Frances Bavier aka "Aunt Bea"

Watching the posts about “The Andy Griffith Show” reminds me of actress Frances Bavier who was most famous for playing the lovable matron Aunt Bea. However my understanding is that she was not very pleasant to work with or be around; in fact I understand that she could be hyper sensitive and difficult on the set, and she supposedly did not personally care for Andy Griffith himself. Does anybody have the details on this? One story I hear is that she was a stage actress prior to working on this show, and the stress and daily changes and inconsistencies of working on a television show was too much for somebody who was accustomed to rehearsing a stage play the same way over and over again consistently.

Any ideas?

Howard Morris directed several of the Griffith shows. I’ve heard him tell the story of asking Frances Bavier to move on the set. He apparently said it a bit harshly (as directors often do) and she blew up at him.

Andy also mentioned that Frances Bavier wouldn’t accept visitors after she retired. He tried several times to stop by and was told no.

Aw man, I shouldn’t have clicked on this thread.

The stories are true. She did, however, send Andy Griffith a letter apologizing for her behavior after the show ended.

I guess every show has one “difficult” cast member. For MASH, it was Gary Burghoff; for Welcome Back Kotter, it was Ron Palillo. And for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, word is… It was Sarah Michelle Gellar!

It shows just how good an actress Frances Bavier was. Aunt Bea was such a sweet and kind character. There wasn’t any indication that the actress wasn’t the same way.

Bavier was also one of the Boarding House guests in the original Day the Earth Stood Still. I always wondered why Aunt Bea was living in Washington, so close to an alien and not knowing it.
That’s the only other thing I recall seeing her in (aside from the Andy Griffith spinoffs, like Gomer Pyle), but the iMDB lists many others

Reading her page at the IMBD, I’m reminded that she was born in New York City but after TAGS she retired to a small town in North Carolina, Siler City.

Not to hijack or anything, but is it Aunt Bea or Aunt Bee? It seems I’ve seen both spellings used at times and am never sure which one is correct.

Aunt Bee.

Yes, I’ve heard Andy talk about her and he was always very charitible towards her. But, from what I understood, she got what she deserved. A very short time after the show ended, she was living in a nursing home and she was all alone. I don’t think it was so much that she refused visitors. It was more that no one wanted to come and see her and rather than let anyone find that out, she just refused to see anyone who did come to see her to make it look like it was her choice and not that almost no one cared about her. But, I’m guessing almost no one cared about her because she was such a mean and nasty woman.
I don’t know about her being a good actor.

I used to hate listening to her voice. She had one vocal mannerism that she repeated over and over and I just hated it. I forget exactly what it was. It’s been such a long time. I think it might have been the way she said, “Mmmm Hmmm” to indicate she agreed with something. But she did it so often, I just can’t believe it was in the script.

I was so disappointed when Don Knotts left because they gave her the starring role in several episodes after that. (like when she was a chef on TV and when she worked in a Printer’s Shop where the owners were counterfeiting money).

All in all, I strongly disliked her character. The way she talked grated on my every nerve and I just wish they would have fired her when Don Knotts left and brought in some reasonable actors.

Instead we got Warren and Howard Sprague and Goober. IMO, they were all terrible. I know many people love the guy who played Goober. But I sure didn’t. I thought the was a drip and a terrible actor. He ruined many episodes for me. But, the truth be told, after Don Knotts left the show, I don’t think there was one good episode. We got all this really stupid shlock - like Opie and the horse that wouldn’t eat. What the Hell was that? Yuck!

They were all pretty much equally as bad as that.

And of course Aunt Bee sounded like she was from Connecticut, not North Carolina.

She couldn’t have hated it too much; she stayed on the show until the very end, after it became Mayberry RFD. I don’t think there was anybody else from the first season left at that point.

And Andy must have respected her acting chops - she played a different character on the episode of [del]The Danny Thomas Show[/del] Make Room For Daddy that The Andy Griffith Show spun off from, and Andy hired her for his show.

Some people are just temperamental. But she was a good actress and played loving Aunt Bee convincingly.

She was a seasoned movie and stage actress. In the early days of television that wasn’t always a good match with the new paradigm. Her solitary nature makes her story consist more of other’s gossip than her own voice. She was a good character on the show, the focus of several of the stories, and I’m glad she was there.

Actually I have to agree with you and my wife who made a similar comment. If she really was that difficult to be around, she sure played Aunt Bea as a lovable and caring individual.

Re: Gary Burghoff. As I recall the phrase on the set of MASH was, “Everybody loved Radar, but NOBODY liked Gary Burghoff.”

Re: Ron Palillo. I never heard that about him; Ditto for Sarah Michelle Gellar; any details?

Re: other pains in the rear on TV shows. Supposedly Tina Louise was very difficult on the set of “Gilligan’s Island” and of course we’ve all heard the stories of Robert Reed’s behavior when “The Brady Bunch” was filming.

Actually I heard just the opposite about Ron Palillo. I have never seen a single ill word about him. By all accounts, he was just a plain nice guy.

The problem on Kotter was the producer James Komack. He had a reputation for being being difficult to work with. The early end of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and Welcome Back Kotter were both due to their stars leaving, and blamed on Komack.

Well apparently Gabe Kaplan was also not well liked.

I can recall on other appearance, also in a science fiction movie (possibly War of the Worlds). The scene was an old time general store crowded with numerous people who came down to hear the radio and there was Frances, front and center, purse on lap. There was no dialog (except there was a voice on the radio). Maybe someone else remembers this scene and can more correctly identify the movie.


FB was in at least one episode of the old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” as the uptight neighbor who scolds hot Vera Miles for sunbathing in an, uhm, revealing bathing suit.*

*SPOILER: Vera is raped after “showing off her body” and becomes unbalanced. Then her husband kills the guy she wrongly identifies as the rapist.