Classic U.S. family sitcom. Millions of American children grew up thinking that this is how a family should be. Many of the Beaver episodes were rather well written pieces. Beaver compares very favorably with other contemporary show like Dennis the Menace. This is one of the reasons that Beaver is still popular in syndication half a century later. Leave It to Beaver is in many ways a good depiction of American suburban childhood. Possibly, it is due to the differences between the shows' creators. I don't know about "Dennis", but Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, who created "Beaver", say they drew on actual family experiences for inspiration. The boys always wear longs in the different episodes with very few exceptions. Beaver and his friends wear "T" shirts. plaid shirts, and jeans. His older brother Wally who after the firstvyears goes to highschool wears slacks. The boys never wear short pants with two exceptions.
The show was almost titled "Wally and the Beaver", but it was decided that title would suggest it was an animal-oriented show, such as Fury, National Velvet, or Lassie!
Leave It to Beaver was one of the most popular programs on American television. Most people watched the program andmany who were not regular viewers picked it up when summer reruns appeared. It is onevof those programd most associated with the 1950s. Of course a new generation is watching Beaver through syndication.
Beaver and his friends wear "T" shirts. plaid shirts, and jeans. His older brother Wally who after the firstvyears goes to highschool wears slacks. The boys never wear short pants with two exceptions. Aunt Martha who takes care of the boys, unsists that Beaver wear a short panrs suit. Wally in one episode appears in a short pants Scout uniform goung to summer camp. The photograph of Beaver in the linked page is the only still full length picture of Beaver in his shorts suit I've ever seen. A couple of portraits, but
nothing of the suit. You know, it's surprising how many "Leave It to Beaver-philes" recall this episode. WTBS about a dozen or so years back ran "Beaver" perennially, and just recently TV Land included this series in its line up. Both networks from time to time
have had marathons of Beaver, and other shows, but when it came to a Beaver marathon, you could always depend on "Beaver's Short Pants" to be included.
"Leave It to Beaver" had a very effective cast. Beaver (Jerry Mathers) was very effective and so was his big brother Wally (Tony Dow). I saw some of the first episodes. I had forgotten what a little guy Wally was in that first season. He grew up into a teenager for much of the rest of the run of the series. Hugh Beaumont was a very appealing dad.
I have no information on Jerry Mathers before he began the "Leave It to Beaver" series. When Jerry tried out for the role as Beaver, he had to act as if he were crying for his audition. He was having trouble crying on cue, and Hugh Beaumont, yet to be cast as Ward, nicely suggested that he pretend to be laughing - the motions are apparently somewhat similar. It worked; Jerry was hired, and that night he prayed that Hugh Beaumont (who was a Methodist lay minister, and a genuinely good man), who'd been so kind to him, would be chosen to be his TV dad. The rest, as they say, is history. Jerry rather grew up on television as the program had such a long run. I don't knowof any other program he did. Nor do I know of any movies. Apparently once he outgrew his little boy cuteness he could no longer find roles. I'm not sure how hard he tried.
Hugh Beaumont more than any other TV father, became the ideal American father. He was the dad that boys in American wished they had and the ideal against which their own fathers were measured--almost always unfavorably. I wonder if this program didn't adversely affect how many boys looked on their fathers.
Barbara Billingsley, remembered for her doing housekeeping in high heels, earrings, and a necklace, said that she wore her necklace to compensate for what she thinks is a too slim neck! She also has said that she occasionally disliked some of the scripts because they required her to act upset about something Wally or the Beaver said or did. She said that she'd have justlaughed, had her own boys done or said that!
Tony Dow played Beaver's usually responsible older brother. He was still a little guy when the series began, I think about 12 years old. He quickly becomes a more responsible high school boy. Leave It to Beavr is the only TV program or movie that I know of in which he played. The attention of the series was focused largely on Beaver. Tony's part was quite well done. They were more affective, however, as a younger boy. His role as an older boy was too good to be true--even in the 1950s.
Many of the Beaver episodes were rather well written pieces. Beaver compares very favorably with other contemporary show like Dennis the Menace. This is one of the reasons that Beaver is still popular in syndication half a century later. Leave It to Beaver is in many ways a good depiction of American suburban childhood. Possibly, it is due to the differences between the shows' creators. I don't know about "Dennis", but Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, who created "Beaver", say they drew on actual family experiences for inspiration.
Beaver was constantly getting into trouble. The fun each week was in seeing how he was going to get himself out of trouble--usually dad had to help. Quite a number of episodes had plot lines which touched upon clothing. Unfortunately I do not yet know the actual titles of the episodes. I hope to eventually add these.
I remember one show about Beaver going out for a basket ball
team, he and the other boys even wore longs for that.
Beaver's fater was of course the perfect dad. He certainly didn't believe in spanking and even if he had, mom would have never permitted it. Beaver hears that the principal has a spanking machine and gets locked into her office when he sneaks a peek.
Perhaps the most memorable epidode was when Beaver's mother has to take care of a sick relative and Aunt Martha comes to take care of the boys. She insists on buying him a new suit, of course with short pants and a little cap. Wally looks him
over and decides he looks like a chicken with bare knees. She sends him to school in it and he is of coursed teased unmercifully. "Where did you get the girl's socks, Beaver?" taunts one of his friends. One of the girls at school says something about his knees, but I forget just what. Beaver hates it and pleads with his father who rescues him, but as a touch, Beaver puts the suit back on when they take Aunt Martha to the airport, so she won't feel bad. I saw this as a boy, I'm sure it affected me at the time.
When Wally joins the scouts, the boys all wear the short pants uniform, the only shorts you ever see Wally wear. One particularly scene of the whole troop in the back of a truck.
Beaver in another episode makes friends with a little Hispanic boy named Chuy (Roberto "Chuy" Varela) who wears short pants and knee socks. The episode, "Beaver and Chuy", is about Beaver's new South American friend. Eddie Haskel, Wally's omnipresent obnoxious friend, comments that it was sissy to wear shorts. Eddie's mean jokes causes Beaver to inadvetedly insult Chuy. (Incidentallu Eddie became a policeman.) Chuy is coming to visit Beav after lunch. Interestingly, Chuy is as far as I know the only Hispanic that appeared on American television, other than Ricky Ricardo, until the 1970s.
Another time Beaver asks
his teacher not to make the boys wear smocks for art class.
In one pisode,
Wally tells his mother he is going down to dancing school, she asks him
why as he is not taking lessons. He tells her that they are going to
peek into the windows and make fun of a friend who does have to take
lessons. In another episode Wally's mother tries to figure out why he
came back from dancing school with his jacket all torn. Lot's of
possibilities there, but we are never enlightened.
In one episode an older Beaver waers a bunny costume for a school play. He misses a ride and has to walk to school in his bunny costume.
In another episode Wally (Beaver's big brother), is upset because he has to wear a dress for a school play. In a little scene, Beaver is going through the box.
"Beaver's Football Award" from the final 1962-63 season was interesting as a statement of sorts on clothes. Football season at
Grant Avenue School has ended, and awards and letters are now to be distributed at a father/son banquet at the school's gym. On the day of the ceremony, Beaver, Gilbert, and Richard are discussing this event, and Gilbert adds that his parents have even bought him a new suit for the occasion. All the boys seem set on dressing nicely for the banquet when Terry, a team leader, appears. He scoffs at the notion of dressing
up; he's going just as he is, in a dress shirt and slacks. The other boys all say that they won't dress up either. That evening, as the time to leave for the banquet approaches, Ward phones to say that he's
running late, but he will certainly be going to the banquet with Beaver. June tells Beaver to get ready, meaning wash and put on a tie and sports coat. Beaver does half that; he washes, but comes downstairs
without a coat and tie. June is very displeased by this and Beaver's refusal to dress properly. When Ward gets home, he gets the whole story from Beaver. Beaver won't budge from his position, and Ward tells him in that case, they won't be going at all. That seems to
suit (no pun meant there) Beav just fine. June tells Ward that this event is too important for them to pass up, and Ward agrees: he and the Beaver will go just as they are. When they arrive at the banquet, all the other boys (including Terry)and their dads are dressed
in suits or sport coats and nice slacks, and ties. Everyone looks diapprovingly at Beaver, and Beav tells Ward that he doesn't feel good and wants to go home. Ward takes Beav to the car and tells him that he has brought Beaver's best sport coat and a tie, anticipating this outcome. The lesson is well learned: next morning at the breakfast table, Beaver volunteers that he will do anything his mom and dad ask from now on. Ward says that's fine; he and Wally can begin by performing yard work that morning! Well, some five years HAD passed since Aunt Martha bought Beaver a certain suit, and it was very likely outgrown by now!!
An interesting episode which demonstrates the powers of peer pressure and the need to dress like our peers.
Wally needs a new suit for an upcoming dance. Ward and June want to help him pick out his new suit, but Wally convinces them that he's old enough to shop for himself. Beaver accompanied Wally to the department store, and the boys looked at some traditional, conservative suits with little interest. Wally found a rather loud plaid suit on a rack. No other would do, and that was the one he brought home. He proudly modeled the suit for Ward and June, who were appalled by the garish pattern. Wally defended his selection and reminded his parents that they gave their permission for him to buy his own suit. Ward and June are sick over this loud suit with padded shoulders and extra pockets but feel they can't go back on their word. The night before the dance, June notices the suit need a slight alteration to make a better fit, and the Cleavers take Wally and the suit to the store. At the store Wally asked the salesman why the suit had padded shoulders: for a boy with narrow shoulders and a slight build. The salesman wisely pointed out to Wally that a traditionally styled, solid gray suit would show his athletic build more effectively than that plaid suit ever could. That changed Wally's mind, and he bought the salesman's recommended suit. Ward and June were relieved and no doubt hoped that Wally had learned a valuable lesson - in clothing!
A HBC reader tells us, "An episode of "Leave It to Beaver" that I remember that isn't mentioned on the site is one in which Beaver buys a sweater and the first day he wears it to school his nemesis Judy Hensler shows up wearing the same sweater. Of course Beaver doesn't at all like wearing what he now sees as a girls' sweater. (I had my own unpleasant experience when I was 8 of wearing a new shirt that
was supposed to be a new style to school and having the other kids think it looked like a girl's blouse.)"
I also remember an episode in which June is concerned because Wally gets what she thinks is an outlandish haircut which I think was called a "jelly roll." It looked like the kind of haircut a 1950s rock and roll star might have.
They finally made a movie based on the show in 1996. I haven't seen it and do not know the plot line or have any details of the costuming. It does not seem to have been a very popular film.
There are several good books discussing "Leave It To Beaver", and Jerry Mathers also has written an autobiography.
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