'Leave It to Beaver's' Eddie Haskell, Ken Osmond, Dead at 76
"You look lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver."
With his kiss-up compliments and phony good manners, Eddie Haskell was a TV icon, the devious best friend of the Beav's big brother Wally Cleaver on the classic sitcom "Leave It to Beaver." The character's unctuous behavior was so immediately identifiable — Mrs. Cleaver was on to him, allowing him only a polite "thank you, Eddie" in response — the "Eddie Haskell Effect" would come to be described by psychologists attempting to explain how the two-faced among us get away with it.
Behind oily Eddie was actor Ken Osmond, a widely respected and well-liked actor, who died Monday at his L.A. home at 76. The New York Times reports the cause of his death was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and peripheral arterial disease.
Beaver Cleaver himself, Jerry Mathers, wrote on social media of Osmond's passing, "I will greatly miss my lifelong friend Ken Osmond who I have known for over 63 years. I have always said that he was the best actor on our show because in real life his personality was so opposite of the character that he so briliantly portrayed. RIP dear friend. #kenosmond."
"I had a typical stage mother," Osmond admitted in a 2009 Los Angeles Daily News interview. Born on June 7, 1943, in Glendale, California, he was close enough to the action in Hollywood for his mom to haul him to auditions, and he scored with a film debut in the Mayflower drama "Plymouth Adventure" (1952), appearing with such marquee names as Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney and Van Johnson.
The new world of TV proved more welcoming to him, and he found work on such early fare as "Screen Directors Playhouse" (1955) and "Annie Oakley" (1956).
From 1957-1963, he was Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver," his charm turning a proposed one-time guest spot into 96 episodes and a place in TV history. "Eddie wasn't a bad kid," he told the Daily News. "He never stole anything. He was mischievous — isn't everybody?"
Unfortunately, he played Eddie so well and in such a powerful, all-encompassing medium it drastically limited his acting opportunities, forever typecasting him. He did appear as a guest on a number of other series, including "Wagon Train" (1958), "Petticoat Junction" (1964), "The Munsters" (1966), and "Lassie" (1955-1967; three episodes), but after uncredited work in Doris Day's last movie, 1968's "With Six You Get Eggroll," he left acting for many years, becoming a member of the LAPD.
Shot three times by a suspected car thief while on the job in 1980, Osmond's days as an officer were over, and he did return to acting.
In 1983, he reprised Eddie Haskell in the TV movie "Still the Beaver," and played him in 101 episodes of the sequel series "The New Leave It to Beaver" (1983-1989), as well as revisiting him for a 1980s McDonald's commercial and for spots on "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" (1991) and "Hi Honey, I'm Home" (1992). In the feature "Leave It to Beaver" (1997), he was Eddie Sr.
Other late-career work includes a part in the TV movie "High School U.S.A." (1984) and his final film work in "CHARACTERz" (2016).
Osmond's wholesome image weathered the urban legend that he and X-rated film star John Holmes were secretly the same person. In 1988, the year Holmes died, Osmond allowed that that particular rumor had been "a pain in my butt."
In a statement following his dad's death, Osmond's son Ken said, "He was an incredibly kind and wonderful father. He had his family gathered around him when he passed. He was loved and will be very missed."
Osmond is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Sandy, and their two sons.