Beaver’s Mother Barbara Billingsley turns 93 – See how she is related to LawReader’s Editor Stan Billingsley
Dec. 22, 2008
Barbara Billingsley celebrates her 93rd. birthday Dec. 22, 2008.
Actress Barbara Billingsley (born December 22, 1915) is an American film, television and character actress, who in her five decades of television came to prominence in the 1950s as an everyday mother, June Cleaver, on Leave it to Beaver, and its sequel, Still the Beaver (also known as The New Leave It to Beaver), two decades later. It was during that time she provided the voice of the unseen “Nanny” on Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.
Barbara Billingsley’s first husband Glenn Billingsley is a cousin ( a couple of times removed) to LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley. Glenn’s father Logan Billingsley and his Uncle Sherman Billingsley, and Judge Stan Billingsley’s father were cousins and all were originally from southern Oklahoma.
One of Judge Billingsley’s prize possessions is an autographed picture from Barbara Billingsley and a personal letter where she discusses the family history.
Sherman Billingsley was famous for owning the Stork Club, which was the top club in New York City during the 40’s and 50’s. The Stork Club made use of television to broadcast from the club and often hosted Walter Winchell, the Kennedys and other celebrities. Gossip columnists staked out the club in order to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous who stopped by to be seen. The Stork Club for many years threw THE ultimate New Year’s Eve party.
After Barbara Billingsley divorced Glenn Billingsley, she retained the name Billingsley.
With a year at Los Angeles Junior College behind her, Billingsley traveled to Broadway when Straw Hat, a revue in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to New York. When, after five days, the show closed, she took an apartment on 57th Street and went to work as a $60-a-week fashion model.
As an actress on the silver screen, she had usually uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s. These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with The Bad and the Beautiful as well as the sci-fi story Invaders from Mars (1953). Her film experience led to roles on the sitcoms Professional Father and The Brothers and an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse.
Billingsley became best known for her role in the 1950s and 1960s television series Leave It to Beaver as June Cleaver, wife of Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont) and the mother of Wally (Tony Dow) and Beaver Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). The Cleaver household became iconic in its representation of an archetypal suburban lifestyle associated with 1950s America. In the show, Billingsley often could be seen doing household chores wearing pearls and earrings. The pearls were her idea. The actress had an unsightly surgical scar on her neck and thought that wearing a strand of pearls could cover it up for the cameras. In later seasons of the show she also started wearing high heels to compensate for the fact that the actors who played her sons were getting taller than her.  The sitcom show ran from 1957 to 1963 and proved to be very lucrative for Billingsley.
When production of the show ended in 1963, Billingsley became typecast as saccharine sweet and had trouble obtaining acting jobs for years. She traveled extensively abroad until the late 1970s. After an absence of 17 years from the public eye (other than appearing in two episodes of The F.B.I. in 1971), Billingsley spoofed her wholesome image with a brief appearance in the comedy Airplane! (1980), as a passenger who could “speak jive.”
She became the voice of “Nanny” and “The Little Train” on Muppet Babies from 1984 to 1991.
Billingsley appeared in a Leave It to Beaver reunion television movie entitled Still the Beaver in 1983, a year after her on-screen husband during the six-year original run of the series, Hugh Beaumont, died of a heart attack, thus, playing the widowed mother. She also appeared in the subsequent revival television series, The New Leave It to Beaver (1985-1989). In the 1997 film version of Leave It to Beaver, Billingsley played the character “Aunt Martha”.
Now 93, Billingsley recently completed a role on NBC’s sitcom My Name Is Earl.
On May 6, 2008, while being hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, she was unable to attend the Academy Leonard Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, California, where the Academy of Television Arts & Science presented, “A Salute to TV Moms.” The surviving TV moms who attended the party were: Marjorie Lord, Holland Taylor, Bonnie Franklin, Vicki Lawrence, Tichina Arnold, Cloris Leachman, Doris Roberts, Diahann Carroll, Catherine Hicks and Meredith Baxter. In Billingsley’s absence, her name was mentioned in her honor.
Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes in Los Angeles, California. She and her first husband, Glenn Billingsley, a successful restaurateur, had two sons, Drew and Glenn, Jr. Since 1974, Drew and Glenn have owned and operated Billingsley’s Restaurant in West Los Angeles, in the tradition of their father, and their great uncle, Sherman Billingsley, founder of New York City‘s very fashionable 1940s-era nightclub, The Stork Club. Billingsley divorced Glenn Billingsley, but kept his surname professionally, and later married Roy Kellino, a director. After Kellino’s death, she married Dr. William Mortenson, who died in 1981.
Billingsley is related by marriage to actor/producer Peter Billingsley, known for his starring role as Ralphie in the seasonal classic A Christmas Story. First husband Glenn’s cousin is Peter’s mother, Gail Billingsley.
- The Argyle Secrets (1948)
- Valiant Hombre (1948)
- Prejudice (1949)
- I Cheated the Law (1949)
- Air Hostess (1949)
- Shadow on the Wall (1950)
- Trial Without Jury (1950)
- Pretty Baby (1950)
- Three Guys Named Mike (1951)
- Inside Straight (1951)
- Two Dollar Bettor (1951)
- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
- Young Man with Ideas (1952)
- Woman in the Dark (1952)
- The Lady Wants Mink (1953)
- The Careless Years (1957)
- Airplane! (1980)
- Still the Beaver (1983) (TV)
- Leave It to Beaver (1997)
- Secret Santa (2003) (TV)
- Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1953-1955)
- Four Star Playhouse (1953-1955)
- The Brothers (1956)
- Make Room for Daddy (1957)
- Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963)
- The F.B.I. (1971)
- Mork and Mindy (1982)
- Amazing Stories (1985)
- Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (1984-1990)
- The New Leave It to Beaver (1985-1989)
- Roseanne (1995)
- Mysterious Ways (2000)
- My Name is Earl (2007)