by Beaumont briefly stating the episode's theme. The teaser is followed by the main title and credits in which the show's four main stars are introduced. In seasons 5 and 6, significant crew are listed in an extension of the opening credits after a commercial break. Midway through the first season, the Beaumont voice-over introduction was discarded in favor of a brief scene extracted from the episode at hand, and, at the end of the first season, the teaser was entirely discarded, moving immediately to the title and credits.
Each season had an individually filmed sequence for the opening credits. In season one, for example, a cartoon-like drawing of a freshly-laid concrete sidewalk was displayed with the show title and stars' names scratched into its surface, while in the final season, the Cleavers left the house through the front door carrying picnic items. (See List of Leave It to Beaver episodes for specific season opening sequences). Billingsley was the first to be introduced in all opening sequences, followed by Beaumont and Dow. Mathers was introduced last, with the voice-over line, "...and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver".
 The closing sequence for the first season featured a simple, dark background as the credits rolled. In the second season, Wally and Beaver are seen walking home from school with their schoolbooks and entering the house through the front door. In the third through fifth seasons, Wally and Beaver are seen walking towards the Pine Street house. Beaver carries a baseball glove and limps along the curbstone. In the last season, Wally pushes teen Beaver into the street, then Beaver pushes him back and they start chasing each other around a tree and into the house.
The show's opening and closing sequences are accompanied by an orchestral rendition of the show's bouncy theme music, "The Toy Parade", by David Kahn, Melvyn Leonard, and Mort Greene. For the third season, the tempo was quickened and the tune whistled by a male chorus over an orchestral accompaniment for the closing credits and for the production crew credits following the opening sequence. For the final season, the song was given a jazz-like arrangement by veteran composer/arranger Pete Rugolo. Though lyrics exist for the theme tune, an instrumental arrangement is used for the show's entire run. Elements of the theme tune were given a subdued musical arrangement, which was then used as background music for tender and sentimental scenes. Occasionally, a few phrases from well-known musical compositions such as Chopin's "Funeral March" and the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" are quoted.
This CBS show required "wall-to-wall" music, a term for productions that utilize musical "tag" pieces between scenes as needed. While "The Toy Parade" theme was written for the show, incidental music was not. This is evident through the progression of the series, as the theme matures, the usual background music does not. This would be the equivalent of the "needle-drop" library of pre-recorded music that is still prevalent today. This incidental music was likely a product of the CBS Television Orchestra, and clearly sounds reminiscent of the early 1950s, especially by 1963. In fact, identical background music is present in the "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show" from October 1950.
The time setting of Leave It to Beaver is contemporary with its production—the late 1950s and the early 1960s. References to contemporary news issues or topics are infrequent. Communism is mentioned in "Water, Anyone?".
Contemporary cultural references are more frequent but not overwhelming. The show acknowledges the greaser subculture and, in the last season, "The Twist", a popular song and dance craze of the early 1960s. The dance's promoter, Chubby Checker, is hinted at in the episode's fictional "Chubby Chadwick" and his fictional hit tune, "Surf Board Twist". Wally and his friends perform a tepid version of The Twist at Wally's party in "The Party Spoiler". The 1960 Kirk Douglas vehicle Spartacus is brought up, Eisenhower is mentioned and, in one episode, Beaver's best friend Gilbert says Angela Valentine wore a "Jackie Kennedy wig" to class. Contemporary celebrities mentioned on the show include Rock Hudson, Tuesday Weld, Sal Mineo, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay, Bob Cousy, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Jack Paar, John Glenn, Warren Spahn, Fabian Forte and others. Then current Los Angeles Dodgers celebrity star Don Drysdale appears as himself in one episode. When Beaver appears on a TV show, not knowing it is being recorded to air another day, Gilbert compares the misunderstanding with "a Rod Serling Twilight Zone". The episode in which Beaver graduates from grammar school (8th grade) is perhaps the only time a year is mentioned. June and Ward inspect the gift they have for Beaver's graduation and read the inscription, "...Class of '63".
Leave It to Beaver is set in the fictitious community of Mayfield and its environs. The principal setting is the Cleaver home. The Cleavers live in two houses over the series' run. The "move" was necessary when the façade of the original house—located at Republic Studios—became unavailable for filming following the production's move to Universal. The "new house" stood on the Universal backlot. The first house is 'located' at 485 Mapleton (sometimes Maple) Drive, and the second at 211 Pine Street. In an early episode set in the Mapleton Drive house, Beaver speaks of living in another house where he suffered the measles and became attached to "Billy", his first teddy bear. In another episode Beaver indicates the Mapleton Drive house was the first house he'd ever lived in.
Social and ethnic setting
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Characters are nearly uniformly white, middle-class and heterosexual. Only one African-American had a speaking role during the run of the series; in 1963, Kim Hamilton played a maid in episode 212, "The Parking Attendants". Four years earlier, an episode featured an Hispanic family, as Alan Roberts Costello played Roberto "Chuey" Varella, a friend and weekend house guest of the Beaver in 1959's "Beaver and Chuey". The friend spoke only Spanish, leading to a cruel Eddie Haskell prank.
Mapleton Drive house
Surrounded by a picket fence, the Mapleton Drive house is two stories with a first floor kitchen, dining room, living room and adjoining patio, and at least three bedrooms on the second floor—one for the boys, one for the parents, and a guest room into which Beaver moves for a night. The cellar is accessible through a diagonal door in the kitchen. A kitchen door opens onto a small side yard, the driveway, and a single-car garage—a frequent setting for get-togethers between the boys, their father, and their friends.
Toward the close of season two, the Cleavers discuss moving. In the season's closer, Ward tells the boys the Mapleton Drive house has been sold. In the season three opener, the Cleavers are comfortably settled in a new house at 211 Pine Street. No episode features the actual move.
Pine Street house
The Pine Street house consists of several rooms (kitchen and laundry room, dining room, living room, den) on the ground floor and at least three bedrooms on the second floor. None of the furnishings from the Mapleton Drive house appear in the new house. Reproductions of Gainsborough's The Blue Boy and Lawrence's Pinkie hang in the front entry above graceful bergères. An upholstered wing chair at the edge of the hearth in the living room is covered in a chinoiserie print.
After the move to Pine Street, the boys continue to attend the same schools, frequent the same hang outs, and visit the same friends. The Pine Street house is in the vicinity of the Mapleton Drive house; in one episode, Beaver and Larry walk to the Mapleton Drive house, uproot a small tree, and transport it to the Pine Street house in a wagon.
In the Pine Street house, Ward has a den near the main entry, which serves as a setting for many scenes. The garage at the Pine Street house is used less often as a setting for masculine get-togethers than the Mapleton Drive garage had been. June and Ward's bedroom is seen for the first time in the Pine Street house. They have their own bath, sleep in twin beds, and have a portable TV in the room.
Two years before Leave It to Beaver went into production, the Pine Street façade and its neighborhood were employed extensively in the 1955 Humphrey Bogart film, The Desperate Hours.
In 1969, the Pine Street house was reused for another Universal-produced television hit, Marcus Welby, M.D. This house can still be seen at Universal Studios, though the original façade was replaced in 1988 for the following year's The 'Burbs and sat in storage elsewhere on the Universal lot. The façade was replaced again for the 1996 Leave It to Beaver movie. The house and the street it sits on were used as the main exterior set for Wisteria Lane of Desperate Housewives, and was also previously used as the Pearson family house on The Bill Engvall Show.
No particular state was said as to where Mayfield was located. Vehicle license plates don't show the state. When mail or a postal package is shown, it does not have a state, just the city of Mayfield. No area code is mentioned or shown on a phone. Sometimes Ward makes the comment that they live 20 miles from the ocean. Cincinnati is mentioned by Larry a few times as overnight stay for his father on a business trip. California is mentioned many times as a destination. On a few episodes, the Green Bay Packers football team is mentioned. Texas is mentioned by Wally referring to having oil 'way down there'. Beaver mentions to his teacher Miss Landers that he was flying to Washington, D.C. Ward had to fly to St. Louis for business and stay there for a few days. In the episode when Beaver appears on a television show at a TV station in Mayfield, his friend Gilbert Bates says he better be good, because his Aunt will be watching in Pittsburgh. In that time period, local television signals were picked up by antennas. There were two basic types used. Rabbit ears, usually on the television inside the home or on outside antenna mounted on the home, would have to be within a certain coverage area, less than 100 miles, to receive the signal.
Themes and recurring elements
Format and content
Leave It to Beaver is light drama with the underlying theme that proper behavior brings rewards while improper behavior entails undesirable consequences. The juvenile viewer finds amusement in Beaver's adventures while learning that certain behaviors and choices (such as skipping school or faking an illness in order to be the recipient of "loot" from parents and schoolmates) are wrong and invite reprimand. The adult viewer enjoys Beaver's adventures while discovering tips for teaching children correct behavior and methods for successfully handling common childhood problems. Parents are reminded that children view the world from a different perspective and should not be expected to act like miniature adults. The writers generally emphasized permissive child rearing techniques, and urged parents to serve as moral role models.
A typical episode generally follows a simple formula: Beaver or Wally (or both) get into trouble and then face their parents for a lecture regarding the event. Lectures sometimes take the form of fables, with Ward allowing the boys to discover their moral meanings and applying those meanings to their lives. Occasionally, when offences are serious, punishments such as being grounded are dealt the miscreants. The parents are sometimes shown debating the best approach to the situation. Other episodes (especially in earlier seasons) even reverse the formula, with Ward making a parenting mistake and having to figure out how to make up for it.
While the earlier seasons focus on Beaver's boyhood adventures, the later seasons give greater scope to Wally's high school life, dating, and part-time work. Several episodes follow Wally's acquisition of a driver's license and a car. The show's focus is consistently upon the children. June and Ward are depicted from one episode to the next as an untroubled, happily married couple.
Education, occupation, and marriage and family are presented in Leave It to Beaver as requisites for a happy and productive life.
Beaver and Wally both attend public schools and are encouraged to pursue college educations as a means to prepare for their futures. Ward and June attended prep school and boarding school respectively and both attended college. Their sons are expected to do the same. While both boys consider prep school educations, Wally at the Bellport Military Academy and Beaver at an eastern school called Fallbrook, both remain at home and attend Mayfield High with their friends. School and homework are the bane of Beaver's existence. In "Beaver's Secret Life", the boy decides to become a writer in adulthood because "you don't have to go to school or know nothing ... You only have to make up adventures and get paid for it." Beaver's attitude toward education provides comic counterpoint to the backgrounds, values, and ambitions of his parents.
Occupation is presented as important to the happy life with Ward representing the successful, college-educated, middle-class professional with a steady but obscure office job, and June the competent and happy homemaker. When Beaver expresses interests in lower class occupations (such as trash collector), his parents understandably squirm with embarrassment and discomfort.
According to the social mores represented in the show, a happy marriage is the cornerstone of successful middle-class family life, and June and Ward represent the warm, happily married, successful middle class couple. In contrast, the parents of Beaver's friend Larry Mondello are a husband frequently out of town on business and an exasperated wife struggling singlehandedly to raise a son and sometimes depending on Ward to help discipline him. Spinsters like prim Aunt Martha are shown as out-of-touch and irksome, while bachelors like globe-trotting, yarn-spinning Uncle Billy, free-loading Jeff, the tramp, and Andy, the alcoholic handyman are shown to be untrustworthy. The one episode dealing with divorce understandably shows it as having negative effects on children and family life.
June and Ward are conscientious parents, keenly aware of their duty to impart traditional, but proven, middle-class family values to their boys. They do so by serving as examples in word and deed, rather than using punitive means. Ward and June are models of late-1950s, conscientious parenting. Stay-at-home June maintains a loving, nurturing home and Ward consistently supervises the behavior and moral education of his sons. While the series portrays the world through the eyes of a young boy, it sometimes dealt with controversial and adult subjects such as alcoholism and divorce.
June Cleaver remains calm amid household tumult, providing crucial guidance to her sons while shielding them from nefarious outside influences with a matronly force of will. Her protection is frequently needed against the pernicious intrigues of Eddie Haskell. He engages in impulsive, selfish, disruptive, and malevolent schemes. For crafty Eddie, each day is one more step toward the twilight of the adults, which will herald his ascension to neighborhood ruler.
Ward Cleaver is a Solomon-like figure of quiet dignity who dispenses parental justice tempered with understanding. He sometimes finds himself punishing his sons for deeds he admits he committed as a child. Ward relates to the peer pressure the boys sometimes face as when he defends them for wanting to view a horror movie with Eddie Haskel. June objects but Ward responds by telling her he saw hundreds of horror films as a boy and even had a subscription to Weird Tales. Season 1, Episode 13 "Voodoo Magic" Ward often finds himself learning the most in the episode from something his sons, or sometimes his wife.
Signature show elements
The show employs contemporary kid-slang extensively. Wally and Beaver both use "gyp" (to swindle), "mess around" (to play), and "hunka" (meaning "hunk of" in relation to food portions such as "hunka cake" or "hunka milk"). "Junk", "crummy", "gee whiz", "gosh", "wiseguy", "grubby", "rat", and "creep" are frequently heard. The word "beef" was also used at times (mostly by Wally) over the course of the show's run, meaning "disagreement" (as in contemporary hip-hop). Ward and June disapprove. Wally uses "sweat" to his mother's annoyance; she prefers "perspiration" and asks him not to use the slang word "flip". "Goofy" is one of Beaver's favorite adjectives, and it is applied to anything that lies outside the bounds of 1950s conformism. "Giving me/you/him/her the business" was a phrase used to describe a character being sarcastic with or otherwise teasing another character.
Physical punishment looms large in the boys' imaginations, but such punishment is never seen. Though Ward tells Beaver he has never physically punished him, Beaver reminds his father of past incidents when he did. In one episode, Beaver mentioned a time when he spilled ink on a rug and his father spanked him. In a season two episode, Beaver states that his parents "hardly ever" hit (spank) him. Both boys use the phrase "Dad's gonna clobber you!" (meaning to spank, or hit) when assessing the other's misdeeds. Ward himself mentions being the victim of his father's belt, and Larry's homelife is described as one of being "hollered" at and hit. In one episode, Larry begs, "Don't hit me! Don't hit me!" when his mother discovers him reading his sister's diary. Punishment in the show is restricted to being grounded, spending time in one's bedroom, losing movie-going or television privileges, or pulling weeds in the yard.
Beaver's speech habits
Beaver has several speech habits peculiar to himself—dropping first syllables, for example (forgot becomes "'got", expelled becomes "'spelled", aggressive becomes "'gressive"), and malapropisms (consolation prize becomes "constellation prize", amulet becomes "omelette"). Grammatical errors are frequent. When Miss Canfield asks Beaver if "Beaver" is his 'given name', Beaver tells her, "My brother given it to me." Beaver uses the phrase "kinda-sorta" to mean "somewhat" throughout the first season. Beaver's speech habits were based on those of Joe Connelly's son, Ricky. Connelly noted the conversations of his sons and their friends, and then incorporated his notations into Beaver's character. As the more educated Beaver grew into a young teen, his errors with the English language diminished significantly, ending one source of mirth.
Recurrent humor is generated on the show by contrasting the 'squeaky-clean' habits of June and Ward with the 'grubby' ones of Wally and Beaver. While Ward and June stress cleanliness, bathing, and good grooming (ordering both boys to wash their faces, hands, and fingernails before dinner), both boys generally prefer being unwashed and dressed in dirty clothes. In the premiere episode, Wally and Beaver fake bathing by rumpling towels and tossing "turtle dirt" in the bathtub. In "Cleaning Up Beaver", June and Ward commend Wally on his neat appearance and chide Beaver for his untidiness. When Wally calls Beaver a "pig", Beaver moves into the guest room where he can be his own dirty, messy self without comment or criticism from others. Frightening shadows in the room force him back to his old bedroom and the safety of being with his brother. The two boys strike a middle ground: Beaver will be a bit tidier than he usually is and Wally will be a bit sloppier.
Leave It to Beaver is unique in 1950s television sitcom history for its extraordinary number of bathroom scenes. Beaver and Wally have a bathroom adjoining their bedroom, and many scenes are set in their bathroom. One early episode, "Child Care", is set almost entirely in their bathroom. Other episodes include major scenes set in the boys' bathroom. Additionally, in almost every scene set in the boys' bedroom, the bathtub, shower curtain, or vanity can be seen through the open bathroom door. Beaver uses the bathroom countless times to escape his brother when angry, slamming the door to express his emotions. At such times, June and Ward are called upon to order Beaver to vacate his refuge. In "Beaver's Good Deed", a scene is set in Ward and June's bathroom. A tramp takes a bath in their tub and slips away wearing one of Ward's suits and a pair of his shoes. In the "Captain Jack" episode, Wally and Beaver try to hide a baby alligator they bought by keeping it in their bathroom's toilet tank. (Network censors, uncomfortable about showing a toilet, compromised by only having the tank visible.)
Beaver and girls
Beaver's attitude toward girls is a thread that runs throughout the series, providing comic contrast to his brother's successful dating life and his parents' happy marriage. Beaver tells off his female classmates, telling Violet Rutherford she drinks gutter water, calling Linda Dennison a "smelly old ape", and threatening to punch Judy Hensler if she gets "mushy" on him. Though loathing girls his own age, Beaver develops crushes on schoolteachers Miss Canfield and Miss Landers—motherly women—and in one episode says he's going to marry a "mother" when the time comes. Beaver disparages marriage saying, "just because you're married doesn't mean you have to like girls." In the later seasons, Beaver has adjusted his outlook somewhat and dates a few girls. The dates, however, turn sour and Beaver never enjoys the kind of success with the opposite sex his brother does.
Cancellation and subsequent developments
In its first season on CBS (1957–1958), Leave It To Beaver received only fair Nielsen ratings and CBS canceled it. ABC then picked up the program, and although the series never entered the list of the top 30 television shows, its ratings warranted a five-year run. By the start of the 1962-1963 season, the show was reaching an impasse. The series was still popular with audiences, but Jerry Mathers wanted to retire from acting at the end of the sixth year to attend regular high school. As a result, Leave It To Beaver ended its network run on June 20, 1963. The series' final episode, "Family Scrapbook", offers a retrospective look at the show's six seasons as the Cleavers leaf through an old scrapbook, recalling past moments. The episode closes the series at milestones in the lives of the Cleaver boys: Wally readying himself for his first year of college and Beaver leaving grammar school for high school. The episode is directed by Hugh Beaumont, written by Connelly and Mosher, and is regarded as being one of the first sitcom episodes written expressly as a series finale.
Cast appearances on Lassie
Several Leave It to Beaver performers appeared on the long-running CBS television series Lassie. Hugh Beaumont had yet to snag his signature role as Ward Cleaver when he appeared in "The Well", one of the two pilots filmed for the series. The episode was filmed in color and aired monochromatically in the series' first season (1954). In 1968, Jerry Mathers appeared in "Lassie and the 4-H Boys", an episode about two teen brothers quarreling over the disposition of a prize-winning bull, while, the same year, Tony Dow appeared with Jan-Michael Vincent as a hippie-type character in a three-part story called "Hanford's Point". Stephen Talbot (Gilbert) was featured in two episodes of "Lassie" in 1959, "The Flying Machine" and "Growing Pains". Before their commitments to Leave It to Beaver, "Tiger" Fafara appeared in one Lassie episode while Madge Blake made appearances in two episodes. In the 1960–1961 season, Richard Correll played Steve Johnson, one of Timmy Martin's Calverton friends in two episodes. Ken Osmond played a delivery boy in a second season episode and a smart-aleck kid whose carelessness causes a forest fire in the fourth season episode "The Cub Scout". One Lassie episode is titled "Leave It to Lassie and the Beavers".
Reunion telemovie (1983)
Except for Beaumont, who had died in 1982, and Stanley Fafara, who was replaced as Whitey by Ed Begley, Jr., the main cast appeared in the reunion telemovie Still the Beaver (1983). The film followed adult Beaver's struggle to reconcile his recent divorce and single parenthood, while facing the possibility of his widowed mother selling their childhood home. June Cleaver is later elected to the Mayfield City Council.
Sequel series (1984–1989)
Its reception led to a new first-run, made-for-cable series, The New Leave It to Beaver (1984–1989), with Beaver and Lumpy Rutherford running Ward's old firm (where Lumpy's pompous, demanding father—played by Richard Deacon in the original series before his death in 1984 — had been the senior partner), Wally, who married his high school girlfriend Mary Ellen Rogers, as a practicing attorney and expectant father, and June having sold the old house to Beaver himself but living with him as a doting grandmother to Beaver's two young sons. Eddie Haskell runs his own contracting business and has two sons; eldest son Freddie (played by Ken Osmond's real-life son, Eric Osmond), who was every inch his father's son—right down to the dual-personality, and a younger son, Eddie, Jr., aka "Bomber" (played by Osmond's younger real-life son, Christian Osmond), who was often away at military school, but would periodically come home to visit.
The show proved to be a scheduling headache for CBS and ABC, airing on four different evenings (Wednesday through Saturday) during the series' run.
CBS first broadcast the show on Friday, October 4, 1957, at 7:30 pm (EST) opposite Saber of London on NBC and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin on ABC. In March 1958, Beaver was moved to Wednesdays at 8:00 pm opposite Wagon Train, then on NBC.
CBS dropped the show after one season. ABC picked it up and ran it for another five seasons, from October 2, 1958, to June 20, 1963. In his memoirs, Jerry Mathers states the move was the decision of the sponsor, Ralston Purina, who arranged a better deal with ABC than with CBS.
On ABC, the show saw several time slots over its run. From October 1958 to June 1959 it aired on Thursdays at 7:30 pm (EST), with summer 1959 reruns airing at 9:00 pm. From October 1959 to September 1962 the show was televised Saturdays at 8:30 pm, and during its last season (1962–1963) the show aired Thursdays at 8:30 pm.
Reruns of the show became part of CBS daytime lineups in the mornings for several years to come. The show was syndicated in the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, the show was only on in a few markets, one of which was Atlanta, Georgia on Ted Turner's Channel 17, WTCG. In 1976, when WTGC went on satellite and became a Superstation available nationwide, Leave It To Beaver was exposed nationwide. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Leave It To Beaver gained in popularity. In Chicago, the show aired on a shaky independent station 44 WSNS. But when WSNS began to phase in subscription TV in 1980, they did not renew and WGN-TV, which also became a Superstation picked it up. So in the early 1980s the show was airing in most large, major, and medium TV markets. Still, TBS and WGN showed it for many years in the late 1980s and into the 90s (TBS sometimes running it back-to-back with the New Leave It to Beaver on occasion), and briefly on Nick at Nite from July 12, 2002-August 10, 2002 as part of TV Land Sampler. It currently airs on TV Land, where it has been shown since July 1998. Today, NBC Universal Television owns the syndication rights and all properties related to the series.
The show also aired on the digital TV network Retro TV from 2006 to July 2011, when Retro's rights to MCA/Universal product expired. Digital TV Network, Antenna TV then began running Leave It To Beaver from October 3. 2011-April 27, 2013.
Marketing and merchandise
During the show's first run, merchandise including novels, records, and board games was generated for the juvenile market. With the show's renaissance in popularity decades later, merchandise produced was aimed toward the adult babyboomer/nostalgia collectors market and included pinback buttons, clocks, greeting cards, calendars, non-fiction books about the show's production, memoirs, and miscellaneous items. In 1983, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow appeared on boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes. In 2007, one of the cereal boxes fetched $300 at auction. Promotional photographs from the studio, autographs, original scripts, copies of TV Guide and other magazines from the period featuring articles about the show are all collectibles. Props and costumes from the show with documentation establishing provenance are highly prized.
During the series' run, Little Golden Books published Leave It to Beaver (1959), an inexpensive storybook for young children. Distinguished children's author Beverly Cleary published three softcover novels based on the series, Beaver and Wally, Leave It to Beaver (1960), and Here's Beaver (1961). Whitman Publishing printed Leave It to Beaver: Fire! (1962), a hardcover novel by Cole Fanin. In 1983, The Beaver Papers (ISBN 0-517-54991-3) by Will Jacobs and Gerard Jones was published. The book is a parody of a lost season comprising twenty-five episodes written in the style of various authors such as Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner - a 30th Anniversary Edition was published in 2013 by Atomic Drop Press.
Dell comic books
Dell Comics published six Leave It to Beaver comic books with photo covers of Beaver, Beaver and Wally, or Beaver and Ward. The first comic book (Four Color No. 912) is dated June 1958 and the last (Four Color No. 01-238-207) May–July 1962. In 2004, all six Dell Leave It to Beaver comic books in 'Near Mint' condition were valued in excess of two hundred dollars each.
Hasbro board games
Three Leave It to Beaver juvenile board games were released in 1959 by toymaker Hasbro. The games were typical roll-and-move track games for two to four players. All three game box covers feature photographic portraits of Jerry Mathers as Beaver.
"Leave It to Beaver Money Maker Game" suggests one of the show's recurrent themes—Beaver's attempts to make money. Equipment includes a center-seamed board with illustrations of Beaver and Ward. One player distributes and collects money as "Father".
"Leave It to Beaver Rocket to the Moon Space Game", rather than using dice or a spinner to advance players along the track, employs a rocket-shaped cone that is flipped onto a board to determine the number of spaces to be moved. "Leave It to Beaver Ambush Game" is a track game with an Old West theme.
Feature film adaptation
1997's movie adaptation of the series starred Christopher McDonald as Ward, Janine Turner as June, Erik von Detten as Wally, and Cameron Finley as the Beaver. It was panned by many critics, with the notable exception of Roger Ebert, who gave it a three-star rating. It performed poorly at the box office, earning only $11,713,605. Barbara Billingsley, Ken Osmond and Frank Bank made cameo appearances in the film.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the first two seasons of Leave It to Beaver on DVD in Region 1 in 2005/2006. Season one was released in two versions: an inexpensive cardboard slip-cased collection and a costlier version in which the DVDs were contained in a retro-styled, plastic photo album tucked inside a plaid metal lunch box displaying portraits of the cast on its exterior. Both of these seasons were released in the troublesome DVD-18 format which plagued many of Universal Studios' boxed set releases.
On January 26, 2010, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Universal). They subsequently released the remaining seasons on DVD as well as a complete series box set.
On January 31, 2012, Shout! Factory released a 20 episode best-of set entitled Leave It to Beaver- 20 Timeless Episodes.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||39||November 22, 2005|
|The Complete Second Season||39||May 2, 2006|
|Season Three||39||June 15, 2010|
|Season Four||39||September 14, 2010|
|Season Five||39||December 14, 2010|
|Season Six||39||March 1, 2011[|
|The Complete Series||234||June 29, 2010|
In spite of solid and consistent ratings, Leave It to Beaver never climbed into the Nielsen's top-30 though similar sitcoms of the period like Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys, and Dennis the Menace managed to do so.
Leave It to Beaver faced stiff competition in its time slots. During its next to last season, for example, the show ran against The Defenders, a program examining highly charged courtroom cases about abortion and the death penalty. In its final season, the show was up against Perry Mason and Dr. Kildare but was in the ABC line-up with television greats The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Donna Reed Show, and My Three Sons.
Critical reception was generally favorable. In the New York Herald Tribune, John Crosby stated the show was "charming and sincere" and featured "the wonderful candor and directness with which children disconcert and enchant you". Variety favorably compared the premiere episode with the classic Tom Sawyer and noted at the fourth season's opening that the show had "never been a yock show in the sense of generating big and sustained laughs, but it has consistently poured forth warmth, wit and wisdom without condescension or pretense." TV Guide dubbed the show "the sleeper of the 1957–58 season" and later noted that the show was "one of the most honest, most human and most satisfying situation comedies on TV." The New York Times, however, found the show was "too broad and artificial to be persuasive".
A comparison of how children interact with their brothers and sisters on such 1950s situation comedy television programs as Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best with those on such 1980s programs as The Cosby Show and Family Ties found that children interacted more positively in the early period but were important and central—if more conflictual—to the main story action in the 1980s.
Awards and nominations
The show received two Emmy nominations in 1958 for Best New Program Series of the Year and Best Teleplay Writing—Half Hour or Less (Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher) for the premiere episode, "Beaver Gets 'Spelled". In 1984, Jerry Mathers was awarded the Young Artist's Former Child Star Special Award, and in 1987, Ken Osmond and Tony Dow were both honored with the Young Artist's Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, Diane Brewster was nominated for TV Land's Classic TV Teacher of the Year Award while, in 2005, Ken Osmond was nominated for TV Land's Character Most Desperately in Need of a Timeout Award. Leave It to Beaver placed on Time's "The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time" list. Bravo ranked Beaver 74th on their list of the 100 greatest TV characters.
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- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Beaver Gets 'Spelled"
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Beaver Gets 'Spelled".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Beavers Poem".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Blind Date Committee".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Beaver Won't Eat".
- "The Toy Parade" lyrics.
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 7: "Water, Anyone?"
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 73: "Wally's Haircomb".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 204: "Beaver Joins a Record Club".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 32: "Beaver's Old Friend".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 21: "Cleaning Up Beaver".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 55: "The Boat Builders".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 28: "Next Door Indians".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 24: "The State vs. Beaver".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 57: "The Garage Painters".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 68: "Beaver Says Goodbye"
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 78: "Most Interesting Character".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 79: "Blind Date Committee".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 86: "Beaver's Tree".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 56: "Beaver Plays Hooky".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 31: "New Doctor".
- Lillico, Neil B. Television as Popular Culture: An attempt to influence North American Society? An Ideological analysis of Leave it to Beaver (1957–1961). A memoir submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.A. degree in History. University of Ottawa. 1993.
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 100: "Larry's Club".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 115: "Wally's Play".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 82: "Beaver's Prize".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode : "Beaver's I.Q".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 222: "Beaver's Prep School".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 14: "Part Time Genius".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 77: "Found Money".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 93: "Larry Hides Out",
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 11: "Beaver's Short Pants".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 221: "Uncle Billy's Visit".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 214: "Beaver's Good Deed".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 98: "Beaver and Andy".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 119: "Beaver's House Guest".
- Jeffrey Shaffer, "Epic Beaver Cleaver", Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 1999, Vol. 91, Issue 128
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 102: "The Hypnotist".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 93: "Larry Hides Out".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 1: "Beaver Gets 'Spelled"
- Leave It to Beaver, episode : "Cleaning Up Beaver".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 18: "Child Care".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 47: "The Shave".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 80: "Beaver Takes a Bath".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 8: "Beaver's Crush".
- Leave It to Beaver, episode 169: "Beaver's First Date".
- Lassie, episode 24: "The Well".
- Lassie, episode 485: "Lassie and the 4-H Boys".
- Lassie, episodes 470, 471, 472: "Hanford's Point".
- Lassie, episode 66: "Friendship".
- Lassie, episode 29: "The Kittens".
- Lassie, episode 89: "The Artist".
- Lassie, episode 250: "The Greyhound".
- Lassie, episode 253: "Timmy and the Martians".
- Lassie, episode 36: "The Rival".
- Lassie, episode 138: "The Cub Scout".
- Leave It to Beaver – TV.com
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- "Season 3 Still On Schedule, But a Short Delay for The Complete Series"
- Leave it to Beaver: The Complete First Season
- Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Second Season
- Leave it to Beaver: Season Three
- Leave it to Beaver: Season Four
- Leave it to Beaver: Season Five
- Leave it to Beaver: Season Six
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- Mary Strom Larson, "Sibling Interactions in 1950s Versus 1980s Sitcoms: A Comparison", Journalism Quarterly 1991 68(3): 381–387
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leave It to Beaver.|
- "Golly, Beav, We’re Historic", by Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times, June 25, 2010
- episodes of Leave It to Beaver on TVLand.com (USA only)
- Leave It to Beaver at the Internet Movie Database
- Leave It to Beaver at TV.com