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1961 Barbara Billingsley Article

 

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TV Guide, Feb 25 - Mar 3, 1961: An Expert on the Male

Barbara Lillian Combes Billingsley Kellino Mortensen, who as plain Barbara Billingsley has been playing the mother of two sons on ABC's Leave It To Beaver since the series began in 1957, is herself the mother of two sons, Drew, 19\8, and Brud, 16. "At Beaver's age in the series," she says, "both of them were very much like Beaver." (Beaver Cleaver is 12)

And members of the backstage Beaver family point out that Miss Billingsley is a dead ringer for the mild-mannered and soft-spoken June Cleaver, housewife. "Barbara," says co-producer Joseph Connelly, "gives us only one problem. In scenes where she's mad at the boys, she's always coming to us with the script and objecting: 'I don't see why June is so mad over what Beaver's don. I certainly wouldn't be.'"

As a result, Connelly says, many of Beaver's crimes have been rewritten into something really heinous, like lying about them, in order to give his mother a strong motive for blowing her ladylike stack.

A dignified and easygoing blonde of 38, Barbara is a Los Angeles girl who has always been more concerned with marriage and family than with her career. With a year at Los Angeles Junior college behind her she traveled to Broadway by gravitation when "Straw Hat," a review in which she was appearing, attracted enough attention to send it to the big time. when, after five days, the show closed, she "decided new York was more fun than college," took an apartment on 57th Street and when to work as a $60-a-week fashion model.

The Billingsley in her stage name derives from her marriage, in 1941, to Glenn Billingsley, a restaurant operator and nephew of another follow in the same business. Divorced in 1947, the Billingsley had first live for 18 months in Key West, Fla., where their older son was born, then for a year in Los Angeles as manager of the Mocambo night club. Barbara picked up where "Straw Hat" left off after the birth of her other son in California, chiefly playing "Tom Conway's wife in more B-picture detective stories than I care to count up."

A career in more than 100 filmed TV shows and live Hollywood dramas began with her marriage in 1953 to the late Roy Kellino. (Since June 28, 1959, Barbara has been the wife of Dr. William Mortensen, a Santa Monica physician who had been a widower and an old friend of the Kellinos.) Kellino was an English-born director whom Dick Powell, David Niven and Charles Boyer kept busy on Four Star Playhouse. Mrs. Kellino starred with all of Four Star';s stars, sometimes directed by her husband, worked on other filmed anthology shows and, in 1955, played the mother of two children on a CBS live series, Professional Father.

At present Barbara is under the slight misapprehension that sympathy over Kellino's' sudden death (of a heart attack in 1956) won her the role of the mother on Leave It To Beaver. "Roy died on a Saturday, while we were gardening," she says. "The Thursday before, I was up for the part of the mother in a series Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher were working on. Then Roy died, and nothing came of that series. But two months later, when they started on Leave It To Beaver, they remembered me and asked me to read for the part of June. I've always thought that they felt sorry for me."

Connelly and Mosher, however, deny they were carried away by sentiment. "We remembered her," Mosher says, "because she fit the part."

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