Saturday, October 16, 2010
The Beaver's tv mom, Barbara Billingsley passed away today at her home in Santa Monica
The actress passed away at 2 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Saturday at her home in Santa Monica, California, after a long illness, spokeswoman Judy Twersky said. A private memorial is being planned.
"She was as happy as a lark being recognized as America's mom," actor Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver, told CNN. "She had a terrific life and had a wonderful impact on everybody she knew, and even people she didn't know."
Actor Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver, spoke of Billingsley's talent during a 2000 appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."
"Barbara was always a true role model for me. She was a great actress," he said. "And in a lot of ways ... we kind of stifled her, because her true talent didn't really come out in 'Leave it Beaver.' She was like the straight man, but she has an awful lot of talent."
The actress won a new legion of fans in a brief, but memorable, scene in the 1980 send-up movie "Airplane."
"Oh, stewardess. I speak jive," Billingsley said in her role -- much different from her June Cleaver persona -- as an elderly passenger comforting an ill man on the flight. She, the sick man and his seat companion engaged in street-slang banter.
From the moment its catchy theme song sounded in black-and-white TV sets of the 1950s, "Leave it to Beaver" enthralled Americans during a time of relative prosperity and world peace. Its characters represented middle-class white America. (continues here at CNN)