Ken Osmond, who played the duplicitous teenager Eddie Haskell on the long-running sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” one moment an overly polite young man when talking to parents, the next moment a devilish trouble maker, died Monday at his home in a suburb of Los Angeles. He was 76.
His son Eric said the cause was complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and peripheral arterial disease.
Ken Osmond appeared in all six seasons of “Leave It to Beaver,” which ran from 1957 to 1963, one of the most-watched television sitcoms of the era. He also appeared in the Disney Channel revival, “The New Leave It to Beaver,” in 1984 and had later roles in “Lassie,” “Petticoat Junction” and “The Munsters.”
But for the baby boom generation drawn in to the idealized world of 1950s television families, Osmond would always be synonymous with Eddie Haskell, by turns the unctuous and mischievous friend of Wally Cleaver, a straitlaced 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.
“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 with them to the movies was the last thing Eddie had in mind, and that he would find a way to ditch the kid.
Osmond joined the Los Angeles Police Department after giving up acting, growing a mustache to disguise himself. In 1980, he was shot five times in a chase with a suspected car thief, though he was saved by his bulletproof vest. He was put on disability and retired from the force in 1988.
Kenneth Charles Osmond was born on June 7, 1943, in Glendale, California, to Pearl (Hand) Osmond, an agent, and Thurman Osmond, a studio carpenter and propmaker.
He grew up in North Hollywood and graduated from North Hollywood High School in the early 1960s. After graduating he started a helicopter charter company with his brother, Dayton.
He married Sandy Purdy in 1969. In addition to his son Eric, he is survived by his wife; another son, Christian; and two grandsons. His brother Dayton died a few years ago.