Joe Connelly, Oscar-nommed writer-producer who co-created TV family classic “Leave It to Beaver” and penned other TV shows after years of scribing classic radio comedies, died Feb. 13 in Newport Beach, Calif., from stroke complications. He was 86.
New York native, worked for the merchant marines before being hired by the J. Walter Thompson ad agency, where he met his soon-to-be partner, Bob Mosher. The pair left the agency in 1942 for the “Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy” radio show, then wrote for Frank Morgan’s and Phil Harris’ radio programs, and after that did a 12-year run writing for “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” including the early 1950s TV version of the popular radio broadcasts.
Busy pair developed a short-lived anthology series for actor Ray Milland as well as Charlton Heston comedy pic “The Private War of Major Benson” (1955) that earned Connelly and Mosher an Oscar nom for story.
But TV series comedy was their forte. Credits include “The Munsters,” “Tammy,” “Ichabod and Me,” “Calvin and the Colonel,” “Blondie,” “Bringing Up Buddy,” “Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats” and “90 Bristol Court.”
Their longest-lasting triumph, however, was creating “Leave It to Beaver.” The Cleavers became household names, continues in syndication around the world, and had a rebirth as a TV pic and a new cable series. Two of his sons were the inspirations and models for older brother Wallyand younger brother Beaver — the nickname of one of Connelly’s merchant marine shipmates.
Connelly’s other work includes producing Elvis Presley’s final movie, “Change of Habit.” In the early 1970s, he suffered a near-fatal aneurysm that halted his career.
Twice-married widower is survived by seven children, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.