LOS ANGELES — Ken Osmond, best known for his six-season role as Eddie Haskell on the television sitcom “Leave It To Beaver,” has died. He was 76.
Born on June 7, 1943, Osmond began his prolific career as a child actor at the age of four as an extra in feature films. His first appearance was in the film Plymouth Adventure, with Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney. At age 9, Osmond had his first speaking part in So Big, starring Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden. He continued to appear in small roles in feature films such as Good Morning Miss Dove and Everything But the Truth, and made numerous guest-starring appearances on popular TV series, including Lassie, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Wagon Train, Fury, Circus Boy, and The Loretta Young Show.
In 1959, Osmond played 16-year-old “Tommy” in the episode “Dead Aim” of the ABC/Warner Brothers Western series Colt .45. He also made a guest appearance in 1964 on Petticoat Junction.
Of all his roles, however, Osmond is best known for his iconic role as Wally Cleaver’s best/worst friend Eddie Haskell on the 1950s TV favorite Leave It to Beaver, and for having reprised it on the 1980s revival series The New Leave It to Beaver. Typecast by the role, he found it hard to get other acting work and subsequently became a Los Angeles motorcycle cop. After being shot in the line of duty and retiring from police work in 1988, Osmond handled rental properties in Los Angeles County and made occasional personal appearances at film festivals, collectors’ shows and nostalgia conventions.
On September 18, 2007, Osmond filed a class action lawsuit against the Screen Actors Guild, alleging that SAG had collected $8 million in foreign residuals for U.S. actors but had not distributed them to the actors.
Over the years, Ken Osmond was the subject of two outlandish and untrue rumors that lingered for decades. In the early 1970s, a story was widely reported that Osmond had become rock star Alice Cooper. According to Cooper, the rumor began when a college newspaper editor asked him what kind of kid he was, to which Cooper replied “I was obnoxious, disgusting, a real Eddie Haskell”. However, the story ended up reporting that Cooper was the real Eddie Haskell. Cooper would later tell the New Times, “It was the biggest rumor that ever came out about me. Finally, I got a T-shirt that said ‘No, I am not Eddie Haskell.’ But people still believed it.”
Another outrageous urban legend of the 1970s was that Osmond had grown up to become adult film star John Holmes. The story apparently began when fan magazines falsely reported that Osmond had embarked on such a career. The rumor was quashed after a Los Angeles movie theater lit up its marquee advertising “Eddie Haskell of TV in ‘Behind the Green Door’ – X-rated,” which prompted Osmond himself, then an LAPD officer, to go to the theater and request that the manager of the theater pull the plug on the marquee.
Osmond died on Monday, May 18, at his Los Angeles home surrounded by family members. He is survived by his wife Sandra and their sons Eric and Christian. The cause of death has not yet been released, although the entertainment newspaper Variety reports that Osmond had been suffering from respiratory issues.
Leave It to Beaver star Jerry Mathers told Fox News on Monday that Ken Osmond had been a lifelong friend, adding, “I have always said that he was the best actor on our show because his real-life personality was so opposite of the character he so brilliantly portrayed. I will greatly miss him along with his countless fans all over the world.”
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Auction Central News contributed to this report.