This Mayberry visitor was briefly the original Ward Cleaver
You might know this actor by two different names.
"The Horse Trader" offers the rare chance to see Sheriff Andy Taylor setting a poor example for his son, Opie. In this early episode of The Andy Griffith Show, an antique dealer breezes into Mayberry. Andy lies to the fellow, Ralph Mason. He tells Mason that the rickety, unsightly old cannon in downtown Mayberry is of great historical significance, with links to the Civil War and Teddy Roosevelt. But it's just a piece of junk.
To his credit, Andy rights his wrong and fessed up to Mr. Mason. But we're not here to talk about the cannon. We're here to talk about Mr. Mason.
Classic TV fans will undoubtedly have an "Oh! Oh! That guy!" moment when Ralph Mason appears onscreen. With his wide grin and throaty voice, the actor who played Mason was on dozens of beloved shows. And he worked under two completely different names.
Max Showalter got his showbiz start in theater and on Broadway. As the 1940s came to a close, the Kansas native signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. The rub? Studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck was no fan of the name "Max Showalter." He changed the newcomer's name to "Casey Adams."
As "Adams," Showalter would appear in many Fox flicks, most notably alongside Marilyn Monroe in Niagara (1953). In the mid-Fifties, he shifted more to the small screen. He was largely a guest star, on series such as The Lorette Young Show, Matinee Theatre and The Twilight Zone.
One particularly juicy lead role slipped through his fingers.
In 1957, the anthology series Studio 57 served up a pilot of a promising new sitcom told from the point of view of a young boy. It was called It's a Small World, and centered around the exploits of a cute kid named Beaver Cleaver. Gee, Wally, you've probably heard of him.
Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) was there alongside Jerry Mathers (Beaver), but Wally and Ward were portrayed by two different performers. "Casey Adams" shared top billing. In the episode, he lectures Beaver on the importance of being fair and honest much like Andy teaches Opie.
Of course, "Adams" would lose the role to Hugh Beaumont when the sitcom went to series and became Leave It to Beaver.
He might have lost that role, but Showalter did score a significant win in the early Sixties when he won the use of his true name back. Which is why you might have seen him billed as Max Showalter in shows like Bewitched, Bob Newhart and The Love Boat. Astute Perry Mason viewers will note that he appeared six times on the mystery series — three times and Casey Adams and three times as Max Showalter.
You can't win every cast, but what's more important than your true identity?