RIP, Mrs. Cleaver
Voice Coaches was very sad to hear of the passing of actress Barbara Billingsley this weekend. She was 94 years old.
Ms. Billingsley initially rocketed to fame in the 1950s with her portrayal of June Cleaver on the popular show Leave it to Beaver. Ms. Billingsley’s portrayal as the quintessential American housewife not only made her a household name, but set the standard for the prototypical image of the All-American homemaker/mother that exists even today. It’s not uncommon to hear a housewife or mother character in a TV show or movie referred to as “June Cleaver,” even 50 years after she made her television debut.
After Leave it to Beaver left the air in 1963, Ms. Billingsley took an extended leave of absence from acting to travel the world, but she returned to American airwaves in the 1980s as a voice actor, appearing as the character Nanny in over 100 episodes of the hit Jim Henson Company/Marvel Comics Productions animated series Muppet Babies. Over eight seasons, Ms. Billingsley portrayed the only human character to regularly appear in the show, acting in almost every single episode. For those of us — like this writer — who watched that show during some part of their childhood, all it takes is one glimpse of Nanny’s signature green-and-white striped tights, red dress, and purple sweater (you never saw her face), and Ms. Billingsley’s voice instantly pops into your head.
Whether you remember Barbara Billingsley best as Nanny or June Cleaver (or both!), there’s no denying that she was a true talent in this world, and she will be missed.
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