Barbara Billingsley on how her own children helped her prepare for Leave It to Beaver

Some of the moments in Leave It to Beaver came straight from Billingsley's real children.

The Everett Collection

Having children can prepare parents for a lot in life. For example, kids can teach adults a valuable lesson in remaining calm, effective communication, and a sense of humor. But sometimes, having kids can also be used as fuel to write a hit family sitcom.

The cast of Leave It to Beaver had years of experience working with children, mainly their own, but many applied the lessons learned at home to their fictional children on the series.

Joe Connelly, one of the producers, had two children, and Bob Mosher, another producer, had six. Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, who played the parents in the series, also played the role of mom and dad in real life. 

Together, they shared stories, memories, and moments from their own kids' childhoods to create more than 200 scripts over the course of six seasons. The show almost seemed to write itself.

"Actually, we do not depend on script conferences to dream up situations for our show," Billingsley said in a 1961 interview with The Courier-Journal. "As Mosher often says, we just take our own experiences and change the names to protect the innocent."

Billingsley said the show had been helped by the experience the producers and most of the adult cast had with their own children. She said raising her kids helped prepare her to raise Beaver and Wally. 

"Our emphasis has changed a lot, though," Billingsley said. "At first, we were concerned with showing the adult world through the eyes of two children. Now, Tony Dow, who plays the older brother, is 16, and Jerry Mathers, who plays the younger boy, is 13. They are no longer children and in the past year we have been changing the accent to a view of the world through the eyes of children and grown-ups."

Leave It to Beaver became successful, according to Billingsley, because the series welcomed change. Having children of their own, both the producers and writers understood that as kids change, so should the plot of a TV series. 

Wally and Beaver grew up fast, and after six years on-air, we got to see them change physically, emotionally and mentally. Thanks to good parenting, the two brothers have forever stayed in our hearts.

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8 Comments

Null88 21 days ago
I drove up to Banff, Canada 20 years ago. Past their border, very clean and polite nation, like in LITB.
obectionoverruled 29 days ago
i enjoy a leave it to beaver warmup
in the early morning after my run. then it’s time for the best show on metv, perry mason, as i flip through the wall street journal and take a stab at its crossword puzzle. i never tire of the antics wally, eddie and lumpy generate, and can place real names from my grade school years on friends who resembled richard, whitey, pig tailed judy, perpetually hungry and scheming larry mondello. was larry’s dad ever not traveling? why did his mom look like his grandma?
mike23456 30 days ago
Now I'm 60 years old and still enjoying the show. Not much else to say...
justjeff 1 month ago
LOVE that behind-the-scenes color photo!
Runeshaper 1 month ago
It's AWESOME that the lives of the Beaver and Wally came from real life experiences. Kudos to the writers for listening to the adults involved in the show.
KMT6600 1 month ago
One of My favorite shows as a kid now I still enjoy it as older kid ha ha
clovergirl KMT6600 1 month ago
I may have gotten older, but that doesn't mean I've grown up. ;) I. too, love watching this show.
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