Born Barbara Lillian Combes, she attended Los Angeles Junior College in the mid-1930s and then moved to New York City, where she worked as a model. In 1945, she received a contract from MGM, and she appeared in several films during the late 1940s and 1950s, sometimes without screen credit. In the 1950s, she turned to television and appeared in shows including the sitcoms Professional Father (1955) and The Box Brothers (1956), as well as guest-starring on “The Abbott and Costello Show”, the David Niven anthology series, Four Star Playhouse (1952), and the sitcom, Mr. Adams and Eve (1957). In 1957, Billingsley began starring in the sitcom, Leave It to Beaver (1957), as “June Cleaver”, mother to “Wally” and “Theodore”, nicknamed “Beaver”. She appeared in her most famous role for 234 episodes, remaining with the show until it ended after six seasons. After 17 years of semi-retirement, Billingsley returned to movies in 1980’s Airplane! (1980), creating another iconic role by spoofing her wholesome image with a brief appearance in this send-up of 1970s disaster movies, as a middle-aged white passenger who could translate between a white stewardess and two African-American passengers, because “I speak jive”. She also appeared in The New Leave It to Beaver (1983), which ran from 1983 to 1989, and voiced the character of “Nanny” in the Muppet Babies (1984) cartoon series, from 1984 to 1991. Billingsley continued to act occasionally, including appearances on the sitcoms, Roseanne (1988) and Empty Nest (1988), and died at her home, after having dealt for several years with the effects of a rheumatoid disease.
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