Jerry Mathers

Jerry Mathers

Mathers in 2007
Born Gerald Patrick Mathers
(1948-06-02) June 2, 1948
Sioux City, Iowa, US
Nationality American
Other names Jerry Mather
Education Notre Dame High School
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1950present
Known for Portrayal of Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver
Home town Los Angeles, California, US
Spouse(s) Diana Platt (m. 1974–81)
Rhonda Gehring (m. 1977–1997)
Teresa Modnick (m. 2011)
Children Noah Mathers
Mercedes Mathers
Gretchen Mathers
Relatives Jim Mathers (brother)

Gerald Patrick "Jerry" Mathers (born June 2, 1948) is an American television, film, and stage actor. Mathers is best known for his role in the television sitcom Leave It to Beaver, originally broadcast from 1957 to 1963, in which he played Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver, the younger son of the suburban couple June and Ward Cleaver (played by Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont) and the brother of Wally Cleaver (played by Tony Dow).

Early life and family

Mathers was born in Sioux City, Iowa, the son of a high school principal, and grew up in Rock Rapids,[1] about 75 miles north, and in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California.[2] He has two younger siblings, Susie Mathers McSweeney and Jim Mathers, who also became child actors.

Early career

Mathers began his career at the age of 2 when he appeared as a child model for a department store ad.[3] Soon after, he starred in a commercial for PET Milk opposite vaudeville comedian Ed Wynn.[2]

His early movies included This is My Love (1954), Men of the Fighting Lady (1954), The Seven Little Foys (1955) and The Trouble with Harry (1955).

Leave It to Beaver

Mathers in a 1959 publicity shot

Mathers states that he got the role of Beaver Cleaver after telling the show's producers he would rather be at his Cub Scout meeting than auditioning for the part. The producers found his candidness appealing and perfect for the role.[2][4] Mathers played the Beaver for six years, appearing in all 234 episodes of the series. He was the first child actor ever to make a deal to get a percentage of the merchandising revenue from a television show. The Leave It to Beaver show still generates merchandise revenue today, many years after its original production run ended.

The original sitcom has been shown in over 80 countries in 40 languages. Mathers has noted that the Leave It to Beaver phenomenon is worldwide. "I can go anywhere in the world, and people know me," Mathers has said. "In Japan the show’s called 'The Happy Boy and His Family.' So I’ll be walking through the airport in Japan, and people will come up and say, 'Hi, Happy Boy!'"[5]

When asked in a 2014 television interview[6] whether he had known at the time of the filming of the Leave it to Beaver series that the show was special, and would be in perpetual syndication, Mathers responded: "No, not at all. I had worked since I was two years old. I did movies. I didn't do any other series, but I had done a lot of movies and things like that so, in fact, every year it was a question whether we would come back for the next year 'cause you had to be picked up. So you would do 39 shows and then we would go to New York and meet all the press, and then we'd go to Chicago to meet the ad people, then we'd come back and take about five to six weeks off, and if we got picked up, then we'd start again. So we did that for six years because that was the length of the contracts at those times. So that's why there are 39 [episodes] for six years, and then it was off the air. Not off the air, but we didn't film any new ones [after that.]"


In 1962, near the end of the run of Leave It to Beaver, Mathers recorded two songs for a single 45rpm: "Don't 'Cha Cry," a retread of "Spanish Harlem" and for the flip side, the twist ditty, "Wind-Up Toy."[7] During his high school years, Mathers had a band called Beaver and the Trappers.[8]

Later career

Jerry Mathers in US Air Force uniform

As he moved into his teenage years, Mathers retired from acting to concentrate on high school. He attended Notre Dame High School, in Sherman Oaks, California. During this time he led a musical band called Beaver and the Trappers.[2] While he was still in high school, Mathers joined the United States Air Force Reserve, in 1966. He appeared as a presenter at the 1967 Emmy Awards ceremony in his dress uniform. After graduating high school in 1967, Mathers continued to serve in the Reserve and made the rank of Sergeant.[9] In December 1969, a rumor began that Mathers was killed in action in the Vietnam War. Although the origin of the rumor is unclear,[10] Mathers never saw action and was never stationed outside of the United States.[11][12] Years later, in 1980, Mathers and Dow appeared with Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update segment, making fun of the Vietnam War death rumor.[13]

In 1973, Mathers attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy.[14] He then worked as a commercial loan officer at a bank before using well-invested savings from his acting career, which began at $500 a week,[15] to begin a career in real estate development. In 1978, he reentered the entertainment industry. That year, he and Tony Dow starred in a production of the comedy play Boeing, Boeing which ran for ten weeks in Kansas City. Mathers and Dow then toured the dinner theater circuit in a production of So Long, Stanley for 18 months. In 1981, he worked as a disc jockey at KEZY-AM radio in Anaheim, California.[8]

In 1983, Mathers reprised his role in the television reunion film Still the Beaver, which also featured the majority of the original Leave It to Beaver cast.[8] The success of the television film led to the development of a sequel series of the same name. The series began airing on the Disney Channel in 1984, then went on to be picked up by TBS and broadcast syndication, where it was retitled The New Leave It to Beaver and ran until 1989.[16]

Mathers has since continued his career in films and television roles. In the 1990s, he guest starred on episodes of Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Vengeance Unlimited, Diagnosis Murder, and as himself on Married... with Children. In 1998, Mathers released his memoirs, And Jerry Mathers as The Beaver.[17] On June 5, 2007, he made his Broadway debut with a starring role as Wilbur Turnblad in the Tony winning best musical Hairspray at the Neil Simon Theater.[5]

Other ventures

In 2009, Mathers became the national spokesman for PhRMA and their Partnership for Prescription Assistance program.[18]

Personal life

Mathers has been married three times. He met his first wife, Diana Platt, in college. She attended Vallejo Senior High in California; class of 1969. They married in 1974 and later divorced.[14][19] Mathers met his second wife, Rhonda Gehring, while touring in the production of So Long, Stanley. They have three children, a son (Noah) and two daughters (Mercedes and Gretchen). Mathers and Gehring later divorced.[20] Mathers married his third wife, Teresa Modnick, in Huntington Beach on January 30, 2011.[21]


Mathers was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1996.[22] On the advice of his doctor, Mathers enrolled in a weight loss program with Jenny Craig in May 1997 and lost over 40 lb (18 kg).[17] He later became the first male spokesman for Jenny Craig.[8] He has also represented a Type 2 diabetes reversal program's publications in a television ad.[23]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Son of Paleface Child at Finale Uncredited
1954 Men of the Fighting Lady Richard Dodson Uncredited
1954 This Is My Love David Myer
1955 The Seven Little Foys Bryan Lincoln Foy - Age 5 Uncredited
1955 The Trouble with Harry Arnie Rogers
1956 That Certain Feeling Norman Taylor
1956 Bigger Than Life Freddie Uncredited
1957 The Shadow on the Window Petey Atlas
1958 The Deep Six Steve Innes Uncredited
1987 Back to the Beach Judge #2
1990 Down the Drain Policeman (desk)
1994 The Other Man Sergeant Dun Alternative title: Sexual Malice
1998 Playing Patti
2002 Better Luck Tomorrow Biology Teacher
2005 Angels with Angles Mr. Cohiba
2008 Will to Power Mr. Simpson
Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Trick Or Treating Child Episode: "Halloween Party"
1953 I Love Lucy Dream Little Ricky Episode: "Ricky's Old Girlfriend"
1955 Lux Video Theatre Little Boy Episode: "The Great McGinty"
1955 General Electric Theater Tommy Episode: "Into the Night"
1955 Matinee Theater Episode: "Santa is no Saint"
1956 Screen Directors Playhouse Peter at 5 Episode: "It's a Most Unusual Day"
19571963 Leave It to Beaver Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver 234 episodes
1963 Insight Episode: "The Boy and the Bomb"
1968 Batman Pop, the Stage Doorman Episode: "The Great Escape"
1968 Lassie Ken Hines Episode: "Lassie and the 4-H Boys"
1970 My Three Sons Joe Lawrie Episode: "Love Thy Neighbor"
1978 Flying High Chuck Wallace Episode: "Fear of Cheesecake"
1981 The Girl, the Gold Watch and Dynamite Deputy Henry Thomas Watts Television film
1983 Still the Beaver Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver Television film
19831989 The New Leave It to Beaver Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver 101 episodes
1984 Hardcastle and McCormick Cameo Appearance Season 1; Episode 19 " The Homecoming: Part 2"
1984 High School U.S.A. Mr. Sirota Television film
1987 The Love Boat "Beaver" Cleaver Episode: "Who Killed Maxwell Thorn?"
1991 Married... with Children Himself Episode: "You Better Shop Around (Part 2)"
1991 Parker Lewis Can't Lose Theodore Musso Episode: "Jerry: Portrait of a Video Junkie"
1999 Vengeance Unlimited Lucas Zimmerman Episode: "Friends"
1999 Diagnosis: Murder Mr. Lustig Episode: "Trash TV - Part One"
2006 The War at Home Principal Episode: "Back to School"
2008 Mother Goose Parade Television film


Year Award Category Title of work
1984 Young Artist Award Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award[24] Leave It to Beaver



  1. Rock Rapids Travel Guide, VirtualTourist. Retrieved 2014-11-25.
  2. 1 2 3 4 O'Toole, Caitlin (May 14, 2007). "Interview with Jerry Mathers: 'I've Had a Charmed Life'". Archived from the original on March 24, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  3. Foster, Barbara (March 1984). "Celebrity Update". Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications: 149. ISSN 0279-0483.
  4. Jerry Mathers on auditioning for "Leave it to Beaver" video (posted in 2010)
  5. 1 2 Robertson, Campbell (June 5, 2007). "And Jerry Mathers as ... Tracy Turnblad's Father?". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  6. "Jerry Mathers, the "Beaver," – Guest 02/13/2014". Retrieved February 13, 2014.
  7. "Singles Review". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (0006-2510): 25. August 25, 1962.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Hammer, Josh (February 7, 1983). "Still the Beaver After 20 Years, Jerry Mathers Joins Tony Dow for a Bittersweet Return to Mayfield". People. 19 (5). ISSN 0093-7673.
  9. "Sgt Jerry Mathers". 1948-06-02. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  10. Jerry Mathers discusses the urban myth of his "death in Vietnam" video (posted 2010)
  11. "Believe It to Beaver". January 9, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  12. "Jerry Mathers of 'Leave It to Beaver' Now Collegian". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. April 8, 1970. p. 12–C. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  13. "Saturday Night Live Transcripts, Rodney Dangerfield, 03/08/80".
  14. 1 2 "The Odyssey of Child Actor Jerry Mathers: from Beaver to Banker to Real Estate Broker". People. 7 (15). April 18, 1977. ISSN 0093-7673.
  15. Lamparski, Richard (1982). Whatever Became Of ...? Eighth Series. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 200–1. ISBN 0-517-54855-0.
  16. "Mathers Taking 'Beaver' Persona, Friends To WTBS". Toledo Blade. June 11, 1986. pp. P–4. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  17. 1 2 "Child Star Jerry Mathers". Palo Verde Valley Times. North American Precis Syndicate. June 26, 1998. p. 10. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  18. Pulliam, John R. (April 6, 2009). "'The Beav' pitches prescription assistance". Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  19. Reilly, Pattie (May 5, 1980). "Leave It to Beaver: Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers Find a New Channel for Their Talent—Dinner Theater". Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  20. Schoenberg, Nara (May 7, 1999). "Catching up with the 50-year-old Beaver". The Robesonian. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  21. Bersebach, Paul (January 30, 2011). "'Leave it to Beaver' star gets hitched in H.B.". The Orange County Register. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  22. Trecroci, Daniel (August 1, 1999). "Jerry Mathers Leaves it to Weight Loss to Control His Diabetes". Archived from the original on October 7, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  23. Mathers, Jerry (January 16, 2016). Diabetes Solution Kit (Television advertisement). Barton Publishing. I'm Jerry Mathers, and if I can do it, you can do it.
  24. "6th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved March 31, 2011.
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