Tony Dow has died: Wally Cleaver on ‘Leave It to Beaver’ was 77
Tony Dow, the actor and director best known for playing Jerry Mathers’ Beaver’s loyal older brother Wally Cleaver on the iconic ‘Leave It to Beaver’ series, has died. He was 77 years old.
His official Facebook page announced that he passed away on Tuesday morning. “It is with extremely heavy hearts that we share with you the passing of our beloved Tony this morning. Tony was a beautiful soul – kind, compassionate, funny and humble,” read the post from his leadership team.
Dow and his wife Lauren announced in May that his cancer, which he had been diagnosed with years earlier, had returned.
Dow was born in Hollywood and his mother was an early stunt double and Clara Bow. He was a Junior Olympics diving champion, but didn’t have much showbiz experience when he went with a friend and ended up auditioning and winning the role of Wally. “Leave it to Beaver” began airing in 1957 and ran until 1963. The popular black-and-white sitcom, centering on the idealized family typical of the era, followed the adventures of mischievous young Beaver, his practical brother Wally, their devious friend Eddie Haskell and their tough but understanding parents played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont.
The show’s writers Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly based the characters on their own children, incorporating details such as Wally’s constant hairstyling that they observed in their own teenage years. When the show ended, Wally was about to start college while Beaver was ready for high school.
Dow returned in the 1980s for the TV movie “Still the Beaver” and the series “The New Leave It to Beaver”, for which he also directed five episodes and wrote one.
He moved on to writing, producing and directing while continuing to act, and directed several episodes of ‘Harry and the Hendersons’, ‘Coach’, ‘Babylon 5’, ‘Honey, I Shrunk children” and an episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
After “Leave It to Beaver”, Dow appeared in series such as “General Hospital”, “Mr. Novak”, “Never Too Young”, “Lassie”, “Love, American Style”, “Square Pegs” and “The Love Boat”, on which he performed himself. He also starred himself in the 2003 comedy “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” which featured cameos from dozens of former young actors, and appeared in John Landis’ comedy feature “The Kentucky Fried Movie. “.
Dow battled depression in his twenties, making the “Beating the Blues” self-help video to help others, and later survived two bouts of cancer. He also became a sculptor and started a construction company.
He is survived by his wife Lauren and two children.