b Feb 16, 1909, Lawrence Kansas
d May 14, 1982, Munich Germany
Was a Boy Scout
Graduate of the Baylor School
Played football for the University of Chattanooga
Earned a Masters of Theology from USC
Ordained Methodist Minister
Minnesota Christmas Tree Farmer
In all fairness, if I told you the man's name you'd immediately know who he was and what he was famous for. He is famous, even though the thing he is best known for he stopped doing in 1963.
In the 1930's ministers didn't typically make a lot of money. They also didn't typically have a lot of other marketable skills. After all, getting up in front of people and talking isn't generally a high paying career path. They hadn't invented consultants or Power Point yet. A preacher was the closest thing to a motivational speaker folks had.
To make a couple of bucks, a guy with a good speaking voice could sometimes get a little work down at the radio station. Radio was in its infancy and inexpensive recording and play back methods were in short supply. Someone with a good voice might make a little money reading stories, doing ads etc. If you had a little exposure on the radio you could sometimes get a paid part doing community theater.
We're not talking about big money. Fifty cents here, a couple of bucks there, was about all an actor could expect under these circumstances. If you were a Methodist minister living off of contributions and the occasional invite home to dinner during the Great Depression a few dollars extra was a big help.
Ministry is a kind of work that offers its own satisfaction but normally not a lot of income. If you could be a minister and support yourself financially by acting, then things might not be so bad. A fella might even be able to afford a wife and family that way. By the end of 1942 Eugene had 15 feature films under his belt, as well as a wife. Three children followed.
From the time he was 22 years old in 1931 until 1946 when he earned his Master of Theology degree at the age of 37, Eugene used acting to pay the bills in an effort to fund ministry. He continued doing ministry during his acting career. When asked about the possible conflict between the two he said:
Sometimes my work as an actor presents a conflict with my ideals as a clergyman. I don't believe in the old saying that the end justifies the means, and no money that I can earn as an actor can accomplish so much good that I would feel justified in violating my ideals to earn it... If the question ever arises in a serious way, of course I would have to give up my acting.In 1957 Eugene was on set with a child actor and his mother doing a promotional film for Rose Hills Memorial Park. A more accurate way to state "promotional film" is "long commercial". Rose Hills is a funeral home and graveyard, not exactly "A list" Hollywood fair.
Eugene was talking with Marilyn about how work had slowed down in the movie industry. He was using acting to fund his family and ministry. TV had cut into the movie business. Things were getting a little tight, money wise. That didn't keep Eugene from coaching and helping the young actor playing opposite of him.
The boy's mom took an instant like to Eugene and gave him a job lead. Her son had just landed a TV show. They might be able to use him. After shooting that night a young boy said his bedtime prayers, he ended with, "Please God make the actor I worked with today my father in the new series."
That is how Eugene Hugh Beaumont, minister and actor with countless radio, community theater, industrial films, commercial appearances, and over 80 feature film appearances became Ward Cleaver.
From 1957 to 1963 Leave it to Beaver was considered a good show. It wasn't a top show. It was a solid addition to the line up. In syndication in the 1970's it had a larger following than it did during its original run. In the 80's and 90's cable kept Eddie, Wally and the Beav in front of audiences.
While not as well known a Methodist as the Wesley brothers, Hugh Beaumont ended up with a bigger pulpit. Ward Cleaver as dad was never as popular as Jim Anderson, but he did something few TV dads accomplished.
Ward Cleaver was either: the dad you had, the dad you wish you had, or the dad you should try to be. No doubt Mr. Cleaver was more common in 1957 than in 1997 or will be in 2017. Telling someone today that they have a "Leave it to Beaver" life or outlook is considered an insult. It shouldn't be. Hugh Beaumont represented the pinnacle of American Fatherhood. His example was as fine a sermon as any preacher ever gave.