With the release of Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series this week, the Archive is posting Jerry Mathers’ entire Archive interview.
Jerry Mathers talked about his start as a child model from the age of two, which led to his acting career in “live” television in the early 1950s. He described such appearances as a western sketch on All Star Revue with Ed Wynn, in which he wore a diaper and six shooters and sidled up to the bar to recite his line: “I’m the toughest hombre in these here parts.” In feature films, he related how he was cast by Alfred Hitchcock for The Trouble With Harry and described how, in a real-life fire stunt gone wrong, Bob Hope saved him from the smoke and flames while shooting a scene in The Seven Little Foys. Mathers then spoke in great detail about the role and series for which he is most identified, Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver. He discussed the premise of the show and the significance of its child’s point-of-view. He talked about each of the principal cast members and outlined their careers leading up to and following Leave It to Beaver. He recalled the plots and production of several classic episodes of the series, including “Captain Jack,” in which Wally and Beaver secretly keep a pet alligator; “A Horse Named Nick,” in which Wally and Beaver accept a horse in payment for work they did at a traveling circus; and “In the Soup,” in which Beaver falls into a billboard’s soup bowl display. Mathers described his post-Leave It to Beaver years in which he left show business to earn his degree, served in the National Guard, and worked in banking and real estate. He then described his return to full-time acting when he went on tour in the stage production “So Long, Stanley,” co-starring Tony Dow. Mathers discussed his return to the role of “Beaver” Cleaver in the 1980s in the made-for-television movie Still the Beaver and the subsequent series The New Leave It to Beaver. Lastly, Mathers talked about his charitable interests and current projects. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski.