'Beaver''s Tony Dow Talks TV, Career And 'Love Letters'

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Leave It to Beaver’s Wally Cleaver — played by Tony Dow — was the ideal older brother: handsome, athletic, decent and always there for his little brother, “The Beaver,” played by Jerry Mathers. Dow co-starred in the series for six seasons beginning in 1957 when he was 12, and then again when an updated series returned for a run in the ’80s. Dow, now 72 and living in California, has worked as an actor, director, producer and, most recently, sculptor. He and his wife of 37 years, Lauren Dow, will perform A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook for two shows Feb. 18.

What made you decide to do the stripped-down, two-character play Love Letters?

A guy in Texas had a theater and he asked if I would come down and do Love Letterswith Judy Norton [TV’s The Waltons] and I fell in love with the play. I also did it with [Three’s Company’s] Joyce DeWitt and [Olympic figure skater] Tai Babilonia. I was also getting up in age where my memory wasn’t real solid, so a play where you can sit down and just read it was perfect. Plus you don’t have to go through the fancy hoo-ha of staging. It’s a simple presentation and it’s all about the material.

You were born and raised in Hollywood and were the son of a Mack Sennett bathing beauty. Did you always want to be an actor?

I never did. My mom wasn’t after a career. She just followed some friends at the studio and got lucky because she looked like Clara Bow and became her stunt double. I didn’t know that much about the business, either. I was really raw. But somebody saw something.