Ken Osmond, best known for playing two-faced teenage scoundrel Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver, died Monday.
Osmond, who also had a second career as a police officer, died in Los Angeles at age 76, his family said. No cause was given.
“He was an incredibly kind and wonderful father,” his son Eric Osmond said in a statement. “He had his family gathered around him when he passed. He was loved and will be very missed.”
Henry Lane, Osmond’s former partner at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), also confirmed the news and told Variety that Osmond had suffered from respiratory issues.
Osmond’s Eddie Haskell stood out among many memorable characters on the classic family sitcom Leave It to Beaver, which ran from 1957 to 1963 on CBS and ABC but had a decades-long life of reruns and revivals.
Eddie was the best friend of Tony Dow’s Wally Cleaver, big brother to Jerry Mathers’ Beaver Cleaver. He constantly kissed up to adults, flattering and flirting with Wally and Beaver’s mother, and kicked down at his peers, usually in the same scene. He was the closest thing the wholesome show had to a villain, and viewers of all ages loved to hate him.
On Monday, Dow told the Associated Press that Osmond was “a terrific guy” and “a terrific actor.”
“His character is probably one that will last forever,” Dow said. “He was one of the few guys on the show who really played a character and created it.”
Mathers took to Twitter to mourn the loss of his friend, writing: “I will greatly miss my lifelong friend Ken Osmond who I have known for over 63 years. I have always said that he was the best actor on our show because in real life his personality was so opposite of the character that he so briliantly (sic) portrayed. RIP dear friend.”
Osmond was born in Glendale, Calif., to a carpenter father and a mother who wanted to get him into acting. He got his first role at age 4, working in commercials and as a film extra, and got his first speaking role at 9, appearing mostly in small guest parts on TV series.
The role of Eddie in Season 1 of Leave It to Beaver was also supposed to be a one-off guest appearance, but the show’s producers and its audience found him so memorable he became a regular, appearing in nearly 100 of the show’s 234 episodes.
Osmond returned to making guest appearances on TV shows, including The Munsters in the late 1960s, but found he was so identified with Eddie Haskell that it was hard to land roles.
Shortly after that, Osmond gave up on acting and became an LAPD officer for more than a decade.
“I was very much typecast. It’s a death sentence,” Osmond told radio host Stu Stoshak in a 2008 interview on Stu’s Show. “I’m not complaining because Eddie’s been too good to me, but I found work hard to come by. In 1968, I bought my first house, in ’69 I got married, and we were going to start a family and I needed a job, so I went out and signed up for the LAPD.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore paid tribute to Osmond’s police service.
“Ken may have been a famous TV star,” Moore said in a statement, “but his real-life role as Los Angeles police officer was where he made his biggest impact. After his successful run on one of the most popular shows of all time, he chose to protect and to serve the residents of Los Angeles, and I’m proud to have been able to call him a law enforcement partner.”
Osmond returned to TV in 1983, when Leave It to Beaver reruns were having a heyday, appearing in the TV movie Still the Beaver.
There was also a revival series titled, The New Leave It to Beaver, with Osmond reprising the role of Haskell alongside Dow and Mathers from 1983 to 1989.
Osmond’s real-life sons with wife Sandra Purdy, Eric and Christian, played Haskell’s sons, who shared their father’s smarminess on the series.
In 2014 Osmond co-authored a memoir reflecting on his life as Haskell. It was titled, Eddie: The Life and Times of America’s Preeminent Bad Boy.
Many fans of Osmond took to Twitter to send their condolences once news of his passing spread.
Osmond is survived by his wife, Sandra, and two sons, Christian and Eric.
— With files from the Associated Press