‘Leave It To Beaver’: Tony Dow ‘Didn’t Have Control’ of His Life as Wally Cleaver

Tony Dow is known for playing Wally Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver. Sadly, false reports circulated through the media that Dow died on July 26, and he actually died on July 27, 2022, leaving fans to mourn the star. Now, we’re looking back at the classic TV star and how he felt about playing his infamous character.

How old was Tony Dow on ‘Leave It To Beaver’?

Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Theodore 'Beaver' Cleaver in 'Leave It To Beaver'
Tony Dow as Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Theodore ‘Beaver’ Cleaver | CBS via Getty Images

At 77 years old, it’s been decades since Tony Dow starred in Leave It To Beaver. The actor played the eldest son, Wally Cleaver, in the sitcom from 1957 to 1963. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he attended a casting call for the show in the late ’50s, making him around 12 years old when he took on the role.

During an interview with Muza TV posted to YouTube, Dow talks about how he got the pivotal role of Wally. He said he knew folks in production, and while his acting was considered “raw,” a major time crunch caused production to push him forward into the role. The rest is history.

As for his post-Beaver life, Dow indicated he didn’t have many projects lined up. “There is no such thing as a busy freelance actor,” he explained. “Depends on who you are, I guess. But I did all the television shows of that era.” After acting, Dow spent 17 years directing.

The actor said he ‘didn’t have control’ of his life when he played Wally Cleaver

Tony Dow’s time on Leave It To Beaver launched him to Hollywood success, but it wasn’t all perfect. “From the time I was 11 or 12, I was being told what to do,” Dow shared with CBS Sunday Morning. “I was told on the set, I was told at home. I didn’t have control of my life.”

Dow then noted that his experience playing Wally “defined” him — something he never expected to happen. “I thought, this isn’t fair,” he continued. “I’d like to do some other stuff. … It’s sad to be famous at 12 years old, and you grow up to become a real person, and nothing’s happening for you.”

The actor noted his anger turned to depression. “Depression isn’t something you can say, ‘cheer up,’ about,” he added. “It’s a very powerful thing. It’s had a lot of effect on my life.”

Tony Dow died on July 27, 2022, after the media initially falsely reported his death

Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers from 'Leave It To Beaver' in 2010
Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

The media reported that the Leave It To Beaver star died on July 26, 2022. According to Deadline, Dow’s management team removed the initial statement about his alleged death.

“This morning, Tony’s wife, Lauren, who was very distraught, had notified us that Tony had passed and asked that we notify all his fans,” Dow’s representatives later posted to Facebook. “As we are sure you can understand, this has been a very trying time for her. We have since received a call from Tony’s daughter-in-law saying that while Tony is not doing well, he has not yet passed. Tony’s son Christopher and his daughter-in-law Melissa have also been by his side comforting him, and we will keep you posted on any future updates.”

CNN reported Dow’s actual death on July 27, 2022. “Although this is a very sad day, I have comfort and peace that he is in a better place,” Christopher Dow reportedly said. “He was the best Dad anyone could ask for. He was my coach, my mentor, my voice of reason, my best friend, my best man in my wedding, and my hero.”

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