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Beaver And Wally's Mom Has Died


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Boston Globe:

 

 

LOS ANGELES—Barbara Billingsley, who gained supermom status for her gentle portrayal of June Cleaver, the warm, supportive mother of a pair of precocious boys in "Leave it to Beaver," died Saturday. She was 94. Billingsley, who had suffered from a rheumatoid disease, died at her home in Santa Monica, said family spokeswoman Judy Twersky.

 

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Aww, I loved Barbara. :( A true icon! I've always wanted to see the episodes of The Brothers she made with Gale.

 

R.I.P. Jive Lady. :(

 

From NYT:

 

By MICHAEL POLLAK

Published: October 16, 2010

 

 

Barbara Billingsley, who as June Cleaver on the fondly remembered television series “Leave It to Beaver” personified a Hollywood postwar family ideal — the ever-sweet, ever-helpful suburban stay-at-home mom — died Saturday. She was 94.

 

A family spokeswoman, Judy Twersky, said that Ms. Billingsley had died of polymyalgia, a rheumatoid disease, at her home in Santa Monica, Calif.

 

From 1957 to 1963 and in decades of reruns, the glamorous June, who wore pearls and high heels at home, could be counted on to help her husband, Ward (Hugh Beaumont), get their son Theodore, better known as Beaver (Jerry Mathers), and his older brother, Wally (Tony Dow), extricated from innumerable minor jams, from an alligator in the basement to a horse in the garage.

 

While baking a steady supply of cookies, she would use motherly intuition to sound the alarm about incipient trouble (“Ward, I’m worried about the Beaver”) in their immaculate, airy house in the fictional town of Mayfield. (The house appeared to have no master bedroom, just a big door from which Ward and June occasionally emerged, tying their bathrobes.) Along with the mothers played by Harriet Nelson (“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”), Donna Reed (“The Donna Reed Show”) and others, Ms. Billingsley’s role became a cultural standard, one that may have been too good to be true but engendered fan mail and nostalgia for decades afterward, from the same generation whose counterculture derided the see-no-evil suburbia June’s character represented. The real Barbara Billingsley, who had nothing but respect for June Cleaver, was a former model and career actress who was married three times and spent part of her career as a working single mother (of two boys, at that).

 

Yes, she acknowledged 40 years later, her role was an idealized reflection of the times. “We were the ideal parents because that’s the way he saw it,” she said, describing the show as the world seen through the eyes of a child. (The pearls, incidentally, were there to cover up a hollow in her neck. In the beginning she wore flats; the heels were an attempt to stay taller than the growing boys.)

 

June was no namby-pamby, but she could be quite a disciplinarian, Ms. Billingsley said in an interview in 2000 for the Archive of American Television. “She was a loving, happy stay-at-home mom, which I think is great,” she said. “I’m not for every woman having to be out in the workplace. My mother was. I had two children at home and I was working, but I think one that stays at home, if she’s doing a good job, it’s the best job she’ll ever have, and the most important.”

 

Ms. Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes on Dec. 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, where she attended George Washington High School. She left Los Angeles Junior College to appear in a short-lived Broadway play, “Straw Hat.” She took her stage name from her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, a nephew of Sherman Billingsley, the proprietor of the Stork Club in Manhattan. They had two sons.

 

After working as a fashion model, Ms. Billingsley returned to Los Angeles, acted in local plays and was signed to a contract by MGM. In the 1940s and early ’50s her film roles were mostly small. Her movies included “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) with Kirk Douglas, “Shadow on the Wall” (1950) with Ann Sothern and “Three Guys Named Mike” (1951) with Jane Wyman. She later described her typical movie role as “the woman who was really the heavy but nobody knew it.”

 

Her early television years included episodes of “Schlitz Playhouse of Stars,” “Four Star Playhouse,” “The Loretta Young Show” and “Make Room for Daddy.” Her first series, in 1955, was “Professional Father,” in which she played the wife of a child psychologist. She was also featured in “The Brothers,” in 1956, with Gale Gordon.

 

Of “Leave It to Beaver,” she later recalled, “It was a happy experience for me, and very timely,” adding that there was never a fight on the set in seven years. Of the actor who played Beaver, she said: “Jerry was the cutest boy on God’s green earth. And he was a fine actor, a natural.” She didn’t think her role affected her own boys very much. “Their friends were much more interested than they were,” she recalled in 2000.

 

After the show went off the air in 1963, Ms. Billingsley, by then thoroughly typecast as June, saw few acting roles and concentrated on her own family. Her show business career was revived in 1980 by the movie comedy “Airplane!” in which she played a sweet passenger who communicates in “jive” with two streetwise black passengers — an ironic comment on her previous incarnation as America’s white-bread mom. After that there were guest appearances on “Mork & Mindy,” “Amazing Stories,” “The Love Boat,” “Murphy Brown,” “Roseanne” and other shows. From 1984 to 1991 Ms. Billingsley was the voice of the nanny in the animated series “Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.”

 

In 1983 she reprised her role as June in a television movie, “Still the Beaver,” which reunited her with many members of the original “Leave It to Beaver” cast (but not Hugh Beaumont, who died in 1982). That led to a cable series known first by that name and then as “The New Leave It to Beaver.” She also had a small part in the 1997 feature-film version of “Leave It to Beaver.”

 

After her divorce from Glenn Billingsley in 1947, Ms. Billingsley married Roy Kellino. After Mr. Kellino’s death in 1956, she married Dr. William Mortenson, a general practitioner. They remained married until Dr. Mortenson died in 1981. “Our family after I married Dr. Bill turned out to be like” the Cleavers, she said in 2000.

 

She is survived by her two sons, Drew Billingsley of Granada Hills, Calif., and Glenn Billingsley Jr. of Phillips Ranch Calif.

 

Many of Ms. Billingsley’s later guest appearances were either as June Cleaver or in roles that made wry references to her. But she said she turned down scripts if they made fun of June.

 

“She’s been too good to me to play anything like that,” she said.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/arts/television/17billingsley.html?_r=1

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"Leave it to Beaver" IMO was the best of its kind. I can't think of another show that combined situation realism, great scripts and cast, very distinctive characters, heartwarming pathos AND bonafide laughs. Yes, it was family life idealized, but what do you expect from this era? One of those perfectly cast was Barbara Billingsly. Look for her reactions, especially to Eddie Haskel. They're subtle but funny.

But I have a few questions about the origins of the "Beaver" concept. Which came first: the title nickname 'Beaver' or Jerry Mathers' teeth? Although "THE Beaver" is tossed off as a term of endearment even by his parents, it's really no bouquet of roses when you think about it. And how many animal references did they go through before they came up with beaver: "Leave it to Dog-Face"? "Leave it to Skunky"? "Leave it to Amoeba"?

OR did the original premise, that of a thick-wasted tomboy whose nickname "Beaver" the writers tried to sneak past the censors, get scrapped when some CBS exec made the connection?

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I'll always remember BB as "Nanny" from "Muppet Babies." lolz. I haven't watched TOO much "Leave it to Beaver" in my life unfortunately. Nanny is best remembered for only being seen from the waist down with her green and white striped socks.

 

01+nanny.jpg

 

For those of you who have probably never heard of Muppet Babies it ran from 1984-1990 on CBS. One of my favorites as a kid and there's full episodes on Youtube. I doubt it will ever be released on dvd because of all the live-action movie/TV show footage used. And I can't imagine how much it would cost to clear all that stuff. Dave Coulier/Howie Mandel provided the voice of Baby Animal. I much prefer Dave Coulier's voice. Howie was only in the first season and I hated the way he did Animal's voice.

 

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