Gee, Wally! Here are 9 things you never knew about Tony Dow

He went from diving to sculpting, with acting in between.

Image: The Everett Collection

Leave It to Beaver was not just about the Beaver. Sure, the youngest Cleaver has his name in the title, but big brother Wally was just as important a character. Teenager Tony Dow became an overnight idol thanks to his role as Wally. Hundreds of fan letters poured in weekly, often in pink stationery, sometimes scented. He was one of the first true teen idols of television. 

Dow remains forever associated with his role alongside Beaver. It would be impossible to count the times he likely heard "Gee, Wally!" in his life. 

But there is more to Dow than Wally. The athletic, artistic actor had all kinds of accomplishments. Check it out.

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1. He was a diving champ at age 7.

How did Southern California celebrate the holiday season without snow? With a water show, of course. A small bulletin in the Los Angeles Evening Citizen News around Thanksgiving 1952 promoted the upcoming "Noel Aquacana," a Christmas performance in a pool. The event at the Hollywood Athletic Club featured synchronized swimming star June Taylor, "famous diving clown" Bill Lewin and… "7-year-old diving champ Tony Dow." A year later, young Dow had his photo, er, splashed on the pages of The Valley Times as he prepared to compete for the SPAAAAU diving championships.

Image: The Everett Collection / Gene Trindl

2. His mom was a "bathing beauty."

No wonder Tony took to the pool! He had swimming in his genes. His mom, Muriel Montrose, pictured here on his arm, was once a Sennett Bathing Beauty, one of the women in swimsuits seen in Mack Sennett's silent films. She was also the body double for early screen idol Clara Bow, Hollywood's original "It Girl."

Image: The Everett Collection / Gene Trindl

3. He got the role of Wally because his dad's buddy wanted to be Ward.

Dow had no intention to try out for the role of Wally. He was just tagging along. According to a 1959 article in the Detroit Free Press, an "actor friend of his parents" was heading to an audition to read for Ward Cleaver. He asked Mr. and Mrs. Dow if their son wanted to accompany him to audition for the father and son roles of a new TV sitcom. "The actor didn't come close to getting the role of Ward Cleaver," the paper wrote (the actor was never named), "but Tony's appearance ended the producer's search for Beaver's older brother." Around 270 other boys had already auditioned for the part of Wally.

4. He was a trampoline instructor in the off-season.

As the 4th of July weekend was about to kick off in 1960, The Charlotte News asked a celebrity to write about his summer plans. "What To Do This Summer," Tony Dow's column declared. He details his personal plans, all centered around Catalina Island, as he had a few months off from school and work on Leave It to Beaver. "It's a terrific place for the things I enjoy most — swimming, water skiing and skin diving," Dow declared. However, this was no mere vacation. "I'll be working in Avalon, the town there, as an instructor at one of the trampoline amusement centers," the teen explained. "Most people don't realize it, but trampolines are excellent for keeping you in top physical condition."

Image: The Everett Collection

5. He didn't have a car when filming "Wally Buys a Car."

When Tony was 17, his friends gave him grief. "Almost all his friends have their own car," Hollywood gossiper Harold Heffernan blabbed in a column embarrassingly headlined: Chaperoned by his mother. "[My friends] think I should be driving around in a big flashy job," Dow grumbled, "but my parents just can't afford it right now." Ironically, at the time, he was filming the episode "Wally Buys a Car," which rubbed salt in the wound.

6. His earnings from Leave It to Beaver went towards real estate.

Dow said his parents "could not afford" a car at the time, but they were not hurting for money. They were simply smart with it. "The senior Dows have invested Tony's earnings in two apartment houses in the San Fernando Valley," Heffernan wrote in his gossip column. "In California, that's much better than drilling for oil."

Image: The Everett Collection

7. He reunited with Jerry Mathers for a play about planes.

The New Leave It to Beaver (1983–89) reunited the original cast for an adult update on the surviving Cleavers. It was a surprise hit. But it was not the first time that Dow and Jerry Mathers had reunited for work. In 1978, the former Cleaver brothers acted together in a romantic comedy called Boeing Boeing. You might recall the 1965 movie version with Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. However, this version with a very different Jerry and Tony took place at the Country Dinner Playhouse in St. Petersburg, Florida. The farce found the former costars reunited in dinner theater. "While Boeing, Boeing is somewhat of a dinosaur, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers just may be coming of age." They were both around 30 at the time.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. He became a TV director — and directed other former child stars.

The New Leave It to Beaver not only gave Dow a chance to again work with his former television family, but it was also his first opportunity behind the camera. He continued to helm episodes of TV shows, including Harry and the Hendersons, Swamp Thing, and Coach. Here, you can see him directing an episode of Babylon 5. Recognize the fellow in the alien makeup? That's Bill Mumy, of course, erstwhile star of Lost in Space!

Image: The Everett Collection

9. He became a sculptor late in life.

From the trampoline to Mayfield to directing, Dow kept moving and creating throughout his life. What fueled his passion in later years? Sculpting. He worked primarily in bronze casting. Check out some of his work at his Tony Dow Sculpture website.

Image: AP Photo / Reed Saxon

 
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MichaelFields 12 days ago
I wish MeTV had a streaming app, as I live in Las Vegas and you can only get it if your apartment faces south (The broadcast antenna is on the mountain in Henderson which is south east) but since I moved into my apartment 3 years ago, I can not see it anymore as my windows face north
You can get MeTV on Friendly, a streaming service with all the sister channels including Decades and H&I!
Suzies1952 12 days ago
They had such wholesome shows in the olden days, they have such garbage von now, love me tv Tony look for my best friend who just passed away before you did, look for her in heaven
Suzies1952 12 days ago
Enjoying watching Wally today on leave it to beaver but with a friend like eddy? You don’t need enemies! He was a horrible so called friend! Wish you would take off the Brady bunch! There are so many oldie shows you could put on! Instead I never watched it and I don’t now, please take that show off wish you wouldn’t of taken off sventoonie I loved that after watching svengoolie next weekend it’s my birthday and I’ll be in Las Vegas sad I’ll miss it love me tv
50sfan 12 days ago
Loved Wally's tribute with The Summer of Me. Great show, great actor. May he rest in peace.
Rhonda1228 12 days ago
"Leave It To Beaver" Was One Of Our Favorite Shows As Kids Growing Up In Tampa, Florida.
My Brother's And I Watched It Daily.

My Late Younger Brothers Herb & Brod Watched It With Me. Herb Born In 1964 Was Nicknamed Beaver.😞
I Really Miss Those Days And My Brothers(Rest In Peace)💞😪

RIHeavenly Peace Tony Dow Aka Wally Cleaver🙏🏾💕
TimCarter 12 days ago
I'd be really interested to know which apartments he owned in the San Fernando Valley.
glam4ya 12 days ago
I use this show for emotional therapy. Love watching the Cleaver family solve everything in 30 minutes. My favorite episode was Wally at the All night grad party. RIP. Tony.
cperrynaples 12 days ago
One more thing you might not know about Dow: He was a soap star! Yep. right after LITB, he did an ABC teen show called Never Too Young! It's mostly notable for being replaced by Dark Shadows!
50sfan cperrynaples 12 days ago
Would love to see that soap!
cperrynaples 50sfan 10 days ago
I don't think it exists! Many soaps of that era were discarded, Dark Shadows only exists because Dan Curtis bought the tapes from ABC!
worldsbestfun 13 days ago
I am 59 years old, male. "Wally," was and Always will be one of my All Time Favorite Actors, and I am Honestly in a bit of tears, for Real, losing Tony Dow. To me, who was a big brother, in ways, he always felt like My big brother. Tony Dow, a.k.a. Wally, and Real Life Family, I will Always Love you! There better be a Heaven, because Tony Dow is a perfect candidate for a wonderful Angel now. Peace and Love Tony Dow, "Wally," I Love who you really were. Very Sincerely, Mark ;-)
Sooner 13 days ago
This sounds like he is dead. Surely a guy as healthy as he seemed didn't die this soon. Did I miss something?
logicgrrl Sooner 13 days ago
He died on July 27th.
RichLorn Sooner 13 days ago
He passed a couple of days ago.
sruder84 13 days ago
Does anyone remember when Tony Dow was a witness on "The People's Court"?
cperrynaples sruder84 10 days ago
Did he testify against the Beaver...LOL! Actually, June claimed Ward was too hard on the Beaver,,,LOL again!
Marky797 13 days ago
It's not surprising that Tony's skill and range as an actor whether in comedy or drama was on the mark, now that we see more of his many pursuits and interests from directing to sports to sculpture.
Rita6868 13 days ago
Tony was alot like Wally.He said with love and respect the world would be a better place for our family, friends and even adversaries.Nice guy and a class act to the end.Love "litb" show. I still watch that unique show.Major crush on Tony!
Rest easy Tony.Thank You for being such a nice person and for the laughs! Much Love and Respect for you always!❤
Bbhawk27 13 days ago
I think it's incredible the way both these child actors, Tony and Jerry, lived out their lives with courage and discipline and never let their early success lead to conceit and a sense of privilege. Rest in peace Tony Dow.
Jimo 13 days ago
He was and always will be the "cool"big brother......gee whiz beav.wait'll dad gets home.
MMarsha92424832 13 days ago
RIP
Tony. Don't let Eddie give you the business. You will be missed. Prayers for your wife & son.
You were & always will be my favorite on the show.
Jon 13 days ago
RIP, Tony!

I hope MeTV will reschedule its BRADY BUNCH marathon which was planned for this Sunday.
JCJ 13 days ago
Tony was more than just Wally Cleaver. He was probably the first iconic actor that was very transparent in revealing his struggles and successes. He was multi-talented, adaptive, kind, honest, and confident. I envy those who were lucky enough to call him friend.

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