‘Leave It to Beaver’: How Wally’s Actor Survived the ‘Child Star Curse’

Many actors have dealt with the so-called “child star curse,” however, not all of them discussed their experiences publicly. Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, revealed how he overcame the curse. In addition, he gave fans insight into his life outside of the show.

The cast of Leave It to Beaver
The cast of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Wally Cleaver of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ opens up about transitioning to adulthood

Occasionally, child actors became major icons like Ron Howard, Elizabeth Taylor, Neil Patrick Harris, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However, some became infamous for having deeply troubled personal lives. Others were simply unable to maintain their success when they get older. Dow was one of the biggest child stars of the 1950s, as the show began airing when he was a preteen.

During an interview with Fox News, Stephanie Nolasco asked him how he dealt with the “so-called child star curse.” “When I wasn’t filming my life was normal,” he replied. “My parents wanted to make sure it was normal. When I wasn’t doing the show, I was at school. We had family vacations during the summers and I had my group of friends. And I appreciated that. It’s difficult to make the transition from being a kid actor to an adult actor because all sorts of things happen.”

Theme from Leave It to Beaver

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He continued “Your voice changes. You’re no longer the cute little kid. You go through an awkward age and don’t get hired, so you quit… I wasn’t neglected by my family… I also started college and kept acting… Then I decided to stop and try other things, like directing, to keep things interesting. But my life was sort of consistently the same. So I didn’t have trouble with that transition. And I’m still keeping busy today.”

So did Dow have a career after Leave It to Beaver ended in 1963? It’s safe to say he never made anything else that became as big a part in the American cultural lexicon as Leave It to Beaver did. However, he was still in a handful of notable projects over the years.

Where Tony Dow went from there

For example, he had a role in The Kentucky Fried Movie. The Kentucky Fried Movie is a sketch comedy film that came from the iconic team of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker. The group would become known as Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker or ZAZ for short. They would produce classic comedies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

The theme from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

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Dow would also make his mark as a television director. For example, he directed episodes of two classic science fiction shows: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. He also appeared in The New Leave It to Beaver alongside the other members of the show’s original cast. While Dow did not become a major star, he survived the child star curse and continued to be productive.