Barbara Billingsley, American film and stage actress, Died at 94

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Dead, Barbara Billingsley on October 16, 2010, at the age of 94, she was an American film, television, voice, and stage actress.

Born Barbara Lillian Combes on December 22, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, the youngest child of a policeman Robert Collyer Combes (1891–1950) and his first wife, the former Lillian Agnes McLaughlin (1891–1956).

She had one elder sibling, Elizabeth (1911–1992).

Her parents divorced sometime before her fourth birthday, and her father, who later became an assistant chief of police, remarried.

She had mostly uncredited roles in major motion picture productions in the 1940s.

These roles continued into the first half of the 1950s with supporting roles in Three Guys Named Mike (1951), opposite Jane Wyman, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and the sci-fi film Invaders from Mars (1953).

In 1952, Billingsley had her first guest–starring role on an episode of The Abbott and Costello Show.

In 1955, she won a co-starring role in the sitcom Professional Father, starring Stephen Dunne and Beverly Washburn.

The series lasted one season.

The following year, Billingsley had a recurring role on The Brothers (with Gale Gordon and Bob Sweeney), as well as an appearance with David Niven on his anthology series Four Star Playhouse.

In 1957, she co–starred opposite Dean Stockwell and Natalie Trundy in The Careless Years, which was her first and only major role in film.

In the show, Billingsley often could be seen doing household chores wearing pearls and earrings.

The pearls, which in real-life were Billingsley’s trademark, were, in turn, her idea to have her alter ego wear on television.

The actress had what she termed “a hollow” on her neck and thought that wearing a strand of white pearls would lighten it up for the cameras.

In later seasons, she started wearing high heels to compensate for the fact that the actors who played her sons were growing up and getting taller than she was.

So associated was the pearl necklace with the character, that an entire episode of the sequel series dealt with the necklace when lost.

Billingsley had one regret about the show’s lasting success: residual payments ended after six reruns in standard 1950s actors’ contracts.

After The New Leave It to Beaver ended its run in 1989, Billingsley appeared in guest roles on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Empty Nest, and Murphy Brown.

She also reprised her role as June Cleaver in various television shows, including Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Amazing Stories, Baby Boom, Hi Honey, I’m Home!, and Roseanne.

In 1998, she appeared on Candid Camera, along with June Lockhart and Isabel Sanford, as audience members in a spoof seminar on motherhood.

Billingsley’s final film role was as “Aunt Martha” in the 1997 film version of Leave It to Beaver. She made her final onscreen appearance in the 2003 television movie Secret Santa.

In 2007, she was singing at her former Leave It to Beaver (1957), co-star’s, Jerry Mathers’s, mother’s 80th birthday party, when he returned from appearing on Broadway, in his debut role, as Wilbur Turnblad in “Hairspray”.

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