‘Leave It to Beaver’: The Most Expensive Episode of the Classic Comedy
It might not seem to have been at all a series that might incur great cost for its filmings, but the 1950s comedy Leave It To Beaver, as with any program on television, had to watch its costs.
Here’s what the Beaver actor Jerry Mathers himself had to say about the show’s most costly episode.
‘Leave It To Beaver’ was based on the writers’ real-life family happenings
Jerry Mathers played Beaver Cleaver on the classic series from 1958 to 1963. He told the Archive of American Television about the show’s uniquely suited writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher.
The duo not only wrote for Leave It To Beaver; they wrote in the years before the show for the beloved radio comedy Amos ‘n’ Andy and in the years after for The Munsters.
“Because they both had large families, they decided to write a show about children and the world seen through the eyes of a child,” he said. “Mr. Connelly had a little book and he would write down things that happened to him [as a child], of things that happened to his friends. When he got older, he wrote about his kids.”
The show’s most expensive episode
While the show used no special effects nor did it have any high-paid actors on its cast, it did have one episode that created a pretty high bill. The episode took place in the show’s fourth season.
“‘In the Soup‘ is the most expensive Leave It To Beaver episode ever made,” Mathers said. “In fact, because it was so expensive, for the next probably three or four episodes we could only use the ensemble cast because it was budgeted at, I believe $58,000, which was an incredible amount of money for a show at that time.
“They not only had to build a billboard outside but a billboard inside, a full-size billboard inside to do close-ups on,” he noted of the extra expense.
What the most expensive show was actually about
“The show,” Mathers explained, “is about a soup bowl. In Times Square at the time, they had a smoking advertisement, I believe it was for Winstons or Camels.”
The show’s producers wanted to do an episode that used a similar device of a billboard with smoke blowing out of it. They didn’t however, want it to also be about cigarettes.
“Well, [the show] decided, ‘Wouldn’t that be an interesting thing to do a show about?’ So they didn’t want to use cigarettes so they thought, ‘Oh we’ll use a thing of soup.’ So Beaver and Whitey are looking up at it and Whitey says, ‘Do you think that’s real steam and real soup in that bowl up on the billboard?’ And Beaver goes, ‘I don’t know.'”
Whitey talks Beaver into checking the steaming bowl of soup out for himself to see if it’s real, and hilarity ensues.
“So Beaver starts to climb the billboard and gets up and the soup is in a saucer. And he puts his hand up on the rim of the bowl that the soup’s on. One of the famous lines is, ‘Just put your foot on the lady’s thumb!'”
Eventually, Beaver gets to the bowl to investigate, falls in, and gets stuck, to the point that the fire department has to be called.
“It’s just a terrible mess,” Mathers said. “It’s one of the [episodes] that people remember the most.”