As reported by Variety, Ken Osmond—best known for playing Wally Cleaver’s pesky two-faced friend Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver—has died. A cause of death was not given, though his former LAPD partner Henry Lane noted that he “suffered from respiratory issues,” and Variety’s sources say he died “at his Los Angeles home surrounded by family members.” Osmond was 76.
Before Leave It To Beaver, Osmond had a few small roles in movies starting with uncredited appearances in Plymouth Adventure and So Big in the early 1950s. He also acted on shows like Lassie, Wagon Train, and The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet. In 1957 he got the role of Eddie Haskell on family sitcom Leave It To Beaver, and though it was originally just supposed to be a one-off appearance, Variety says that everyone working on the show was “so impressed with Osmond’s portrayal” that he become a regular fixture on the series—to the point where Osmond had a hard time finding acting jobs after Leave It To Beaver.
Osmond’s Eddie Haskell defined the sitcom character archetype of the insincere suck-up who is nothing but polite to someone’s face and then becomes a troublemaker as soon as their back is turned, and it left such an impression on a generation of TV-viewers that he was consistently typecast in similar roles after Beaver ended in 1963. He briefly returned to Lassie and showed up on The Munsters and Petticoat Junction, but his frustrations about not being able to leave Eddie Haskell behind convinced him to stop acting and take a job as an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department.
In 1980, Osmond was shot five times while chasing a suspected car thief, with most of the bullets hitting his bulletproof vest. He tentatively returned to acting after that, playing Eddie once again in the TV movie Still The Beaver and making a guest appearance on Happy Days in 1983. He formally retired from the LAPD in 1988 and went back to acting after that, though by then he had mostly surrendered to only being seen as Eddie Haskell—he reprised the role on The New Leave It To Beaver, in the 1997 Leave It To Beaver movie, and in a cameo appearance on Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.
Osmond is survived by his wife and two sons.