Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
LITB's Version of "On the Waterfront"
"This is America - the land of opportunity! Let's move onward and upward to a job where we can take it easy!" - Eddie Haskell
It's notable how many of Wally's after-school jobs involved ice cream: at various times Wally sold ice cream out of a cart ("Wally the Businessman") and delivered it from door to door ("Wally's Weekend Job"); and here Wally and Eddie - thanks to a good word from Ward - both get jobs working at the Mayfield Dairy Company, where ice cream is made. This has the makings of a delicious occupation, but Eddie's wise-guy impulses kick in. The IMDb plot summary puts it well: "Eddie has thoughts of grandeur above the manual labor they are asked to perform for the job." Ever the social climber, Eddie seeks to gain advancement by buttering up the loading-dock foreman and doing what he thinks are special favors but in reality are illegal actions. Will Wally's and Eddie's jobs be jeopardized as a result?
With all these dirty doings on the docks, and the ordinary workers who become pulled into them, the plot for this episode occasionally made me think of the film classic "On the Waterfront." In fact, at one point Ward essentially tells Wally to put his nose to the grindstone and keep quiet, as with Terry Malloy in that film. Things certainly threaten to turn serious for our heroes, and at episode's end a repentant Eddie has learned a lesson he won't forget. Eddie's twisted version of the American dream is shown for what it is!
LITB scores a point for hard work and honesty in this unusually dramatic final-season episode.
Leave It to Beaver: Double Date (1962)
Few shows mastered the art of minimalism like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. The series could create meaningful moral lessons and psychological interest even when less than nothing was going on. In this final-season episode, Wally is going on a date with lovely Carolyn Stewart, but Carolyn's little sister Susan needs someone to stay with her. So Carolyn comes up with the solution of arranging a double date: Wally with Carolyn, and Susan with Beaver! Wally is full of trepidation about Beaver's accepting this deal, but to his surprise Beaver is all for it. In fact, he's considerably ahead of Wally: far from needing coaching on how to act on a date, he's lecturing Wally on how to act so as not to embarrass him! Moreover, Beaver has developed an astonishingly cocky attitude about girls (Ward refers to it as a "Cary Grant attitude").
Preparations are made for the date, and Beaver and Wally dress to the nines. Just as they are about to go out the door Carolyn calls: Susan is backing out because of her shyness. Wally tells Beaver about this, and then tells him to call Susan up and talk to her. Beaver and Susan share a touching and sweet phone conversation in which they commiserate over their mutual insecurities and decide to give dating a pass until they are a bit more older. Wally and Carolyn decide to spend a quiet evening at Carolyn's home looking after Susan (probably what they should have done all along).
Despite the fact that virtually nothing happens in this episode, we get plenty of the compassion and wisdom LITB was known for. Score one for artful minimalism.
The cycle of "Beaver discovers girls" episodes comes to a close with "Beaver Sees America." This time the object of Beaver's infatuation is one Mary Margaret Matthews, a 13-going-on-30 junior operator who twists boys around her little finger like soft pretzels. The boys all come visiting with her on her front porch wearing their best suits and cologne, and she favors them all with nearly identical flattery. A more lurid portrait of girlhood corruption was scarcely to be found on LITB.
It's June of 1963, and the beauty of eternal summer is already in sight. Beaver has been planning to go on a six-week bus trip across America, but he won't be able to rest easy knowing that weaselly Gilbert Bates will be moving in on Mary Margaret while he's gone.
Will it be education or romance? Ward, and Gilbert's father, do everything in their power to ensure that education wins the day.
LITB fans have tried to use the itinerary of Beaver's bus trip as a guide to the exact location of Mayfield. No dice, unfortunately; the itinerary clashes with information gleaned from previous episodes, and so the writers left the question open and vague as ever.
Beaver is nearing the end of eighth grade now, and we are nearing the end of the series with just two more episodes to go. Beaver has come a long way from filling his bathtub with dirt and alligators.
A Love/Hate Relationship
Penny Woods filled the role that Judy Hensler had played in the first few seasons of LITB, that of the goody-goody tattle-tale and know-it-all who was Beaver's classroom antagonist. In contrast to Judy, Penny was blonde, cute and had high-class pretensions; she participated in horse shows and planned to attend Vassar. There was friction between her and Beaver, but also the tentative stirrings of attraction. Theirs was a love/hate relationship, and as such was a more complex relationship than that between Beaver and Judy.
"Farewell to Penny" continues a thread that was started at the end of Season 4 with "Beaver's Doll Buggy." In that episode, Beaver went over to Penny's to borrow her doll carriage and ended up staying for a drink. This casual tete-a-tete makes them at least a little friendlier toward each other than they had been, and at the end of the episode Beaver stated to Gilbert that he would try again with Penny someday. Well, the opportunity comes in Season 5's "Farewell to Penny," where it appears that Penny is moving away to Bellport. She has a going-away party at school, and she and Beaver share a farewell moment after class that threatens to spill into what Beaver and his comrades would term "mushy stuff." (Beaver tells Penny he guesses he kinda likes her, Penny tells Beaver he's cute.) But when it turns out that Penny isn't moving after all, Beaver is embarrassed and mortified in light of what they said to each other! How will he restore the equilibrium?
Puppy-love stories carried out with subtlety and restraint were a staple of the series, and this is a memorable example. By rights, Beaver and Penny should have become an "item" by the end of the series, but unfortunately the actress who played Penny gradually disappeared from the show.
Beaver's Love Triangle
This is one of the heady, edgy episodes of the series' final stretch. I've always found this episode difficult to watch because of the bone-headed behavior Beaver exhibits. Nevertheless, it's a good cautionary tale about honesty in relationships with the opposite sex.
We open with the Cleavers at dinner; the telephone rings, and June goes to answer it. It's a girl, she says; and Wally gets up, all ready for action. But no, she says; it's for Beaver! ("Me?!" Beaver asks incredulously, with just the right adolescent squeak). It's schoolmate Peggy McIntosh (played by Veronica Cartwright, who was previously cast as Violet Rutherford), and she is asking Beaver if he wants to take her to the graduation dance. Beaver is purposely vague in his answer to Peggy because, as he puts it, "You have to keep girls guessing." Ward admits this method has "certain advantages under certain circumstances," but June thinks it's "mean" and demands that Beaver call Peggy back and give her an affirmative answer, which Beaver does next day at school. Peggy is pleased, and everything is peachy.
Oh, but this paradisaical state of affairs couldn't last. There's a seductress winding her way through this Garden of Eden. Her name is Melinda Neilson, and she's a junior southern belle from Charleston, South Carolina. She's new in school, and when all the guys aren't clamoring to give her directions to the various rooms, they're standing there gaping at her. Beaver is smitten too. That night when Peggy calls Beaver up to invite him to the dance, Beaver is faced with a dilemma. He wants to break his date with squeaky-clean Peggy to make one with sultry Melinda. His parents call this out for the dishonorable deed it is.
Speak of the devil, in walks Eddie Haskell - just the man they need! Eddie knows every deceitful trick in the book. His advice for Beaver: get Peggy to break the date by doing things to annoy her. Beaver proceeds to do just this. Without spoiling any more of the plot, suffice it to say Beaver gets what he deserves in the end. Yet at the same time we also sense that he is happy finally to be free from all entanglements with the fair sex.
One of the strengths of the last season was that the plots often approached adult complexity and importance. Who would have thought that that cute little kid Beaver would turn into a Don Juan? How many adults have gotten themselves into situations like the one Beaver gets himself into here? LEAVE IT TO BEAVER was truly a moral parable, one that is also an artistic triumph.
Love Has Come to Beaver Cleaver
It was inevitable that with the onrush of adolescence Beaver would eventually develop an interest - however tentative at first - in the opposite sex. In this episode, Beaver has a crush on a new girl in class, Mary Tyler (not Moore). He asks to walk her home, she accepts, and the two make a detour to the Cleaver home where they play Monopoly and make a puppy love pact. But not ten minutes are up before Mary has broken the pact and developed a quite lively infatuation with Beaver's older brother Wally - flagrantly displayed right in front of Beaver! Wally tries his best to shake her off, but she proves to be a love-struck bug. Beaver becomes extremely jealous, and the whole thing develops (at least in Beaver's fevered mind) into a case of...brother vs. brother!
One of my purposes in these reviews is to point out those subtle and rarely discussed artistic moments that made LITB such a fine show. When Beaver and Mary shake hands over their "pact," their handshake is shown over the game board emblazoned with the word MONOPOLY, underlining the pushy and manipulative Mary's desire to have exclusive rights on whatever boy she sets her sights on. After Mary has developed her crush on Wally, we see Beaver descend into a deep melancholy, torn as he is between his male buddies and his love/hate relationship with Mary. June tries to console him, and we get one of the rare mother/son scenes between the two of them up in Beaver's room. There's also some amusing and playful banter between June and Ward concerning HIS first crushes.
At the end Mary sees the foolishness of her ways and seeks to return to Beaver, but in a funny classroom scene Beaver makes it clear that he'll have none of her! We are left with some wistful philosophizing by the two brothers about the fickleness of girls. Why, even June acts like one from time to time.
Episodes exploring Beaver's embryonic interest in girls became frequent in the last two seasons. The others, for those who like to keep score, are "Beaver's First Date," "Farewell to Penny," "More Blessed to Give," "Double Date," "Don Juan Beaver," and "Beaver Sees America." In "Beaver's Autobiography," by contrast, it's the girl who has a crush on an utterly indifferent Beaver.
Peer Pressure on Parade
It's not clear to me why the writers of LITB decided to introduce the character of Bill Scott (known in some episodes as "Scott"). In contrast to Eddie and Lumpy, the kid was indeterminate personality-wise and looked a bit like a teenaged Rod Serling. To me he always had a slightly creepy vibe to him. Did Wally really need a third friend in addition to Eddie and Lumpy? In any event, here we see him peer-pressuring Wally to go on a guys' weekend at a lake cottage that is without adult supervision. Wally's parents don't approve of this, and neither do Eddie's or Lumpy's parents. At the end, we find out that at the root of Bill's problems are loneliness and lack of parental presence and discipline. These were daring topics for LITB to address, especially in light of the fact that people nowadays constantly claim (falsely) that the show presented only spiffed-up and idealized portraits of the nuclear family.
I consider this episode fair at best, mainly because I don't find the character of Bill appealing and I have an aversion to pushy people who pressure you to do what's "cool."
Clothes Rebellion on LITB
"Sweatshirt Monsters" is one of those emblematic LITB episodes that people tend to remember, just like "In the Soup," "Beaver Plays Hooky" and a handful of others. The series was very good at coming up with inventive premises that touched the boundaries of the absurd. Here, Beaver and his pals Richard, Whitey and Alan (where did he come from?) buy hideous novelty sweatshirts with monsters emblazoned on them and make a pact to wear them to class the next day. But only Beaver follows through, and all hell breaks loose at school and at home!
With questions of school dress codes frequent nowadays, it's eye-opening to see the issue at the forefront of a 1962 TV episode. I bet most people nowadays aren't even aware that clothes with writing and pictures on them even existed back then! Perhaps it's a cliché to say that certain works of art or pop culture are "ahead of their time," but that's true enough of LITB episodes like "Sweatshirt Monsters."
Just as with "Beaver's Book Report," Mrs. Rayburn proves an apt foil for these sweatshirt shenanigans, when Beaver is called to her office for a straightening-out. The woman had the demeanor of an Edwardian society matron at a tea party - the lorgnette and cucumber sandwich sort.
Notice too that the director has pointed up the absurdity of the sweatshirt by surrounding Beaver with very properly-dressed individuals. For instance, when the four boys walk down the street wearing the shirts they are stared at by a very chic young woman in a Jackie Kennedy-esque outfit; and right after Beaver is asked by his teacher to go to the principal's office the scene cuts to one of June Cleaver talking on the phone while wearing an elegant hat, suit, and gloves. Even Mrs. Rayburn wears a chunky set of pearls while she reproves Beaver in her office in the presence of Ward. Everything in the episode conspires to reinforce social norms of dress.
In today's age of do-whatever-you-want relativism, we could use more of the straightforward morality of Ward in the final scene: "Just remember this: wrong is wrong, even if everybody says it's right; and right is right, even if everybody says it's wrong."
For another episode about unconventional dress or grooming, dealing with themes of self-expression and conformity, check out Season 2's "Wally's Haircomb."
The Cleavers at the Beach
What greater all-American hero is there than a lifeguard? Well-built symbols of vigilance, strength, and protectiveness, lifeguards have an honored place in our culture. And isn't all-American paragon Wally Cleaver a perfect fit for the role?
So it would seem. Everybody thinks he looks great in his new lifeguard uniform, and Eddie and others tease him with thoughts of the young ladies who will throw themselves in the water at Friends Lake just to be saved by him. Trouble is, it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that you've got to be 18 to be a lifeguard, and Wally is only 15. Thus Wally is disqualified. Not to worry though, because there are other jobs available at the lake, such as..."candy butcher!"
What's there to be ashamed of? You go about the beach barking "Get your hot dogs right here!," providing beach-goers a service that will enhance the pleasure of a day at the shore. Admittedly, though, going from lifeguard to hot dog man is a bit of a comedown. Beaver certainly thinks so. He invited his pals Gilbert and Whitey to go down to Friends Lake to see his heroic lifeguard brother, and here he is in a chef's costume with a floppy white hat hawking comestibles.
Poor Beaver, right? No; poor Wally, as Ward informs Beaver in his instructive end-of-episode lecture. Wally was doing an honest job; Beaver was using him to feel important in front of his friends. This is not fair to Wally. Beaver sees the error of his ways right away.
The well-done sequence at the beach makes this a most pleasurable episode, the closest LITB ever got to a "beach movie" (where's Frankie and Annette?). There is plenty of amusing incident between Ward and June, Beaver and his buddies, and Eddie and the two girls he brings with him (Alma and Mary Ellen). Eddie is costumed in a goofy-looking straw hat and what look like capri pants and sits playing a bongo drum like some sort of beach beatnik. Why? Maybe the intended visual statement was: Wally may look a little silly in his job, but Eddie is silly by nature and always will be.
Simple but Nuanced Episode
"I know he's my best friend. I also know he's a crummy creep." (Wally Cleaver on Eddie Haskell)
It was fitting that this episode was first broadcast on April Fools' Day. Eddie pulls the worst stunt of his career when he changes a mark on Beaver's report card from a D minus to a B plus with a couple strokes of the pen; Lumpy is the accomplice to this dastardly deed. Beaver's parents are elated at first to see the B plus, since Arithmetic was always Beaver's weakest subject; they even get him a present as a reward. But when they find out his real mark, all hell breaks loose! It takes some strong-arming by Wally to get Eddie to call Mr. Cleaver and fess up to what he did. Then Ward has to apologize to Beaver, and this isn't easy for an adult to do! This is one of the simpler LITB plots, but it offers some nice moral nuance about adults and children, truthfulness, and admitting when one is wrong.