Barbara Billingsley

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Barbara Billingsley
June and Ward Cleaver Leave it to Beaver 1958.JPG
Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as June and Ward Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver
BornBarbara Lillian Combes
(1915-12-22)December 22, 1915
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 2010(2010-10-16) (aged 94)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Polymyalgia rheumatica
Resting place
Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery
EducationWashington Preparatory High School
Alma materLos Angeles Junior College
OccupationActress
Years active1945–2007
Spouse(s)Glenn Billingsley (m. 1941; div. 1947)
Roy Kellino (m. 1953; died 1956)
William Mortensen (m. 1959; died 1981)
Children2
 
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Barbara Billingsley
June and Ward Cleaver Leave it to Beaver 1958.JPG
Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as June and Ward Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver
BornBarbara Lillian Combes
(1915-12-22)December 22, 1915
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 2010(2010-10-16) (aged 94)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Polymyalgia rheumatica
Resting place
Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery
EducationWashington Preparatory High School
Alma materLos Angeles Junior College
OccupationActress
Years active1945–2007
Spouse(s)Glenn Billingsley (m. 1941; div. 1947)
Roy Kellino (m. 1953; died 1956)
William Mortensen (m. 1959; died 1981)
Children2

Barbara Lillian Billingsley (December 22, 1915 – October 16, 2010)[1][2] was an American film, television, voice and stage actress. She gained prominence in the 1950s movie The Careless Years, acting opposite Natalie Trundy, followed by her best–known role, that of June Cleaver on the television series Leave It to Beaver (1957–63) and its sequel Still the Beaver (1985–88, retitled in season two as The New Leave It to Beaver).

Early life[edit]

Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes in on December 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, the youngest child of patrolman Robert Collyer Combes (1891–1950)[3] and his first wife, the former Lillian Agnes McLaughlin.[4] She had one elder sibling, Elizabeth (1911–1992).[5] Her parents divorced sometime before her fourth birthday, and her father, who later became an assistant chief of police,[3] remarried.[6] After her divorce, Lillian Combes went to work as a foreman at a knitting mill.[7]

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

After attending Los Angeles Junior College for one year, Billingsley traveled to Broadway, when Straw Hat, a revue in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to New York City. When, after five days, the show closed, she took an apartment on 57th Street and went to work as a $60–a–week fashion model. In 1941 she married Glenn Billingsley, Sr. She landed a contract with MGM Studios in 1945 and moved with her husband to Los Angeles the following year. That same year, Glenn Billingsley opened a restaurant in that city.

She had mostly uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s. These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with supporting roles in Three Guys Named Mike (1951), opposite Jane Wyman, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and the sci-fi film Invaders from Mars (1953). In 1952, Billingsley had her first guest–starring role on an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show. In 1955, she won a co-starring role in the sitcom Professional Father, starring Stephen Dunne and Beverly Washburn. The series lasted one season. The following year, Billingsley had a recurring role on The Brothers (with Gale Gordon and Bob Sweeney) as well as an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse. In 1957, she co–starred opposite Dean Stockwell and Natalie Trundy in The Careless Years, which was her first and only major role in film.

Billingsley also appeared in guest roles on The Pride of the Family, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Letter to Loretta, General Electric Summer Originals, You Are There, and Cavalcade of America.

Leave It to Beaver[edit]

After Billingsley signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1957, she made her mark on TV as everyday mother June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, alongside other 1950s family sitcoms such as Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Make Room For Daddy and The Donna Reed Show. It debuted on CBS in 1957, to mediocre ratings and was soon cancelled. However, the show was picked up by ABC the following year where it became a hit and aired for the next five seasons. The show was featured in over 100 countries. Also starring on Beaver were Hugh Beaumont, in the role of Ward Cleaver, June's husband and the kids' father, as well as unfamiliar child actors Tony Dow in the role of Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver.

In the show, Billingsley often could be seen doing household chores wearing pearls and earrings. The pearls, which in real-life were Billingsley's trademark, were in turn her idea to have her alter ego wear on television. The actress had what she termed "a hollow" on her neck[3][8] and thought that wearing a strand of white pearls would lighten it up for the cameras. In later seasons, she started wearing high heels to compensate for the fact that the actors who played her sons were growing up and getting taller than she was.[3][9] So associated was the pearl necklace with the character, that an entire episode of the sequel series dealt with the necklace when lost. Billingsley had one regret about the show's lasting success: residual payments ended after six reruns in standard 1950s actors' contracts.[10]

"She was the ideal mother," Billingsley said of her character in 1997 in TV Guide. "Some people think she was weakish, but I don't. She was the love in that family. She set a good example for what a wife could be. I had two boys at home when I did the show. I think the character became kind of like me and vice versa. I've never known where one started and where one stopped." As for the idealized TV family on Leave It to Beaver, which continues in reruns on cable more than half a century after its debut, Billingsley had her own explanation for the Cleavers' enduring appeal. "Good grief," she told TV Guide, "I think everybody would like a family like that. Wouldn't it be nice if you came home from school and there was Mom standing there with her little apron and cookies waiting?" Billingsley, however, did question her character's reactions to the Cleaver children's misbehavior, basing her concern on personal experience as the mother of two sons. As co-producer Joseph Connelly explained, "In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming over to us with the script and objecting. 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's done. I certainly wouldn't be.' As a result, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her lady-like stack."[11]

After six seasons and 234 episodes, the popular series was canceled due to the cast's desire to move on to other projects, especially Mathers, who retired from acting to enter his freshman year in high school. The younger actor considered Billingsley a mentor, second mother and a close professional friend:

As I say, Barbara was always, though, a true role model for me. She was a great actress. And a lot of people, you know, when they see her talk jive talk, they always say she can do other things besides be a mom on Leave It to Beaver. And I tell them, Airplane! (1980), she's been a great comedian all her life. And in a lot of ways, just like All in the Family, we kind of stifled her, because her true talent didn't really come out in Leave it To Beaver. She was the straight woman, but she has an awful lot of talent.

After the show's cancellation, Mathers remained her close friend for more than forty-five years. They were reunited on The New Leave It to Beaver. Billingsley, Mathers, Dow, Frank Bank and Ken Osmond also celebrated the show's 50th anniversary together.

After Beaver[edit]

When production of the show ended in 1963, Billingsley had become typecast as saccharine sweet and had trouble obtaining acting jobs for years. She traveled extensively abroad until the late 1970s. After an absence of 17 years from the public eye (other than appearing in two episodes of The F.B.I. in 1971), Billingsley spoofed her wholesome image with a brief appearance in the comedy Airplane! (1980), as a passenger who could "speak jive". She stated that the role gave her as much publicity as Beaver, and revived her career.[12] Returning to TV work, she appeared on Mork & Mindy and The Love Boat.

In 1983, she reprised her role as June Cleaver in the Leave It to Beaver reunion television movie entitled Still the Beaver in 1983. Hugh Beaumont had died the year before of a heart attack, so she played his widow. She also appeared in the subsequent revival of the series, The New Leave It to Beaver, from 1985 to 1989. During the run of The New Leave It to Beaver, Billingsley became the voice of Nanny and The Little Train on Muppet Babies from 1984 to 1991. For her performance as Nanny, she received subsequent Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series in 1989 and 1990.

After The New Leave It to Beaver ended its run in 1989, Billingsley appeared in guest roles on Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Empty Nest and Murphy Brown. She also reprised her role as June Cleaver in various television shows including Elvira's Movie Macabre, Amazing Stories, Baby Boom, Hi Honey, I'm Home!, and Roseanne. In 1998, she appeared on Candid Camera, along with June Lockhart and Isabel Sanford, as audience members in a spoof seminar on motherhood. Billingsley final film role was as "Aunt Martha" in the 1997 film version of Leave It to Beaver. She made her final onscreen appearance in the 2003 television movie Secret Santa.

On October 4, 2007, she and her surviving castmates, Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, Ken Osmond and Frank Bank, were reunited on ABC's Good Morning America, to celebrate Leave It to Beaver's 50th anniversary.

Personal life[edit]

Billingsley was married three times and had two children. She married Glenn Billingsley, Sr. (1912–1984) in 1941. Glenn Billingsley was a restaurateur who was a nephew of Sherman Billingsley, the owner of the Stork Club.[13] His businesses included Billingsley's Golden Bull, Billingsley's Bocage, and the Outrigger Polynesian restaurants in Los Angeles, and a Stork Club in Key West, Florida, where the couple lived briefly after their marriage.[13] They had two sons, Drew and Glenn, Jr., and divorced in 1947.[14]

In 1953, she married British-born movie director Roy Kellino. They were married until Kellino's death in 1956.[15] Billinglsley's third and final marriage was to Dr. William S. Mortensen. They married in 1959 and remained together until Mortensen's death in 1981.[15][16]

Death[edit]

Billingsley died of Polymyalgia at her home in Los Angeles, California, on October 16, 2010, at the age of 94.[16] She is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.[17]

Filmography[edit]

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
1945So You Think You're AllergicBlonde with HivesShort subject
Uncredited
1945AdventureDame #2Uncredited
1946Up Goes MaisieBarb's Friend at Maisie's Engagement PartyUncredited
1946Two Sisters from BostonParty GuestUncredited
1946Faithful in My FashionMary - Department Store ClerkUncredited
1946Three Wise FoolsSister Mary LeonardUncredited
1946UndercurrentParty GuestUncredited
1946The Secret HeartSaleswomanUncredited
1947The Arnelo AffairWeilUncredited
1947The Sea of GrassBridesmaidUncredited
1947Living in a Big WayG.I. Bill's WifeUncredited
1947The Romance of Rosy RidgeWifeUncredited
1947The Unfinished DanceMiss MorganUncredited
1948The Argyle SecretsElizabeth Court
1948Souvenirs of DeathJohnny's MomUncredited
1948The Saxon CharmMrs. MaddoxUncredited
1948The Valiant HombreLinda Mason
1948Act of ViolenceVoice roleUncredited
1949The Sun Comes UpNurseUncredited
1949CaughtStore customer in flowered hatUncredited
1949I Cheated the LawRuth Campbell
1949Air HostessMadeline Moore
1949Any Number Can PlayGamblerUncredited
1949PrejudiceDoris Green
1949A Kiss for CorlissMiss Hibbs, Harry's SecretaryUncredited
1950Shadow on the WallOlga
1950Trial Without JuryRheta Mulford
1950Pretty BabyEdna the Receptionist
1950Dial 1119Dorothy, Editor's SecretaryUncredited
1951Three Guys Named MikeAnn White
1951Inside StraightMiss Meadson
1951Oh! SusannaMrs. LarkUncredited
1951The Tall TargetYoung MotherUncredited
1951Angels in the OutfieldHat Check Girl in RestaurantUncredited
1951Two-Dollar BettorMiss PiersonCredited as Barbara Billinsley
1952InvitationMiss Alvy - Simon's SecretaryUncredited
1952Young Man with IdeasAggie - Party GuestUncredited
1952Woman in the DarkEvelyn Courtney
1952The Bad and the BeautifulEvelyn Lucien, Costume DesignerUncredited
1953The Lady Wants MinkPhyllisUncredited
1953Invaders from MarsKelston's SecretaryUncredited
1954Day of TriumphClaudia - Wife of PilateUncredited
1957The Careless YearsHelen Meredith
1980Airplane!Jive LadyAlternative title: Flying High!
1987Back to the BeachAnnouncer
1988Going to the Chapel
1997Leave It to BeaverAunt Martha
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1952ReboundPat2 episodes
1953The Abbott and Costello ShowBecky the CashierEpisode: "Television"
1953Crown Theatre with Gloria SwansonEpisode: "Half the Action"
1953The Pepsi-Cola PlayhouseSegment: "When a Lovely Woman"
1953-1954City DetectiveLita
Barbara Fuller
2 episodes
1953-1955Four Star PlayhouseVarious roles3 episodes
1953-1955Schlitz Playhouse of StarsVarious roles6 episodes
1953-1957Cavalcade of AmericaDorothea Meadows
Harriet Kohler
2 episodes
1954The Pride of the FamilyEpisode: "Albie's Old Flame"
1954The Lone WolfJean ArnoldEpisode: "The Long Beach Story (a.k.a. The Smuggling Story)"
1954Fireside TheaterEpisode: "The Whole Truth"
1955Professional FatherHelen Wilson18 episodes
1955You Are ThereCatherine GreenEpisode: "Eli Whitney Invents the Cotton Gin (May 27, 1793)"
1956Matinee TheaterEpisode: "Summer Cannot Last"
1956The Loretta Young ShowConnieEpisode: "Tightwad Millionaire"
1956General Electric Summer OriginalsEpisode: "Jungle Trap"
1956The Ford Television TheatreMrs. SloanEpisode: "Catch at Straws"
1956-1957The BrothersBarbara5 episodes
1957Panic!Mrs. MasonEpisode: "The Subway"
1957Mr. Adams and EveEpisode: "That Magazine"
1957Studio 57June CleaverEpisode: "It's a Small World"
1957-1963Leave It to BeaverJune Cleaver235 episodes
1971The F.B.I.Joan Connor
Mrs. Rankin
2 episodes
1982Mork & MindyLouise BaileyEpisode: "Cheerleader in Chains"
1983Still the BeaverJune CleaverTelevision movie
1983High School U.S.A.Mrs. McCarthyTelevision movie
1983-1987The Love BoatPhyllis Cowens
June Cleaver
2 episodes
1983-1989The New Leave It to BeaverJune Cleaver101 episodes
1984Elvira's Movie MacabreJune CleaverEpisode: "The Human Duplicators"
1984Silver SpoonsMiss BugdenEpisode: "I Won't Dance"
1984-1991Muppet BabiesNanny (Voice)107 episodes
1985Amazing StoriesJune CleaverEpisode: "Remote Control Man"
1987The New Mike HammerSister Superior PaulaEpisode: "Who Killed Sister Lorna?"
1987Bay CovenBeatrice GowerTelevision movie
1988Baby BoomJune CleaverEpisode: "Guilt"
1989Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesMirahda (Voice)Episode: "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers"
1989MonstersEpisode: "Reaper"
1991Parker Lewis Can't LoseMs. Musso's MotherEpisode: "Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie"
1991Hi Honey, I'm Home!June CleaverEpisode: "Make My Bed"
1991Empty NestWinifred McConnellEpisode: "My Nurse Is Back and There's Gonna Be Trouble..."
1993-1994The MommiesCaryl's mother
Jeanne - Marilyn's Mom
2 episodes
1994Murphy BrownMrs. StritchEpisode: "Crime Story"
2000Mysterious WaysAbby WestmoreEpisode: "Handshake"
2003Secret SantaMiss RuthieTelevision movie

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Barbara Billingsley Dies". 
  2. ^ McLellan, Dennis (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, mother on 'Leave It to Beaver,' dies at 94". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Adam Bernstein (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, 94, dies; actress was model mom on 'Leave It To Beaver'". Washington Post. 
  4. ^ Combes's status as a patrolman with the Los Angeles Police Department is stated on his 1917 draft registration, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010. The website indicates that Combes was then married with two children. According to U.S. Federal Census information, Combes, like his first wife, was the child of an American father and an English mother. He was a native of Sea Cliff Village, Oyster Bay, New York; his father, Henry P. Combes (1860–1920), was a carpenter, and his mother, the former Helen Merritt (1864–1949), was a reporter. Information cited on 1900 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010.
  5. ^ Only one sibling, Elizabeth, is cited on 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010. The birth and death dates for Elizabeth Combes (later known as Elizabeth "Betty" McLaughlin) are cited on ancestry.com.
  6. ^ The 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Los Angeles, California, gives the entire Combes household as Lillian Combes, head of household and divorced, and two daughters, Elizabeth, aged eight, and Barbara, aged four; the same census states that Robert Collyer Combes, a 28-year-old divorced "police officer", was living as a lodger elsewhere in the city. The 1930 U.S. Federal Census states that Robert Collyer Combes, by then a captain in the Los Angeles police force, was living with his new wife, Maria S. Combes (1903–1999), and that the couple had been married since 1925. Maria Combes's birth and death dates are listed on the Social Security Death Index, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010.
  7. ^ Mother's occupation stated in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on ancestry.com on October 17, 2010
  8. ^ Good Morning America, ABC, October 2007
  9. ^ Mathers, Jerry. ...And Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver". Berkley Boulevard Books, 1998.
  10. ^ Lawrence Arnold (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, Iconic TV Mom June Cleaver, Dead at 94". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010. 
  11. ^ Nina Clare Liebman, Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television (University of Texas Press, 1995), page 70
  12. ^ Billingsley, Barbara (interview) (May 27, 2010). Barbara Billingsley on speaking "jive" in "Airplane". YouTube. 
  13. ^ a b Ralph Blumenthal, Stork Club: America's Most Famous Nightspot and the Lost World of Cafe Society (Back Bay, 2001), page 13
  14. ^ "Leave It to Beaver's Barbara Billingsley Loved Being America's Mom". people.com. October 16, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Bygre, Duane (October 16, 2010). "'Leave It to Beaver' Mom Barbara Billingsley Dies". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Pollack, Michael (October 16, 2010). "Barbara Billingsley, TV’s June Cleaver, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  17. ^ Rohit, Parimal M. (July 17, 2011). "Santa Monica Consolidates Cemetery Prices". smmirror.com. Retrieved June 7, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]