Published at: Oct. 17, 2010, 3:07 a.m. CST by hercules
I am – Hercules.
Poring over the new “Leave It To Beaver” complete-series set, I was struck by two key notions:
1) “Leave It To Beaver,” created by key writers on CBS’ “Amos & Andy” (both the radio and TV versions), is still funny.
2) No apron or broomstick could disguise the fact that Wally and Beaver’s fortysomething mom was hot stuff.
Barbara Billingsley, who played that mom, passed away Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 94.
A daughter of Los Angeles police chief Robert Collyer Combes, she worked as a New York fashion model and a Broadway actress in the 1930s before landing a contract with MGM in the 1945.
She worked steadily through the late 1940s and early ‘50s, usually in small parts and often uncredited. She played an astronomer’s secretary in 1953’s “Invaders From Mars.”
Around the time “Mars” hit cinemas Billingsley began to get a lot of work in the numerous TV anthology series of the era. She became a regular on two short-lived pre-Beaver sitcoms, “Professional Father” (1955) and “The Brothers” (1956), before appearing between 1957 and 1963 in 235 episodes of “Leave It To Beaver.”
I’d wager Marge Simpson’s pearl necklace is an homage to June Cleaver, who wore her own while playing straight-woman to her TV offspring.
For the 17 years subsequent to the original "Beaver," Billingsley virtually disappeared from screen work, but in 1980 the “Airplane!” boys gave her this typecast-melting role:
The movie put Billingsley back on the pop-culture radar and essentially launched her second career. 1983’s “Still The Beaver” reunion TV-movie led to 102 episodes of “The New Leave It To Beaver,” which ran from 1983 to 1989. She played June Cleaver in a 1985 episode of “Amazing Stories,” a 1987 episode of “The Love Boat,” a 1988 episode of “Baby Boom,” a 1991 episode of “Hi Honey, I’m Home” and a 1995 episode of “Roseanne.”
She also played guest roles on more than a dozen ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms, including “Mork & Mindy,” “Silver Spoons,” “Parker Lewis,” “Empty Nest” and “Murphy Brown.” She voiced the announcer in the big-screen 1987 Avalon-Funicello reunion movie “Back To The Beach” and the nanny in “Muppet Babies.” She played Aunt Martha in the 1997 big-screen “Beaver.”
Find CNN’s obituary here.