Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leave it to Billingsley

June talking to her son, Beaver
Leave it to Beaver was a conventional middle-class 1950's television show. When I see it I can't believe anyone would think this was anything close to an actual family.   June Cleaver wore pearls and high heals and would greet her husband when he came home with a kiss on the cheek.  She had dinner ready and would tell him of the trouble the kids got into that day. (a broken window or the neighbor was woken up because they were too loud)  Then she and her husband Ward would dispense moralistic advice to their sons.

Actually, the show was rather sweet.  And who didn't want a family like that, even if it was only for half an hour.

It can't have been as easy as that for a budding actress.  After 1 year of junior college, (then) Barbara Combes went to New York.  She was a model and had several small unlisted roles in movies before landing Leave it to Beaver.

After the show was canceled in 1964, she was typecast as a 'sweet as sugar' woman and had difficulty getting other jobs. 

Billingsley spoofed her wholesome image with a brief appearance in the comedy Airplane! (1980), as a passenger who could "speak jive".

There really is no surprise punch here.  She wasn't a closet tigress who threw her weight around.  She was, however, a talented and very hard working woman.  Jerry Mathers (The Beaver) is quoted as saying:
As I say, Barbara was always, though, a true role model for me. She was a great actress. And a lot of people, you know, when they see her talk jive talk, they always go she can do other things besides be a mom on Leave It to Beaver. And I tell them, Airplane!  (1980), she's been a great comedian all her life. And in a lot of ways, just like All in the Family, we kind of stifled her, because her true talent didn't really come out in Leave it To Beaver. She was like the straight woman, but she has an awful lot of talent

She was a strong person with an ability to inspire.  Barbara Billingsley is survived by 2 sons, Drew and Glenn, and 4 grandchildren.
Barbara Billingsley (December 22, 1915  – October 16, 2010)

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