Toni Dow, who became a star at the age of 12 as Wally Cleaver, the barely-teenage older brother on the hit sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” in the 1950s and 1960s, died Tuesday. He was 77 years old.
His representatives announced his death in a post on his Facebook page. She did not say where he died. In May, Mr. Dow said he had been diagnosed with prostate and gallbladder cancer.
Mr. Dow has transitioned into a diversified adult career, having mixed success as an actor, director, producer and later as a sculptor, but he could never shake his association with Leave It to Beaver, a dose of early life fame that may have contributed to his later struggles with depression.
The sitcom’s central character was the cute and trouble-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 and most trusted sister. They shared a bedroom — and an en suite bathroom — in an immaculately kept two-story house in Mayfield, a fictional, crime-free, walkable American suburb whose all-white suburbs seem.
Wally was a good student, polite to his elders and a kind, responsible man “with decency and honesty,” as Brian Levant, executive producer of the 1980s sequel series “The New Leave It to Beaver,” described it for The Arizona Republic in 2017. Wally played Chinese checkers with his brother In their room, sometimes he would prank his friend Eddie Haskell and he was young enough in season one to ask, “Dad, if I save my money, can I buy a monkey?”
And he’ll never “scream” at the Beef, unless he has to.
As the seasons passed, Wally matured, capturing the attention of teenage viewers, but his attitude toward his brother remained largely unchanged. “For what did you go and do that?” was asking. And, “Are you going to stop being nice to me and go back to being a little creep?”
But when he was talking to his parents, Wally was more thoughtful. As he notes at the end of one episode, “For a little kid like this, there’s definitely 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 contractor, and Muriel Virginia (Montrose) Dow. His mother was a stuntman in the West and it was the double film for silent screen star Clara Poe.
Tony was an athletic boy who won swimming and diving competitions. In fact, it was the coach who suggested that Tony accompany him to the acting audition, the first for the boy. He had 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 quoted him as saying in 2021, and success came easily. His face soon appeared on the cover of magazines aimed at teenage readers. Six years later, while the imaginary Wali was preparing to go to college, Mr. Dao was ready to move on to something new.
He appeared as a guest star in a series such as Dr. Kildare (1963), “My Three Sons” (1964), “Lacey” (1968), “DoD Band” (1971), “Love, American Style” (1971) and “Emergency” (1972). He was a regular on “Never Too Young” (1965-1966), a series aimed at teenagers. But he soon realized that he was hopelessly printed as the “Leave it to a beaver” character.
In his twenties, he began to suffer from clinical depression, which he described as a “self-absorbing feeling of worthlessness, hopelessness”. With the help of psychotherapy and medication, he became the spokesperson for the National Depression, Manic, and Depression Association.
“I realize there’s a paradox in this,” Mr. Dow told the Chicago Tribune in 1993, acknowledging that his name and face are associated with one of the sunniest series in broadcast history. But fame was part of the problem.
“If you have an unknown,” he said, “you can sit in the corner and frown and no one cares.” “But if you’re a celebrity, a pout is frowned upon.”
Twenty years after “Leave It to the Beaver” ceased broadcasting, it’s back – in the form of a TV movie on CBS, Still a Beaver (1983). The group assembled, with the exception of Mr. Beaumont, who died in 1982 at the age of 72. At the time, Wali was a lawyer who married his high school sweetheart. Beaver was going through a messy 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 featured Monsters in the Closet; Accidents related to cars, bikes, comic books, football tickets and borrowed prom dates; A seemingly endless show of flashbacks (clips from the original series).
In the ’90s, Mr. Dow turned to directing, and was hired for episodes of shows like “Coach”, “Harry and Henderson”, “Babylon 5” and of course his new movie Leave It to the Beaver. He directed a television movie, Child Stars: Their Stories (2000), and produced two other films, Captain Zoom’s Adventures from Outer Space (1995) and He Came from Outer Space 2 (1996).
When he appeared on camera in movies or TV later, he was often with a healthy dose of amusing self-awareness. In the Dickie Roberts comedy “Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star,” Mr. Dow sang in front row at a cheery club of former child stars. His last on-screen role was in a 2016 episode of the anthology series “Thriller”.
Along the way, he also had a contracting company and did visual effects for movies. But he found his passion when in his fifties he began sculpting, working mainly in wood and bronze. In 2008, his sculpture “Unarmed Warrior” was displayed in Paris at the Salon de la Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Carrousel du Louvre.
He was with his first wife, Carol Marlowe, from 1969 until their divorce in 1980. He married Lauren Schulkind, a ceramic artist, in 1980. Information on survivors was not immediately available.
Mr. Dao eventually said that he was no longer bothered by the result of his early success. “I probably felt this way from the time I was 20 until I was 40,” he said in a 2022 interview on CBS Sunday Morning. “At the age of 40, I realized how great the show was.”
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