‘Leave It to Beaver’: Ward Cleaver Actor Hugh Beaumont Worked in This Unexpected Career Before He Took Up Acting
Leave It to Beaver is unquestionably one of television’s pioneering and most memorable series.
Based on life as it happened through the eyes of a child, the program starred Jerry Mathers as the Beaver, Tony Dow as his brother Wally, Barbara Billingsley as their mother June Cleaver, and rounding out the familial cast as the head of the family was Hugh Beaumont as dad Ward Cleaver.
Beaumont, surprisingly, worked in a field pretty far removed from the entertainment world before he began his acting career.
Here’s what’s known.
Many of ‘Leave It to Beaver’s episodes were based on the writers’ real lives at home
Jerry Mathers played Beaver Cleaver on the classic series from 1958 to 1963. He told the Television Academy Foundation in 2006 about the show’s uniquely suited writers Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher.
The writing team obviously worked well together, writing before Beaver for the enormously popular national radio comedy Amos ‘n’ Andy. After Leave It to Beaver ended, they tried their hand at another thoroughly family show, 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,” Mathers 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.”
Ward Cleaver had no real occupation
Mathers in his interview noted that his on-screen father Ward didn’t really have a defined career. He seemed to be a businessman of some sort since he wore a suit and tie to work. However, exactly where he went and what he did there were left up to the audience’s imagination.
The Beaver actor could only guess as much as observant viewers might, putting himself in the writers’ minds for a moment.
“I think what [the writers] wanted to do was maybe hold it off in case they wanted to write a show where he was an insurance salesman, a real estate salesman, who knows what,” Mathers guessed. “There are actually books that have been printed that say he was this, he was that.
“I, one time, in a show that was very, very touching, wrote an essay about my father,” he said. “I wrote, ‘My father goes to work every day and works so hard and comes home so tired because he loves us and so he’s the best father ever.'”
Fans are still left in the dark, however, as to Ward’s real profession.
Beaumont’s pre-‘Beaver’ career
The Ward Cleaver actor wasn’t always interested in the entertainment industry. He actually was more interested in serving in ministry.
“Hugh Beaumont was an actor,” Mathers said, “but that really wasn’t his calling. What Hugh Beaumont was, was actually a minister. He graduated from theology school in 1949 and, being very idealistic as a minister, asked for a very, very poor congregation, which if you ask for that, that’s what you’re going to get real quick.”
Beaumont’s profession became more difficult to carry through once he married and had children.
“Then I guess he started having a family and suddenly they couldn’t support his ministry,” he said of Beaumont’s decision to look for new work. “So he needed a part-time job. He started doing radio and then he started doing movies.”
Ultimately, Beaumont’s job change led him to Leave It to Beaver and the role for which he will always be known of dutiful dad Ward Cleaver.