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Ken Osmond, ‘Leave It to Beaver’ actor and former LAPD cop, dies

On May 18, 2020, Ken Osmond, best known for his role as Eddie Haskell on the classic 1950s sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” died on Monday at his Los Angeles home. He was 76 years old. Osmond went on to serve as a motorcycle officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, during which he survived two on-duty shooting incidents.

Early Life and Career

Landing Iconic Role of Eddie Haskell

Osmond landed his first speaking role at age 9 in the film “So Big” and made his film debut as a child extra in “Plymouth Adventure.” However, he is best known for playing Eddie Haskell on “Leave It to Beaver” from 1957-1963. As Wally Cleaver’s scheming best friend, Osmond “destroyed every scene” and created an iconic trouble-making character that still resonates today.

Other Early Acting Roles

After “Leave It to Beaver” ended, Osmond picked up some guest roles on shows like “Petticoat Junction” and “The Munsters” before leaving acting to join the Army.

Transition to LAPD

Motivation for Career Change

Finding himself typecast after playing Eddie Haskell, Osmond said acting work was difficult to come by. Needing a steady career to support his new family, he joined the LAPD in 1970.

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Shooting Incidents and Disability Pension

During his 18 years on the force, Osmond had two close calls that could have cost him his life. In 1980, he survived a shooting by a suspected car thief while wearing a bulletproof vest. The vest stopped two bullets, while a third ricocheted off his belt buckle. Barely a month later, a security guard’s bullet came close enough to part Osmond’s hair.

Suffering from depression stemming from the attacks, Osmond fought for a disability pension in order to leave the force. Though initially denied, he was ultimately granted the pension retroactively after appealing the decision in court.

Return to Acting

Reprising Eddie Haskell Role

After leaving the LAPD, Osmond returned to acting, reprising his famous role in the 1983 series “The New Leave It to Beaver.” He also appeared as Eddie Haskell in the 1997 “Leave It to Beaver” film adaptation.

Struggles with Typecasting

Though Osmond seemed destined to be tied to the Eddie Haskell character, he admitted in a 2008 interview that being typecast made finding roles difficult despite the opportunities playing Eddie afforded him. “Eddie’s been too good to me,” he said, “but I found work hard to come by.”

Reaction and Remembrances

Co-Star Tony Dow

Osmond’s “Leave It to Beaver” co-star Tony Dow fondly remembered him as “a terrific guy” and “a terrific actor.” Dow praised the authenticity Osmond brought to the role, saying he “created [the character] and played a character rather than just himself.”

Writer-Director Cameron Crowe

Writer-director Cameron Crowe tweeted that “Eddie Haskell is one of the greatest characters ever. Ken Osmond destroyed every scene, and when the show was over, he dropped the mic to become a cop. Classic.”

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LAPD Tributes

The LAPD Rampart division shared memories of Osmond’s police service, calling him “a great partner and friend” who would be deeply missed.

Family Statement

Osmond’s son Eric said in a statement that his father “was an incredibly kind and wonderful father” who was surrounded by family when he passed. “He was loved and will be very missed,” Eric added.

Remembering an Iconic Character and Complex Person

Whether as Eddie Haskell or a motorcycle cop, Ken Osmond made an indelible mark through his acting and life of service. He will be remembered for creating one of the most iconic sitcom characters of all time. But behind the Eddie Haskell schemer was also a complex person and dedicated officer who put his life on the line to serve and protect. Osmond leaves behind a legacy on screen and off as both a memorable performer and committed public servant.

Conclusion

Ken Osmond’s passing is a chance to reflect on the long shadow cast by actors who create legendary characters like Eddie Haskell. Though Osmond struggled against typecasting during his varied career, his comic talent brought joy to millions. After protecting life and property as an LAPD officer, may Osmond’s memory continue to live on in Eddie Haskell’s schemes and smart-aleck remarks. He remains both a classic character and singular personality worth remembering.

FAQs

What famous role was Ken Osmond known for?

Osmond was best known for playing Eddie Haskell on the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” from 1957-1963. His character was the scheming best friend of Wally Cleaver who constantly tried to get Wally and his brother Beaver into trouble.

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Why did Osmond become a police officer after acting on Leave It to Beaver?

Finding it hard to get acting roles after being typecast as Eddie Haskell, Osmond joined the LAPD in 1970 because he needed a steady career to support his new family.

How long did Osmond serve on the police force?

Osmond served with the Los Angeles Police Department for 18 years, from 1970 until 1988.

What two on-duty incidents almost cost Osmond his life?

In 1980, Osmond survived a shooting by a suspected car thief while wearing a bulletproof vest. Just one month later, a security guard’s stray bullet barely missed him, passing close enough to part his hair.

Why did Osmond ultimately leave the LAPD?

Struggling with depression brought on by the two shooting attempts he survived, Osmond fought for and won a disability pension in order to leave the force because he felt returning to duty would worsen his condition.

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