Jerry Mathers searched for decades to reunite with Larry Mondello

Rusty Stevens' final Sixties role was on The Rifleman. After that, nobody could track him down for nearly two decades.

The last time anybody saw child actor Rusty Stevens on TV was in 1963.

His final appearance was on a special Halloween episode of The Rifleman called "Hostages of Fortune." In the episode, he plays a bully who ends up getting in a fistfight with Mark McCain (Johnny Crawford).

In the years before this Rifleman appearance, Rusty had been seen on popular shows like Wagon Train, Perry Mason, and My Three Sons. But to classic TV fans, he will always be best known as playing Larry Mondello on Leave It to Beaver from 1957 to 1960.

For Stevens, getting cast on Leave It to Beaver was a life change that came out of nowhere.

At that time, he was working as a paperboy, selling newspapers on a street corner, when a children's talent scout named Lola Moore happened to see him.

Rusty had been selling those papers for 10 months without anyone paying any attention to him, but to Lola, there was just something about him. She liked his style.

Stevens' parents were shocked.

"The studio people say he's a real discovery," his mom told The Valley Times — the very newspaper her son had been selling — in 1957.

In all of Rusty's life, he'd never once been asked to act in anything, not a school play or a church skit, nothing. But his mom admitted he loved to watch movies and TV Westerns and act out the parts around the house.

That year Rusty made his TV debut on Leave It to Beaver, becoming known to audiences as one of Beaver's very best pals.

Stevens continued appearing on Leave It to Beaver over 67 episodes while also appearing on shows like 77 Sunset Strip and Shirley Temple’s Storybook.

His acting career could've kept on going after Leave It to Beaver ended, but instead his parents decided to end his contract with the show and leave Los Angeles suddenly.

According to Leave It to Beaver star Barbara Billingsley, the issue may have been that producers weren’t fans of Stevens' overbearing mother. The TV mom claimed Stevens was fired.

Whatever happened, Rusty's family moved to Pennsylvania, and the last few projects he had acted in continued airing over the next few years, as Rusty gave up the life of a child star and traded it back for a normal childhood.

It seemed everybody forgot about Rusty. Everybody except his old buddy Beaver, that is.

Jerry Mathers kept searching for his old friend and was frustrated with how long it took to finally reunite.

"Nobody could find him for the longest time," Mathers told The Pantagraph in 1982, nearly two decades after Rusty had disappeared. "Everybody lost touch with him."

Finally, Beaver did find his pal, though, and when he did, he found him working as a car insurance salesman in New Jersey.

Mathers persuaded Stevens to take part in the 1983 Leave It to Beaver reunion movie, and Rusty even did three guest spots on episodes of The New Leave It to Beaver, making his final TV role the same as his first.

It had to feel like he was stepping back into another life, much the same as when he got scouted selling newspapers and got whisked away from the street corner to the studio, just like that.

According to Mathers, from that point on, the pair of classic TV buddies never lost touch again.

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Pacificsun 13 months ago
This is a repeat Story.

There must be plenty of other things to write about.
RedSamRackham 16 months ago
* I read that before Rusty Stevens was contacted for the LITB reunion movie his wife didn't know that she was married to the former Larry Mondello. ☺
Lawrence286 22 months ago
When will we see the new leave beaver
HerbF Lawrence286 16 months ago
It's tied up in a legal mess for the last 35 years! It was a co-production between Universal Television and An Australian company and the Ausie company went under and the rights became a mess. Jerry, Tony, Ken and Frank tried for years to get it untangled...
rikkirat 25 months ago
I alway thought that Larry’s dad had a second family somewhere else since he was always “out of town”
FrancieCarlson rikkirat 16 months ago
Larry's mother always called Ward Cleaver when she needed help with Larry.
repete 26 months ago
The title of this: "Jerry Mathers searched for decades to reunite with Larry Mondello" is confusing in using the actor's name for the first part, then the character's name for the second part. It should be "Jerry Mathers searched for decades to reunite with Rusty Stevens". Your readers are not as dumb as you look.
Pacificsun repete 13 months ago
"It should be "Jerry Mathers searched for decades to reunite with Rusty Stevens". Your readers are not as dumb as you look."

Or too rude so as not to appreciate "Poetic License" (as well as the original story itself). I think we get the connection between a character's name and his actual name. And eager to read it again!
JHP 29 months ago
didnt Me-Tv just have a similar topic not too long ago?
Cpt_Ahab 30 months ago
I retired in 2020 in a world of COVID and craziness. Thanks, MeTV, for giving me something sane to watch every morning! It starts my day off right.
vinman63 30 months ago
Jerry Mathers died in Nam and there is a Faux Mather running around.
MarieLLomangino vinman63 22 months ago
In December 1969, a rumor began that Mathers was killed in action in the Vietnam War. Although the origin of the rumor is unclear, Mathers never saw action and was never stationed outside the United States.
bagandwallyfan52 32 months ago
Besides Larry Mondello
Judy Hensler Chester Anderson
Tooey Brown and Bill Scott
Bengie Bellamy (Joey Scott)
Appeared on LITB for a couple
Of episodes before Bengie
Vanished with no explanation.
Cpl. Boyle(Roy Stuart)
And aCpl.Nick Cuccinelli
(Tommy Leonetti ) disappeared with no explanation.
Also on The Andy Griffith Show
There was an episode called
Stranger In Town where Ed
Sawyer(William Lanteau)
Moves to Mayberry because
Mayberry was his home town.
Then Ed Sawyer vanished into
Thin air never to be seen
Again.If Ed Sawyer really
Moved to Mayberry then
Then where was Ed Sawyer
Hiding in Mayberry??
Also Sudsy and Robbie's.
Friend Hank vanished from
My 3 Sons with no explanation.
Also Angela Brown Ann Marshall)vanished from
My Favorite Martiann with
No explanation after only
3 episodes.
And Ginger(Charlene Salerno)
The girlfriend of Wally Plumstead(Skip Young) on
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet disappeared with no
On Green Acres
Newt Kiley and Roy Trendell
Were not seen on season 6
On Green Acres.
When Spike disappeared from
Happy Days Chachi arrived in
Milwaukee .
bagandwallyfan52 32 months ago
I noticed that when heavyset
Larry Monello(Rusty Stevens)
Disappeared from Leave It To
Braver another heavyset kid
Named Harry Henderson
(Keith Taylor) replaced Larry
Mondwllo. And Judy Hensler
(Jeri Weil) was replaced by
Penny Woods(Karen Sue Trent).
Chester Anderson (Buddy Hart)
And Tooey Brown(Tiger Fafara)
And Bill Scott(David Kent)
Vanished from Leave It To
Beaver with no explanation
It reminded me of the Happy
Days characters who disappeared with no explanation:
Moose:Barry Greenberg
Eugene Belvin: Denis Mandel
Melvin Belvin: Scott Bernstein
Bag Zombroski; Neil J Schwartz
Chuck Cunningham:
Gavan O Herlihy and
Randolph Roberts
Trudy :TITA Bell
Jill Higgins:Charlene Tilton
Spike :Danny Butch
Wendy :/Misty Rowe
Marsha Simms: Beatrice Colen
Flip Phillips :Billy Warlock
KC Cunningham: Crystal Bernard
vinman63 bagandwallyfan52 30 months ago
Where as Bewitch had 2 Dares, 2 Mrs Tates, and 2 Gladys Travis.
Pigmann vinman63 30 months ago
Bewitched had 2 Darrin's and 2 Gladys Kravitz.
vinman63 Pigmann 30 months ago
Some about my funky typing lol.
Susan00100 vinman63 20 months ago
It was Gladys KRAVITZ, and Sandra Gould replaced the deceased Alice Pierce.
ZackZombro 32 months ago
There are some errors in this article.

1) His acting career did continue after LITB as he acted in seven other shows after he left Leave it to Beaver in 1960. His last acting credit was in 1963. These were not like movie roles which are sometimes released years after they were filmed. These were TV roles, filmed only months before airing on TV.

2) His family did not leave suddenly as is seen by the TV roles played for 3 years after leaving Leave it to Beaver

3) I may be wrong, but in interviews with Jerry Mathers and others, the producer of the Still the Beaver movie had to hire a detective to find Rusty. It wasn't Mathers himself who found him.

Those are the only errors I can see that appear immediately to me, but there may be others. But I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt. But I do wonder how many other errors are in these blog posts about actors on the METV site.
Pacificsun ZackZombro 13 months ago
If these writers read every in-depth trivia article, keeping in mind, on ALL the Actors and Shows which they cover. They'd never get a story out the door. I appreciate what they bring to our attention, and expect that not only is there more to learn about the subject. I know how to find it. Also, Ultra Fans have a lot of background to offer, and to straighten out, as well. In fact the Site encourages readers to do so, enriching the material and sharing with each other. Many add very interesting details and knowledge!!

Well, the misstatement actually originates in the Wiki link. A service which actually requests their readers to update for accuracy, and to add to the citations. In fact, doing the math explains that his appearances continued forward to the final date noted. And I didn't know the reason why he left the Series.

My hunch is, that MeTV Writers don't quite have enough time to do that. Just as much as the readers on this site, probably don't either. Except Ultra Fans of particular Series, as I would regarding mine as well.
zlo 32 months ago
It would be great if kids today had parents like June and Ward .
vinman63 zlo 30 months ago
From what I gather Barbara B may have had an attraction for Hugh B.
janet0312 32 months ago
Larry is one of my favorite characters. Watching "Ward's Baseball" this morning pains me when I think about what that autographed ball would have been worth today. ARGH!
Adanor 32 months ago
Maybe his parents did the right thing. Rarely do child actors transition to becoming regular actors as adults and whisking him off to a regular life in Pennsylvania was the best thing they could do.
WordsmithWorks 32 months ago
It was actually very cool of Mathers to track down his old acting pal. If he began his search in 1982, it was all without the aid of Facebook or even the Internet. How many people wonder about friends from the past... and that's it?
LoveMETV22 32 months ago
I wonder if MeTV has ever considered running any of "The New Leave It to Beaver" episodes or the
"Still the Beaver" reunion movie.
CoreyC LoveMETV22 32 months ago
Won't happen cause I believe Disney owns the spinoff along with Universal.
LoveMETV22 CoreyC 32 months ago
Darn. Oh Well.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 13 months ago
"HerbF" commenting after this one, mentions it's been tied up in Litigation.

But if Disney is at all involved, or has rights exceeding Universal's, I think that's code for how they're not going to make it available for free. But either through hard copy Media, or Pay-to-View (streaming). And, I haven't researched any further. Too bad, think what a perfect Saturday Morning Show it would be!!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 13 months ago
" "HerbF" commenting after this one."
That's unfortunate if the major corporations that own the syndication/broadcast rights to the series are tying it up with w/e tactics their using. It would make a perfect addition to the series currently running. Either Saturday morning or alternating with the LITB episodes they run on Sunday afternoons.
CoreyC 32 months ago
The only person who stayed in show business from Leave It To Beaver was Rich Correll who played Richard. He became a director and directed a lot of shows of the 80's and 90's.
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ErikRoush CoreyC 32 months ago
Tony Dow was apparently appearing in something (maybe a dinner theater) in the mid 1980's in Kansas City, MO. He suddenly walked out in front of my friend's car in front of the Embassy Suites hotel and we almost hit him. He jumped back, shook his head in embarrassment, then smiled and waved to us. I said "Oh My God, that was Tony Dow!". That was the only time in my life that I almost killed anyone from Leave it to Beaver.
Pacificsun ErikRoush 13 months ago
Loved your story. Hilarious!!
Pacificsun CoreyC 13 months ago
What about Hugh Beaumont.
Obviously there aren't enough Mannix Fans around 😉
DickTater CoreyC 19 days ago
Don't forget Buddy Hart who played "Chester Anderson" he went on to be world famous stuntman and stunt director, Buddy Joe Hooker, whose career was the basis for "The Fall Guy" on ABC.
WayneKeith 32 months ago
I'm in my 60s and still like to watch LITB whenever I can, especially the first two seasons before Beaver got too "grown-up"
GoUTVols1961 WayneKeith 32 months ago
I see that you like slow burning papers.
sistervic 32 months ago
I love Beaver, and the Rifleman, please pray for me making it through the out come of Ida in Jesus name. Thank you all, and God bless you.
grandpa5741 sistervic 32 months ago
Stay safe and well
birdhouse sistervic 32 months ago
Prayers sent to our God Almighty
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