In the fall of 1957, the premiere of Leave It to Beaver aired, marking one of the first television shows written from a child’s perspective. The now-classic TV series followed the story of naive but adorable Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers) as he led a life typical of a small child in the ’50s, interacting with his brother, Wally Cleaver (Tony Dow), their parents, and a number of schoolmates and friends.
One of those friends was little Gilbert Bates, played by Stephen Talbot, the character who famously said, “Gee, Beav, I don’t know,” to his rascally playmate. Though he wasn’t featured as prominently as Wally and the Beav, Gilbert appeared in almost 60 episodes of the beloved sitcom, creating countless cherished memories for Stephen Talbot.
One episode, however, stands out among the rest as a personal favorite. Specifically, one in which Gilbert finally stood up to Wally’s best friend Eddie Haskell, who frequently bullied Beaver and his friends.
Stephen Talbot Recounts One of His Favorite ‘Leave It to Beaver’ Episodes
In an interview with Best Classic Bands, Stephen Talbot discussed getting his start in acting, reminisced on his days on the Leave It to Beaver set, and described his favorite episode with mean Eddie Haskell. “There’s one episode that I watched a while back, where Wally is supposed to take Beaver and his friends, including Gilbert, on an overnight camping trip,” Talbot recalled.
“They’re trying to terrorize the kids by playing a record of mountain lion sounds,” Talbot continued. “And then a real mountain lion comes along and Eddie runs and falls off a cliff onto a ledge. He turns into a whimpering coward and needs to be rescued. Everyone goes off to find the park ranger and he says, ‘Don’t leave me alone.’”
“And there’s a great line where they say, ‘OK, Whitey will stay with you,’ And he goes, ‘No, not Whitey. He’ll throw rocks.’ So Gilbert is left alone with him, and Eddie is begging Gilbert, ‘I’m lonely. Talk to me.’ Gilbert says, ‘What should I say?’ And so finally, finally, I get my one chance in 57 episodes to tell him what I really think, which is to say he’s a jerk and a horrible guy. The writers gave me that one chance.”
Stephen Talbot Recalls Being Afraid of Eddie Haskell Actor
Though he played a bully on-screen, Ken Osmond, the actor behind Eddie, was a perfectly kind person in real life. Stephen Talbot was still terrified of him, however, thanks to Osmond’s fantastic acting.
“He was something like six or seven years older than me,” Talbot recalled. “And his character, of course, was always teasing or bullying or harassing Gilbert. And the truth is I was a little intimidated by him. I always kind of kept my distance and didn’t particularly like him.”
“That’s unfair,” Talbot continued. “Because, as Jerry and Tony have told me many times, off-screen he wasn’t like that. He was very friendly and the three of them got along famously. They always said he was a really nice guy, but I always had my doubts. I thought, hmm, Eddie? Ken? The same guy? I’m not going to let him get to me.”