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|Born||Barbara Lillian Combes
December 22, 1915
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||October 16, 2010
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Polymyalgia rheumatica|
|Resting place||Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Education||Washington Preparatory High School|
|Alma mater||Los Angeles Junior College|
|Spouse(s)||Glenn Billingsley (m. 1941; div. 1947)
Roy Kellino (m. 1953; d. 1956)
William Mortensen (m. 1959; d. 1981)
She gained prominence in the 1950s movie The Careless Years, acting opposite Natalie Trundy, followed by her best known role, that of iconic 1950s mother figure June Cleaver on the television series Leave It to Beaver (1957 – 63) and its sequel The New Leave It to Beaver (1983 – 89).
Barbara Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes on December 22, 1915 to Lillian Agnes (née McLaughlin; 1891 – 1956) and police officer, Robert Collyer Combes (1891 – 1950) in Los Angeles, California. She had one elder sibling, Elizabeth (1911 – 1992). Her parents divorced sometime before her fourth birthday, and her father, who later became an assistant chief of police, remarried. After her divorce, Lillian Combes went to work as a foreman at a knitting mill.
After attending Los Angeles Junior College for one year, Billingsley traveled to Broadway, when Straw Hat, a revue in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to New York City. When, after five days, the show closed, she took an apartment on 57th Street and went to work as a $60–a–week fashion model. In 1941, she married Glenn Billingsley, Sr. She landed a contract with MGM Studios in 1945 and moved with her husband to Los Angeles the following year. That same year, Glenn Billingsley opened a restaurant in that city.
She had mostly uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s. These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with supporting roles in Three Guys Named Mike (1951), opposite Jane Wyman, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and the sci-fi film Invaders from Mars (1953). In 1952, Billingsley had her first guest–starring role on an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show.
In 1955, she won a co-starring role in the sitcom Professional Father, starring Stephen Dunne and Beverly Washburn. The series lasted one season. The following year, Billingsley had a recurring role on The Brothers (with Gale Gordon and Bob Sweeney), as well as an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse. In 1957, she co–starred opposite Dean Stockwell and Natalie Trundy in The Careless Years, which was her first and only major role in film.
Billingsley appeared in guest roles on The Pride of the Family, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Letter to Loretta, You Are There, and Cavalcade of America. She appeared on Make Room for Daddy on January 14, 1957, in an episode called "Danny's Date", in which she played Mary Rogers.
Leave It to Beaver
After Billingsley signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1957, she made her mark on TV as everyday mother June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, alongside other 1950s family sitcoms such as Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Make Room For Daddy, and The Donna Reed Show. It debuted on CBS in 1957, to mediocre ratings and was soon cancelled. However, the show was picked up by ABC the following year, where it became a hit and aired for the next five seasons. The show was featured in over 100 countries. Also starring on Beaver were Hugh Beaumont, in the role of Ward Cleaver, June's husband and the kids' father, as well as unfamiliar child actors Tony Dow in the role of Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver.
In the show, Billingsley often could be seen doing household chores wearing pearls and earrings. The pearls, which in real-life were Billingsley's trademark, were, in turn, her idea to have her alter ego wear on television. The actress had what she termed "a hollow" on her neck and thought that wearing a strand of white pearls would lighten it up for the cameras. In later seasons, she started wearing high heels to compensate for the fact that the actors who played her sons were growing up and getting taller than she was. So associated was the pearl necklace with the character, that an entire episode of the sequel series dealt with the necklace when lost. Billingsley had one regret about the show's lasting success: residual payments ended after six reruns in standard 1950s actors' contracts.
"She was the ideal mother", Billingsley said of her character in 1997 in TV Guide. "Some people think she was weakish, but I don't. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I had two boys at home when I did the show. I think the character became kind of like me and vice versa. I've never known where one started and where one stopped." As for the idealized TV family on Leave It to Beaver, which continues in reruns on cable more than half a century after its debut, Billingsley had her own explanation for the Cleavers' enduring appeal. "Good grief," she told TV Guide, "I think everybody would like a family like that. Wouldn't it be nice if you came home from school and there was Mom standing there with her little apron and cookies waiting?"
Billingsley, however, did question her character's reactions to the Cleaver children's misbehavior, basing her concern on personal experience as the mother of two sons. As co-producer Joseph Connelly explained, "In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming over to us with the script and objecting. 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's done. I certainly wouldn't be.' As a result, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her lady-like stack."
After six seasons and 234 episodes, the popular series was canceled due to the cast's desire to move on to other projects, especially Mathers, who retired from acting to enter his freshman year in high school. The younger actor considered Billingsley a mentor, second mother, and a close professional friend:
As I say, Barbara was always, though, a true role model for me. She was a great actress. And a lot of people, you know, when they see her talk jive talk, they always say she can do other things besides be a mom on Leave It to Beaver. And I tell them, Airplane! (1980), she's been a great comedian all her life. And in a lot of ways, just like All in the Family, we kind of stifled her, because her true talent didn't really come out in Leave it To Beaver. She was the straight woman, but she has an awful lot of talent.
When production of the show ended in 1963, Billingsley had become typecast as saccharine sweet and had trouble obtaining acting jobs for years. She traveled extensively abroad until the late 1970s. After an absence of 17 years from the public eye (other than appearing in two episodes of The F.B.I. in 1971), Billingsley spoofed her wholesome image with a brief appearance in the comedy Airplane! (1980), as a passenger who could "speak jive". She stated that the role gave her as much publicity as Beaver, and revived her career.
Returning to TV work, she appeared on episodes of Mork & Mindy and The Love Boat. In 1983, she reprised her role as June Cleaver in the Leave It to Beaver reunion television movie entitled Still the Beaver in 1983. Hugh Beaumont had died the year before of a heart attack, so she played his widow. She also appeared in the subsequent revival of the series, The New Leave It to Beaver, from 1985 to 1989. During the run of The New Leave It to Beaver, Billingsley became the voice of Nanny and The Little Train on Muppet Babies from 1984 to 1991. For her performance as Nanny, she received subsequent Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series in 1989 and 1990.
After The New Leave It to Beaver ended its run in 1989, Billingsley appeared in guest roles on Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Empty Nest, and Murphy Brown. She also reprised her role as June Cleaver in various television shows, including Elvira's Movie Macabre, Amazing Stories, Baby Boom, Hi Honey, I'm Home!, and Roseanne. In 1998, she appeared on Candid Camera, along with June Lockhart and Isabel Sanford, as audience members in a spoof seminar on motherhood. Billingsley's final film role was as "Aunt Martha" in the 1997 film version of Leave It to Beaver. She made her final onscreen appearance in the 2003 television movie Secret Santa.
After the show's cancellation, Mathers remained her close friend. They were reunited on The New Leave It to Beaver. Billingsley, Mathers, Dow, Frank Bank, and Ken Osmond celebrated the show's 50th anniversary together on ABC's Good Morning America.
Billingsley was married three times and had two children. She married Glenn Billingsley, Sr. (1912–1984) in 1941. Glenn Billingsley was a restaurateur who was a nephew of Sherman Billingsley, the owner of the Stork Club. His businesses included Billingsley's Golden Bull, Billingsley's Bocage, and the Outrigger Polynesian restaurants in Los Angeles, and a Stork Club in Key West, Florida, where the couple lived briefly, after they were married. They had two sons, Drew and Glenn, Jr., and divorced in 1947.
In 1953, she married British-born movie director Roy Kellino. They were married until Kellino's death in 1956. Billingsley's third and final marriage was to Dr. William S. Mortensen. They married in 1959 and remained together until Mortensen's death in 1981.
|1945||So You Think You're Allergic||Blonde with Hives||Short subject
|1946||Up Goes Maisie||Barb's Friend at Maisie's Engagement Party||Uncredited|
|1946||Two Sisters from Boston||Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1946||Faithful in My Fashion||Mary - Department Store Clerk||Uncredited|
|1946||Three Wise Fools||Sister Mary Leonard||Uncredited|
|1946||The Secret Heart||Saleswoman||Uncredited|
|1947||The Arnelo Affair||Weil||Uncredited|
|1947||The Sea of Grass||Bridesmaid||Uncredited|
|1947||Living in a Big Way||G.I. Bill's Wife||Uncredited|
|1947||The Romance of Rosy Ridge||Wife||Uncredited|
|1947||The Unfinished Dance||Miss Morgan||Uncredited|
|1948||The Argyle Secrets||Elizabeth Court|
|1948||Souvenirs of Death||Johnny's Mom||Uncredited|
|1948||The Saxon Charm||Mrs. Maddox||Uncredited|
|1948||The Valiant Hombre||Linda Mason|
|1948||Act of Violence||Voice role||Uncredited|
|1949||The Sun Comes Up||Nurse||Uncredited|
|1949||Caught||Store customer in flowered hat||Uncredited|
|1949||I Cheated the Law||Ruth Campbell|
|1949||Any Number Can Play||Gambler||Uncredited|
|1949||Air Hostess||Madeline Moore|
|1949||A Kiss for Corliss||Miss Hibbs, Harry's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1950||Shadow on the Wall||Olga|
|1950||Trial Without Jury||Rheta Mulford|
|1950||Pretty Baby||Edna the Receptionist|
|1950||Dial 1119||Dorothy, Editor's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1951||Three Guys Named Mike||Ann White|
|1951||Inside Straight||Miss Meadson|
|1951||Oh! Susanna||Mrs. Lark||Uncredited|
|1951||The Tall Target||Young Mother||Uncredited|
|1951||Angels in the Outfield||Hat Check Girl in Restaurant||Uncredited|
|1951||Two-Dollar Bettor||Miss Pierson||Credited as Barbara Billinsley|
|1952||Invitation||Miss Alvy - Simon's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1952||Young Man with Ideas||Aggie - Party Guest||Uncredited|
|1952||Woman in the Dark||Evelyn Courtney|
|1952||The Bad and the Beautiful||Evelyn Lucien, Costume Designer||Uncredited|
|1953||The Lady Wants Mink||Phyllis||Uncredited|
|1953||Invaders from Mars||Kelston's Secretary||Uncredited|
|1954||Day of Triumph||Claudia - Wife of Pilate||Uncredited|
|1957||The Careless Years||Helen Meredith|
|1980||Airplane!||Jive Lady||Alternative title: Flying High!|
|1987||Back to the Beach||Announcer|
|1988||Going to the Chapel|
|1997||Leave It to Beaver||Aunt Martha|
|1953||The Abbott and Costello Show||Becky the Cashier||Episode: "Television"|
|1953||Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson||Episode: "Half the Action"|
|1953||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||Segment: "When a Lovely Woman"|
|1953–1955||Four Star Playhouse||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1953–1955||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Various roles||6 episodes|
|1953–1957||Cavalcade of America||Dorothea Meadows
|1954||The Pride of the Family||Episode: "Albie's Old Flame"|
|1954||The Lone Wolf||Jean Arnold||Episode: "The Long Beach Story (a.k.a. The Smuggling Story)"|
|1954||Fireside Theater||Episode: "The Whole Truth"|
|1955||Professional Father||Helen Wilson||18 episodes|
|1955||You Are There||Catherine Green||Episode: "Eli Whitney Invents the Cotton Gin (May 27, 1793)"|
|1956||Matinee Theater||Episode: "Summer Cannot Last"|
|1956||The Loretta Young Show||Connie||Episode: "Tightwad Millionaire"|
|1956||General Electric Summer Originals||Episode: "Jungle Trap"|
|1956||The Ford Television Theatre||Mrs. Sloan||Episode: "Catch at Straws"|
|1956–1957||The Brothers||Barbara||5 episodes|
|1957||Panic!||Mrs. Mason||Episode: "The Subway"|
|1957||Mr. Adams and Eve||Episode: "That Magazine"|
|1957||Studio 57||June Cleaver||Episode: "It's a Small World"|
|1957–1963||Leave It to Beaver||June Cleaver||235 episodes|
|1971||The F.B.I.||Joan Connor
|1982||Mork & Mindy||Louise Bailey||Episode: "Cheerleader in Chains"|
|1983||Still the Beaver||June Cleaver||Television movie|
|1983||High School U.S.A.||Mrs. McCarthy||Television movie|
|1983–1987||The Love Boat||Phyllis Cowens
|1983–1989||The New Leave It to Beaver||June Cleaver||101 episodes|
|1984||Elvira's Movie Macabre||June Cleaver||Episode: "The Human Duplicators"|
|1984||Silver Spoons||Miss Bugden||Episode: "I Won't Dance"|
|1984–1991||Muppet Babies||Nanny (Voice)||107 episodes|
|1985||Amazing Stories||June Cleaver||Episode: "Remote Control Man"|
|1987||The New Mike Hammer||Sister Superior Paula||Episode: "Who Killed Sister Lorna?"|
|1987||Bay Coven||Beatrice Gower||Television movie|
|1988||Baby Boom||June Cleaver||Episode: "Guilt"|
|1989||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Mirahda (Voice)||Episode: "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers"|
|1991||Parker Lewis Can't Lose||Ms. Musso's Mother||Episode: "Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie"|
|1991||Hi Honey, I'm Home!||June Cleaver||Episode: "Make My Bed"|
|1991||Empty Nest||Winifred McConnell||Episode: "My Nurse Is Back and There's Gonna Be Trouble..."|
|1993–1994||The Mommies||Caryl's mother
Jeanne - Marilyn's Mom
|1994||Murphy Brown||Mrs. Stritch||Episode: "Crime Story"|
|2000||Mysterious Ways||Abby Westmore||Episode: "Handshake"|
|2003||Secret Santa||Miss Ruthie||Television movie, (Last appearance)|
- "Barbara Billingsley Dies".
- McLellan, Dennis (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, mother on 'Leave It to Beaver', dies at 94". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Adam Bernstein (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, 94, dies; actress was model mom on 'Leave It To Beaver'". Washington Post.
- Combes's status as a patrolman with the Los Angeles Police Department is stated on his 1917 draft registration, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010. The website indicates that Combes was then married with two children. According to U.S. Federal Census information, Combes, like his first wife, was the child of an American father and an English mother. He was a native of Sea Cliff Village, Oyster Bay, New York; his father, Henry P. Combes (1860–1920), was a carpenter, and his mother, the former Helen Merritt (1864–1949), was a reporter. Information cited on 1900 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010.
- Only one sibling, Elizabeth, is cited on 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010. The birth and death dates for Elizabeth Combes (later known as Elizabeth "Betty" McLaughlin) are cited on ancestry.com.
- The 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Los Angeles, California, gives the entire Combes household as Lillian Combes, head of household and divorced, and two daughters, Elizabeth, aged eight, and Barbara, aged four; the same census states that Robert Collyer Combes, a 28-year-old divorced "police officer", was living as a lodger elsewhere in the city. The 1930 U.S. Federal Census states that Robert Collyer Combes, by then a captain in the Los Angeles police force, was living with his new wife, Maria S. Combes (1903–1999), and that the couple had been married since 1925. Maria Combes's birth and death dates are listed on the Social Security Death Index, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010.
- Mother's occupation stated in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010
- Barbara Billingsley at the Internet Movie Database
- Good Morning America, ABC, October 2007
- Mathers, Jerry. ...And Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver". Berkley Boulevard Books, 1998.
- Lawrence Arnold (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, Iconic TV Mom June Cleaver, Dead at 94". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Nina Clare Liebman, Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television (University of Texas Press, 1995), p. 70
- Billingsley, Barbara (interview) (May 27, 2010). Barbara Billingsley on speaking "jive" in "Airplane". YouTube.
- Ralph Blumenthal, Stork Club: America's Most Famous Nightspot and the Lost World of Cafe Society (Back Bay, 2001), p. 13
- Silverman, Stephen M. (October 16, 2010). "Leave It to Beaver's Barbara Billingsley Loved Being America's Mom". people.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
- Bygre, Duane (October 16, 2010). "'Leave It to Beaver' Mom Barbara Billingsley Dies". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
- Pollack, Michael (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, TV's June Cleaver, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 27, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
- Rohit, Parimal M. (July 17, 2011). "Santa Monica Consolidates Cemetery Prices". smmirror.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
- Applebaum, Irwyn. The World According to Beaver. TV Books, 1984, 1998.
- Mathers, Jerry. ...And Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver". Berkley Boulevard Books, 1998.