October 16, 2010 by staff
Barbara Billingsley, Barbara Billingsley, who got her soft Supermom status display of June Cleaver, the warm, supportive mother of a pair of precocious boys’ Leave It to Beaver, “died Saturday. She was 94.
Billingsley, who was suffering from a rheumatic disease, was deceased in her home in Santa Monica, said family spokeswoman Judy Twersky.
When the show debuted in 1957, Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, was 9, and Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally, was 12. Billingsley’s character, the perfect stay-at-home mom in 1950, was always there to gently but firmly by both cherish the ups and downs of childhood.
Beaver, meanwhile, was a typical American boy whose adventures he found himself in a comic crisis after another.
Own two sons Billingsley said she was pretty much the image of June Cleaver in real life, although the actress does not agree.
“She was just as nurturing, elegant and beautiful as” June Cleaver “and we were so proud for her to share with the world”, her son Glenn Billingsley said Saturday.
She admitted that she might become more like June as the series progressed.
“I think what happens is that the authors start writing about you as well as the character they created,” she once said. “So you’re kind of really confused, I guess.”
A healthy beauty with a lithe figure, Billingsley began acting in plays her elementary school and soon discovered that she wanted nothing to do.
While her beauty and her figure has won many roles in films from the mid-1940 to mid 1950, she failed to get star status to “Leave It to Beaver,” a show that almost passed.
“I went to do another series with Buddy Ebsen in the same industry, but somehow did not materialize,” she told the Associated Press in 1994. “A few months later I received a phone call to the studio for the pilot to do. And it was” Beaver “.”
Decades later, she spoke surprise at the enduring affection people had for the show.
“We knew that a good show, because it was so well written,” she said. “But we had no idea what to expect. People still talk and write letters, tell how they look today with their children and grandchildren. ”
After “Leave it to Beaver” left the air in 1963 Billingsley largely disappeared from public view for several years.
She appeared in 1980 in a hilarious cameo in “Airplane!” playing an elderly passenger does not demur as opposed to June Cleaver.
When flight attendants were unable to communicate with a pair of jive-talking hipsters, Billingsley voluntary nature of the translation, saying: “I speak jive.” The three then engage in a raw street-snake call.
“No chance that they would have to give me that as I was not June Cleaver,” she once said.
She returned in June Cleaver in a 1983 TV movie, “Still the Beaver,” which costarred Mathers and Dow and portrayed a much darker side of life’s Beaver.
In his mid 30s, Beaver was unemployed, unable to communicate with his sons and going through a divorce. Wally was a successful lawyer, handling the divorce, and in June was at a loss to help her son by the transition.
“Ward, what would you do?” she asked at the site of the grave of her husband. (Hugh Beaumont who played Ward Cleaver was deceased in 1982.)
The film revived interest in the Cleaver family, and the Disney Channel has launched “the new IT Show Beaver” in 1985.
The series took a more hopeful view of the hair clippers with Beaver winning custody of his two sons and all three moving in June.
In 1997, Universal made a “Leave It to Beaver” theatrical film with a new generation of actors. Billingsley back for a cameo, but as Aunt Martha.
“Favorite American mother is now gone,” Dow said in a statement Saturday. “I feel very fortunate to have been her” son “for 11 years. We were good friends and I will miss her.”
In later years she appeared from time to time in such television series as “Murphy Brown,”Empty Nest” and “Baby Boom” and had a memorable comic turn opposite fellow TV moms June Lockhart of “Lassie” and Isabel Sanford of “The Jeffersons” to “Roseanne” show.
“Now some people, they just associate you with that one role (June Cleaver), and it makes it difficult to do other things,” she once said. “But as far as I am concerned, it is an honor.”
In real life, fate was not as soft as it was for Billingsley to June and her family.
Barbara Lillian Combes was born in Los Angeles on December 22, 1915; her mother raised her after her parents divorced. She and her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, divorced when her children were just 2 and 4.
Her second husband, Roy Kellino director, died of a heart attack three years after marriage and a few months before she landed the “Leave It to Beaver” role.
She married a doctor in 1959 and Bill Mortenson she remained wed until his death in 1981.
Twersky Billingsley said her surviving sons, a stepson and numerous grandchildren.
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