Tuesday, May 19, 2020

R.I.P.: Ken Osmond, TV's Eddie Haskell

Ken Osmond 1943 - 2020
Ken Osmond, who played the duplicitous teenager Eddie Haskell on the long-running sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” one moment a smarmy young man when talking to parents, the next moment a devilish troublemaker when the adults were out of sight, died on Monday at his home in the Shadow Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.

He was 76, according to The NY Times. He died complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and peripheral arterial disease.

Tony Down, Jerry Mathers, Ken Osmond
Osmond appeared in all six seasons of “Leave It to Beaver,” 1957 to 1963, one of the most-watched television sitcoms of the era, then reprised the role as an adult version of Eddie in the Disney Channel revival series “The New Leave It to Beaver” in the 1980s.

For the Baby Boom generation drawn into the idealized world of postwar television families, Mr. Osmond would always be synonymous with Eddie Haskell, by turns the unctuous and mischievous friend of Wally Cleaver, a strait-laced good guy played by Tony Dow.

The Cleavers represented the classic white middle class family of the Eisenhower era, while Eddie represented danger in a ’50s kind of way — he chewed gum and wore a jean jacket.

Mostly, he sucked up to Wally’s parents, June and Ward Cleaver, played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont, and then poked fun at them when they weren’t looking. He treated Wally’s little brother, Theodore, nicknamed the Beaver, played by Jerry Mathers, as a useless irritant.

Officer Osmond
“Oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver,” was a typical Eddie greeting. “I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for Theodore to accompany us to the movies.” Viewers knew that having the Beaver go to the movies with them was the last thing Eddie had in mind, and that he would find a way to ditch him.

June would sometimes raise a skeptical eyebrow at Eddie, but for the most part she played along with his obsequious manner and almost never confronted him.

In time, Eddie Haskell became so indelibly associated with Osmond that he found it difficult to escape being cast as an Eddie Haskell type, and he left television and joined the Los Angeles Police Department.

As an officer on motorcycle patrol, he grew a mustache to disguise himself. In 1980, he was shot three times in a chase with a suspected car thief but escaped serious injury: One bullet was stopped by his belt buckle, the others by his bulletproof vest. He was put on disability and retired from the force in 1988.

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