Tony Dow, Big Brother Wally on ‘Leave It to Beaver’, dies at 77

Tony Dow, who shot to stardom at 12 as Wally Cleaver, the barely teenage older brother of the popular 1950s and 1960s comedy series ‘Leave It to Beaver’, died on Tuesday. He was 77 years old.

His death was announced by his representatives in a message on his Facebook page. He didn’t say where he died. In May, Mr Dow said he had been diagnosed with prostate and gallbladder cancer.

Mr. Dow went on to a varied adult career, finding mixed success as an actor, director, producer and later sculptor, but he could never quite shake his association with ‘Leave It to Beaver’, a early life dose. fame that may have contributed to his later struggles with depression.

The sitcom’s central character was the cute and problem-prone Beaver Cleaver, played by Jerry Mathers, but whenever Beaver needed advice from an older, wiser person who wasn’t likely to yell at him, he turned to Wally, his only brother and his most faithful confidant. They shared a bedroom — and a private bathroom — in a perfectly maintained two-story home in Mayfield, a fictional, walkable, crime-free, and seemingly all-white American suburb.

Wally was a good student, polite to his seniors, and a responsible good guy “dripping with decency and honesty,” like Brian Levant, executive producer of the 1980s sequel series “The New Leave It to Beaver,” the described to The Arizona Republic in 2017. Wally played Chinese checkers with his brother in their bedroom, occasionally accompanied his friend Eddie Haskell’s misguided pranks, and was young enough in season one to ask, “Dad, if I save my pocket money, could I buy a monkey? ”

And he would never “scream at” the Beav, unless he had to.

As the seasons passed, Wally matured, capturing the attention of teenage viewers, but his attitude towards his brother remained largely unchanged. “Why did you go do that?” he would ask. And, “Do you want to stop being nice to me and get a little dirty again?”

But when he talked to his parents, Wally was more pensive. As he observed at the end of one episode, “For a little kid like that, there’s a lot going on in his head.”

Anthony Lee Dow was born in Hollywood on April 13, 1945, the son of John Stevens Dow, designer and entrepreneur, and Muriel Virginia (Montrose) Dow. His mother was a stuntwoman in westerns and had been the stunt double for silent film star Clara Bow.

Tony was an athletic boy who won swimming and diving competitions. In fact, it was a coach who suggested Tony go with him to an acting audition, the boy’s first. He had virtually no acting experience when he was cast as Wally Cleaver in “Leave It to Beaver.”

“I’ve always been a bit of a rebel,” The Outsider website said in 2021, and success had come so easily. Her face quickly made the cover of magazines aimed at teenage readers. After six years, as the fictional Wally prepared to go to college, Mr. Dow was ready to move on to something new.

He appeared as a guest star in series like “Dr. Kildare” (1963), “My Three Sons” (1964), “Lassie” (1968), “The Mod Squad” (1971), “Love, American Style” (1971) and “Emergency” (1972). He was a regular on “Never Too Young” (1965-66), a soap opera aimed at teenage audiences. But he soon realized he had been hopelessly typecast as his “Leave It to Beaver” character.

In his twenties, he began to suffer from clinical depression, which he described as a “feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness”. Aided by psychotherapy and medication, he became spokesperson for the National Association of Depressives and Manic-Depressives.

“I realize there’s a perceived irony about it,” Mr. Dow told the Chicago Tribune in 1993, acknowledging that his name and face were associated with one of the sunniest shows in the world. broadcast history. But fame was part of the problem.

“If you have anonymity, you can sit in the corner and pout and nobody cares,” he said. “But if you’re a celebrity, pouting is frowned upon.”

Twenty years after ‘Leave It to Beaver’ disappeared, it returned – in the form of a CBS TV movie, ‘Still the Beaver’ (1983). He assembled the cast, except for Mr. Beaumont, who had died in 1982 at 72 years old. Wally was then a lawyer who married a high school sweetheart. Beaver was going through a complicated divorce.

The film became a Disney Channel series for one season and returned on TBS as “The New Leave It to Beaver” from 1986 to 1989. The series offered Monsters in the Closet; misadventures with borrowed cars, bikes, comic books, football tickets and prom dates; and a seemingly endless supply of flashbacks (from the original series).

In the ’90s, Mr. Dow turned to directing, being hired for episodes of shows like “Coach,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Babylon 5” and, of course, his own “The New Leave.” It to Beaver”. He directed a TV movie, “Child Stars: Their Stories” (2000), and produced two others, “The Adventures of Captain Zoom From Outer Space” (1995) and “It Came From Outer Space II” (1996).

When he appeared in front of the camera in later films or on television, it was often with a healthy dose of amused self-awareness. In David Spade’s comedy ‘Former Child Star Dickie Roberts’, Mr. Dow sang in the front row of a glee club of former child stars. Her last on-screen role was in a 2016 episode of the anthology series “Suspense.”

Along the way, he also had a contracting business and did visual effects for film. But he found his passion when, in his fifties, he started making sculpture, mainly working in magnifying glass and bronze. In 2008, his sculpture “Unarmed Warrior” was presented in Paris at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts, Carrousel du Louvre.

He was with his first wife, Carol Marlow, from 1969 until their divorce in 1980. He married Lauren Shulkind, a ceramic artist, in 1980. Information about his survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Dow said at the end that he was no longer troubled by the outcome of his early successes. “I felt that probably from my 20s until my 40s maybe,” he said in a 2022 interview on “CBS Sunday morning.” “At 40, I realized how great the show was.”

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