Before he was Beaver, Jerry Mathers made his TV debut in one of the earliest Halloween episodes
Mathers was just four years old when he went trick-or-treating at the Nelsons.
Read to Me
The Halloween episode is a favorite ritual of sitcoms. It's hard to find a show these days that doesn't celebrate Halloween. Heck, many of them have a special October costume-athon every season.
But, in the early days of television, the Halloween episode was not so common. Sifting through the Fifties, you come across classics like The Honeymooners' "Halloween Party" (1953) and Lassie's "The Witch" (1955). Digging deeper into the plastic pumpkin, you'll discover another "Halloween Party."
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet dressed up for its "Halloween Party" in 1952, in what is one of the earliest sitcom episodes celebrating the holiday. In our cursory research, we could not find an older one. It was just the fifth episode of Ozzie and Harriet, which would go on to air another 430 episodes over the span of 14 seasons. Ricky, sporting a skeleton bodysuit, looks shockingly young.
"I think Halloween is mainly a night for kids," Ozzie bemoans to his neighbor Thorny. Ricky was not the youngest kid to appear in this episode. Midway through the story, the doorbell rings at the Nelson residence. A girl and a boy stand anxiously with masks perched atop their heads and wicker baskets in their hands. "Trick or treat!" they declare.
The one on the right is none other than Jerry Mathers in his first-ever television appearance. He was still five years away from becoming Beaver on Leave It to Beaver. He was only four years old.
On his personal website, Mathers posted a story from his mother, Marilyn, who remembers bringing young Jerry to the studio for this debut gig.
"Jerry had just begun modeling and doing some live TV… One day his agent called that he was to report for work at a location fairly close to our home the next morning," she wrote. "It was early October. I dressed him in his everyday clothes and trekked the short distance to catch the big red streetcar that ran along Santa Monica Blvd."
"An assistant director called the kids to the set. There was no script. Ozzie Nelson, the director, just told them to knock on the door, and when the door opened say trick or treat," she recalled.
Perhaps little Jerry was showing off his scene-stealing improv skills, then, when he yells to his companion, "Hey, wait for me!"
Mrs. Mathers remembers the scene taking no more than 15 minutes to film. "We boarded the streetcar for home, Jerry, a very happy little chappie," she said, "with his early start on Halloween trick or treat candy."