Billingsley, Barbara Lillan

SKU: PH290


Barbara Lillian Billingsley (December 22, 1915 – October 16, 2010) was an American film, television, voice and stage actress.  Inscribed Photograph Signed, n.d. B/W written in fine blue ink pen.  Overall, very fine condition. 

She gained prominence in the 1950s movie The Careless Years, acting opposite Natalie Trundy, followed by her best–known role, that of iconic 1950’s mother figure June Cleaver on the television series Leave It to Beaver (1957–63) and its sequel The New Leave It to Beaver (also titled originally as “Still the Beaver” in series 1).

Billingsley was born Barbara Lillian Combes on December 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, the youngest child of patrolman Robert Collyer Combes (1891–1950) and his first wife, the former Lillian Agnes McLaughlin (1891–1956).

After attending Los Angeles Junior College for one year, Billingsley traveled to Broadway, when Straw Hat, a revue in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to New York City. When, after five days, the show closed, she took an apartment on 57th Street and went to work as a $60–a–week fashion model.

In 1941 she married Glenn Billingsley, Sr. She landed a contract with MGM Studios in 1945 and moved with her husband to Los Angeles the following year. That same year, Glenn Billingsley opened a restaurant in that city.

She had mostly uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s. These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with supporting roles in Three Guys Named Mike (1951), opposite Jane Wyman, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and the sci-fi film Invaders from Mars (1953).

In 1952, Billingsley had her first guest–starring role on an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show. In 1955, she won a co-starring role in the sitcom Professional Father, starring Stephen Dunne and Beverly Washburn. The series lasted one season. The following year, Billingsley had a recurring role on The Brothers (with Gale Gordon and Bob Sweeney) as well as an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse.

In 1957, she co–starred opposite Dean Stockwell and Natalie Trundy in The Careless Years, which was her first and only major role in film. 

After Billingsley signed a contract with Universal Studios in 1957, she made her mark on TV as everyday mother June Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, alongside other 1950s family sitcoms such as Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Make Room For Daddy and The Donna Reed Show. It debuted on CBS in 1957, to mediocre ratings and was soon cancelled. However, the show was picked up by ABC the following year where it became a hit and aired for the next five seasons. The show was featured in over 100 countries.

Also starring on Beaver were Hugh Beaumont, in the role of Ward Cleaver, June’s husband and the kids’ father, as well as unfamiliar child actors Tony Dow in the role of Wally Cleaver and Jerry Mathers as Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver. 

Billingsley died of polymyalgia at her home in Los Angeles, California, on October 16, 2010, at the age of 94. She is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.