Andy Griffith and Aunt Bee Had Beef on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

‘Oh, Andy’
Andy Griffith and Aunt Bee Had Beef on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

“I played Aunt Bee for 10 years and it’s very difficult for an actress or an actor to create a role and be so identified that you as a person no longer exist,” Francis Bavier told Carolina Camera about her time on The Andy Griffith Show. “And all the recognition you get is for a part that’s created on the screen.” 

Unfortunately for Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, the two leads of The Andy Griffith Show, Bavier’s dissatisfaction spilled over into their off-screen relationships. It’s a wonder Aunt Bee never poisoned Andy’s fried chicken since she openly resented her castmates getting all the best comedy bits. “I’ve had to take a backseat and watch others get the laughs,” Bavier told TV Guide, as reported by MeTV. Bavier reportedly sought out therapy to wrestle with her subordinate status on the show.

When the cameras weren’t rolling, things were just as bad. Griffith loved practical jokes on set; Bavier hated them. Griffith encouraged singing and joking between takes, while Bavier preferred to stay serious and professional. So it’s no wonder that the bad feelings were mutual, at least according to Ron Howard’s real-life dad, Rance Howard. Andy of Mayberry “seemed to bear some kind of resentment toward Frances,” Howard claimed. “I think she was (producer) Sheldon Leonard’s choice. And she may not have been Andy’s choice.”


Things got bad enough, said Howard, that Gomer had to step in. “I remember we were walking back from a table reading on our way to the soundstage,” said the elder Howard. “And I heard Jim (Nabors) say, not loudly, but he said, ‘Andy, she’s a good actress. You be nice to her.’ And Andy had no reply for that.”


Bavier didn’t have much use for Barney Fife either. Through the show’s entire run, she told The Herald-Sun, “I don’t think I said more than five words to (Don Knotts) the whole time.”

Howard Morris, who played Ernest T. Bass, didn’t have an easier time directing eight episodes of The Andy Griffith ShowWorking with Bavier was like navigating a landmine, he said — a typical director request, such as moving three inches to the right for a better shot, could provoke Bavier’s ire.

Surely Aunt Bee got along with Opie? In the mid-1980s, Griffith and Ron Howard decided to visit Bavier, who now lived alone in Mayberry-esque Siler City, North Carolina. When the uninvited men showed up at Bavier’s door, she refused to allow them inside her home, according to Triad City Beat. “This was after declining repeatedly to be part of their Mayberry reunion movie,” said the report. “Why would she participate? She never liked Andy Griffith from the very beginning.”

Bavier and Griffith didn’t make up until the actress was near the very end of her life. She was dying of cancer, and Griffith shared what Bavier told him in their last phone call: “‘I’m sorry we didn’t get along better,’ she said. “It was my fault.’ And she said, ‘I just wish we had.’”

“We got along fine,” Griffith claimed. “It’s just she didn’t feel like it a lot of times.” 


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