Thursday, July 28, 2022

Godspeed Tony Dow

Tony Dow, who played Wally on Leave It to Beaver and directed many television shows, died on July 27 2022 at the age of 77. The cause was liver cancer.

Tony Dow was born on April 13 1945 in Hollywood, California. His family had an artistic bent, so that he was exposed to art at an early age. When he was young he won several titles at swimming and diving competitions, and he even trained for the Olympics.

It was in 1957 that he was cast as Wally Cleaver on the classic sitcom Leave It to Beaver. He played the role of Beaver's older brother for the entirety of the show's run from 1957 to 1963. In the Sixties he starred on the daytime serial Never Too Young. He guest starred on the show General Hospital, The Eleventh Hour, The Greatest Show on Earth, My Three Sons, Mr. Novak, NBC Children's Theatre, Lassie, and Adam-12.  From 1965 to 1968 he served in the National Guard.

In the Seventies Tony Dow guest starred on the shows Love, American Style; The Mod Squad; Emergency!; and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. He appeared in the TV movies A Great American Tragedy and Death Scream,. He appeared in the movie The Kentucky Fried Movie.

In the Eighties Tony Dow reprised his role as Wally in the TV reunion movie Still the Beaver. Afterwards he starred as Wally in the sitcom of the same name. He guest starred on the shows Square Pegs; Quincy M.E., Knight Rider, Mike Hammer; Murder, She Wrote; The Love Boat; Jesse Hawkes; Charles in Charge; and Freddy's Nightmares. He appeared in the TV movies The Ordeal of Bill Carney and High School U.S.A. It was with Still the Beaver that Tony Dow began directing television and he directed several episodes of the show. In the Eighties he also directed episodes of The New Lassie, Coach, Swamp Thing, and Get a Life.  He appeared in the movie Back to the Beach (1987).

In the Nineties Tony Dow appeared in the TV movie The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space. He guest starred on the shows Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction and Diagnosis Murder. He directed several episodes of Coach, Swamp Thing, and Babylon 5. He also directed episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Crusade; Cover Me: Based on the True Life of an FBI Family; and Manhattan, AZ. He also directed the TV documentary Child Stars: Their Story and produced the TV movies The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space and It Came From Outer Space II. In the Naughts he appeared in the movie Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003). In the Teens he guest starred on the TV series Suspense.

Tony Dow was also a talented sculptor. He was one of only two American sculptors whose sculptures were featured at the Carrousel du Louvre. His work was also displayed at the  Salon 2008 de la National des Beaux Arts in Paris.  His works have been displayed at he  Karen Lynne Gallery, Topanga Canyon Gallery, the Morgan Gallery, and the Bilotta Gallery.

While I am not nearly as big a fan of Leave It to Beaver as many of my generation, I always appreciated that it was the first sitcom to focus on the kids in the family rather than the parents. What is more, Tony Dow was perfect as Wally, the big brother many with they had. Of course, he played many more roles than just Wally. On Diagnosis Murder he played  a role as far from Wally as one could get, a television network executive. On Adam-12 he played a young corporal in the military whose car had been stolen. On Love, American Style he played a husband whose wife was leaving him. Over the years Tony Dow not only played Wally, but medical doctors, school principals, and motorcyclists as well.

Of course, Tony Dow also directed several hours of television. He was a very good television director and seemed to have a gift for both science fiction and comedy. His episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Field of Fire," is one of the best of the series.

In real life, Tony Dow was a lot like Wally, simply a nice guy. While I never got to meet Mr. Dow, I have many friends who did and they all the said same thing. He really was the big brother everyone wanted. Tony Dow was a talented actor, a talented director, a talented sculptor, and, most importantly of all, simply a good person.

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