Ken Osmond, Wise-Cracking ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Star, Dies

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“Good morning, Mrs. Cleaver. That’s a very pretty dress.”

Ken Osmond, who played the smart-aleck neighbor of the Cleaver family, Eddie Haskell, on the TV sitcom Leave it to Beaver died today (May 18), at his Los Angeles home. Osmond was 76; no cause of death was revealed.

Osmond’s portrayal of the wise-cracking Haskell was dead perfect. In any given episode of the sitcom, his character would say to his best friend, Wally Cleaver (played by Tony Dow), “We need to keep this a secret from your old man,” just as patriarch Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) would enter the room. Haskell would abruptly change his tune to sweet-talk his friend’s father.

“Well, hello, Mister Cleaver… I was just remarking to Wallace what a magnificent new car you have.”

Whether it was Ward or June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), who had overheard the conversation, they always knew that their son’s friend was trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Osmond’s character perpetually feigned being a tough guy, but underneath it all he was insecure and had a good heart, which always seemed to show itself just as he was about to become a jerk.

Haskell’s private remarks to Wally, were often punctuated with a conspiratorial, “Heh, heh.”

Dow paid tribute to Osmond. “I sensed right off the bat that Ken was a character and a terrific actor. He created a memorable role as my best friend (people still wonder why such a wisenheimer would be my bestie!) and will forever be remembered as one of the stand-outs in television history. We remained friends for sixty-three years. I’ll miss you, man.”

“Beaver,” Wally’s younger brother, was portrayed by Jerry Mathers. The Cleaver family lived in the sunny suburb of Mayfield, in a black-and-white television world, and has been a favorite of generations of kids who enjoyed its re-runs in syndication.

Mathers said of his fellow cast mate, “I have always said he was the best actor on our show because his personality was so opposite of the character that he so brilliantly portrayed.”

Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957-1963, initially on CBS. The network dropped the program after one season due to poor ratings. ABC then picked it up, though it was never a Top 30 series in any given season. Remarkably, there are 234 episodes; 39 were made each year. The series lives on in re-runs, airing on MeTV.

Osmond, born June 7, 1943, was 14 when the series premiered. Once the series concluded, he had difficulty finding other acting work as he was typecast for his role. He ultimately became a member of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Mathers was born June 2, 1948. Dow was born April 13, 1945. Both Billingsley and Beaumont have passed.

Years after Beaver ended, Billingsley parodied her goody two-shoes image in a classic scene in the motion picture, Airplane!

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  1. phil
    #1 phil 19 May, 2020, 01:23

    I still watch it, although when the boys get too old.. I remember Eddie egging the Beav to ride the roller-coaster. He agreed, and Eddie got sick during the ride ..

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