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Whatever Happened to Aunt Bee? (Frances Bavier)

I was an 80s teen, so I love covering all things Generation X!

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The Andy Griffith Show is dear to the hearts of many and the town of Mayberry is a fantasy. It's a place where we all wish we lived, where everything is simple and life is carefree.

Aunt Bee was a huge part of the fantasy. She was the kindly grandma or aunt who loved to feed you good food and she always had your back, even when you were wrong.

Actress Frances Bavier played the role of Aunt Bee for over a decade and she made a positive impression on audiences in doing so. I know many of you out there want to know what ever happened to Frances Bavier, so let's get to it.

What Ever Happened to Aunt Bee? (The Character)

We first met Beatrice Taylor in 1960 when she came to Mayberry to help her widowed nephew, Sheriff Andy Taylor, raise his son, Opie, after Taylor's initial housekeeper becomes engaged and leaves service.

After an initial rocky start, Beatrice is welcomed into the household. The entire town of Mayberry loves her cooking (with the exception of her pickles...), and she becomes affectionately known to all as "Aunt Bee."

Throughout the run of The Andy Griffith Show, we see Aunt Bee's character evolve from the frumpy housekeeper to a determined go-getter who runs for political office, opens a restaurant, and obtains a recreational pilot's license.

She helped to raise Opie, from the time he was a six-year-old to his early teenage years, and although she eventually stepped away from some of her "housekeeper" duties, she never completely abandoned the role of caretaker for her nephew and great-nephew.

At the end of the initial show and the beginning of Mayberry R.F.D., Andy marries Helen Crump. Aunt Bee opts to give the newlyweds their privacy, so she departs her nephew's home and she heads off to play housekeeper to family friend Sam Jones. She helps him raise his son Mike—Jones is also a widower, like Taylor (Andy).

Aunt Bee stays with the Jones' for two years, after which she departs to a quiet retirement in another small town in North Carolina.

There was The Andy Griffith Show "reunion" TV movie called Return to Mayberry, which aired in 1986. In the movie, it was revealed that Aunt Bee had previously passed away.

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Early Career

Frances Elizabeth Bavier was born in New York City's Gramercy Park on December 14, 1902. She initially wanted to be a teacher, so she attended Columbia University, but somewhere along the way she discovered acting.

She graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1925, after which, she appeared on stage in plays. In 1938, she hit pay dirt in the role of "Nellie" in a Broadway production of On Borrowed Time at the Longacre Theater.

Bavier's first memorable appearance on screen was as Mrs. Barley in the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Her television career soon followed and she was everywhere, from TV movies to dozens of classic TV shows such as The Lone Ranger, Dragnet, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, and The Eve Arden Show.

Enter Andy Taylor, Opie Taylor, and a Town Called Mayberry

Frances Bavier's association with Mayberry actually began on an episode of Make Room For Daddy, which was the establishing episode for The Andy Griffith Show.

In that episode, Bavier did not appear as Aunt Bee. Instead, she was cast as a character named Henrietta Perkins.

Audiences responded well to Bavier, so she was cast as Aunt Bee when Andy Griffith's show began shortly after the Make Room For Daddy episode in 1960.

When Opie Taylor Decided to "Keep" Aunt Bee

Trouble on the Set of The Andy Griffith Show

Bavier was reportedly ambiguous about her role as Aunt Bee. She was happy for the opportunity and the popularity, but she had negative feelings about being typecast as "the kindly aunt" because she felt her dramatic talent was being ignored.

Additionally, it was industry common knowledge that she did not get along with other members of the set, neither the production crew nor her cast mates. Bavier especially did not get along with Andy Griffith. It is said that when she was on set, the cast and crew were often on pins and needles.

The Best of Aunt Bee

Frances Bavier's Final Bow

Frances Bavier originated the role of Aunt Bee and she was the only actress to portray the character. Her performance won her an Emmy in 1967.

After she left the role in 1971, Bavier retired to Siler City, North Carolina. The actress stated she was inspired to retire in North Carolina because of her exposure to the state during her tenure as Aunt Bee. She chose Siler City because of its small town charm and beautiful scenery

Her life in Siler City was quiet to the point where she was considered to be a recluse. Townsfolk never saw her much, and at times, there was concern for her safety.

She was a member of the Studebaker Driver's Club, and her 1966 Studebaker Daytona was her pride and joy; she never owned another automobile. Siler City residents were alerted of her presence on the rare occasions when they spotted her vehicle.

It is said that she continued to resent the role of Aunt Bee well into her retirement, and she did not take kindly to people constantly associating her with the character

Bavier was invited to the set of the 1986 reunion movie, Return to Mayberry, but she declined due to failing health.

According to Andy Griffith, in or around August of 1989, Bavier called him and she apologized to him for being "difficult" on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

On December 6, 1989, Frances Bavier died of congestive heart failure. Her headstone includes the name of her famous character, and it reads, "To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die." Indeed, Aunt Bee continues to live in many of our hearts.

Comments

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on August 14, 2020:

" I loved Aunt Bee and would have probably told her so if I visited Mayberry." Indeed. Same!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 14, 2020:

I appreciate this account of Frances Bavier. I loved Aunt Bee and would have probably told her so if I visited Mayberry.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 12, 2020:

No, I wasn't familiar with the character either or the show.

Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on August 11, 2020:

Hi Liz, you had never heard of the actress before, but were you familiar with "Aunt Bee" from The Andy Griffith Show"

Liz Westwood from UK on August 11, 2020:

I had not heard of this actress before. This is an interesting biographical article.