Amid the all-too-common stories of child performers who never made a happy transition to adult lives and careers, Beverly Washburn's career stands as one of the great success stories. Born in Los Angeles on Thanksgiving Day 1943, she made her uncredited screen debut in 1950, at age six, as the first victim of a plague-carrier in the thriller The Killer That Stalked New York. Even at that early age, she had a screen magnetism that shone through to audiences (and makes the death of her character, midway through the movie, a highly emotional moment for the viewer, despite taking place off-screen). The following year, she turned up (once more uncredited) playing the little girl who unknowingly entertains two visitors from the center of the earth in the feature film Superman and the Mole Men (1951), which introduced George Reeves in the role of Superman, and which was later re-edited into the two-part Adventures of Superman episode The Unknown People. She also had one great scene with James Stewart in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and appeared in small, uncredited roles in George Stevens' Shane (1953) and Edward Dmytryk's The Juggler (1953), starring Kirk Douglas, which was notable as the first Hollywood film shot in Israel. The mid-'50s saw a sharp downturn in film production and mass layoffs at most of the studios, and for the next five years, Washburn primarily worked in television, on series as different as Dragnet and The Loretta Young Show -- where the young actress was part of the stock company for both series -- and The Jack Benny Show. Apart from being a very quick study and an appealing child, Washburn was also popular with producers and directors for her ability to cry on cue, which eliminated the need for many a retake. Her range and ability to memorize lines -- and not just her own, but those of the performers around her -- allowed her to take roles on numerous anthology shows and guest spots on series such as Father Knows Best, Fury, and Leave It to Beaver, and she was also one of the regular cast members on an earlier Barbara Billingsley series called Professional Father. In 1957, she returned to feature films by way of Walt Disney in the movie Old Yeller, playing Lisbeth Searcy, but a lot of her work remained confined to television, across a whole range of series, including anthology series, comedies, westerns, dramas, and crime thrillers, plus appearing as a sketch player in The Hollywood Palace, one of the live variety shows of the early/middle '60s.
Washburn was unable to professionally break stride as she reached her early twenties, owing to her family's financial situation. Her father contracted a serious illness in the early '60s, and in addition to being unable to work, he required expensive medical treatments. Washburn actually went to court -- successfully -- to get the trust fund money her parents had started to put aside for her from age six released, in order to pay for her father's treatments. She remained busy throughout the 1960s, and among the many series in which she turned up was the original Star Trek. Fans will likely remember Washburn as Lieutenant Galway, the luckless crewmember who succumbs to the old-age-like radiation sickness encountered on planet Gamma Hydra 2 in the episode "The Deadly Years" -- though it must be conceded that the 20-second century hairdo she was forced to wear in that episode did not become her (making her look like a young Alice Ghostley) She also appeared in episodes of The Streets of San Francisco and Scarecrow and Mrs. King and was in the 2003 pilot to Las Vegas. Washburn was still working in 2009, and, indeed, in that decade had found herself participating in cult celebrations of one of the stranger feature films in which she ever appeared, Jack Hill's Spider Baby (1964).