5 Mayberry actors who died during the production of The Andy Griffith Show
Mayor Pike and Emma Brand were missed.
The Andy Griffith Show is a slice of Americana served à la mode. The sitcom cooked all its wholesome, good-for-you stuff in sugar and topped it with a heaping scoop of laughter. And Mayberry was Anytown, U.S.A. People of all types called the small North Carolina hamlet home, from young to old.
Much of the show's lasting appeal comes down to its timeless relatability. Kids connect to Opie's coming-of-age tales. Those of us who work have undoubtedly dealt with a Ben Weaver or Barney Fife on the job. Romance, parenting, parades, school, bureaucracy — it's all in there.
With the full range of emotions in the mix, there is bound to be a sad tale here and there. This goes beyond the scripts to behind the scenes. A handful of actors who played memorably Mayberry citizens passed away during the production of the series. The characters were either replaced, filled with new actors or simply erased. Let's take a look back.
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1. Dick Elliott
Died December 22, 1961
Due to his roly-poly appearance and high-pitched, wheezing voice, Dick Elliott found himself oddly typecast as both Santa Claus and boisterous politicians. He has played judges, senators and sheriffs — cartoonish authority types. In Mayberry, he was Mayor Pike. We first see him being patted down in a traffic stop by Barney Fife in "The Manhunt." Pike appeared in 11 episodes over the first two seasons. After Elliott passed, Mayberry found itself with a new leader, Mayor Stoner (Parley Baer), whose election was left unexplained.
2. Will Wright
Died June 19, 1962
As the richest and crankiest man in town, Ben Weaver was the Mayberry equivalent to Mr. Potter, the scrooge of It's a Wonderful Life. This parallel was most notable in "Christmas Story," the Capra-esque holiday episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Andy and Ellie sing "Away in a Manger," and the noel melts the icy heart of mean ol' Weaver. Wright is wonderful in the role. He would appear in two more episodes. Two more actors would fill the role — Tol Avery and Jason Johnson. It's uncertain why they twice recast the part, as Avery still turned up as other characters on the show after being replaced as Weaver.
3. Cheerio Meredith
Died December 25, 1964
Is there a friendlier name than "Cheerio"? No, she was not British. You know her best as Emma Brand (who was once called Emma Watson in her final appearance), a town gossipmonger and jaywalker in the first two seasons. Born in the 19th century, Cheerio went from stage to screen and became a go-to actor for older characters. Yes, she was born half a century before the cereal Cheerios.
4. Joseph Hamilton
Died February 20, 1965
"Mirror Image" remains one of the eeriest episodes of The Twilight Zone in any iteration. The spooky tale inspired the hit 2019 horror film Us. Perhaps you recognize Hamilton as the overnight ticket agent in the bus station. He also popped up on several Westerns. Some of his final work came on The Andy Griffith Show, where he played several minor citizens. He was Chester Jones, locked up in a cell with Opie and Bee in "Andy Saves Barney's Morale." Later, he played a councilman, a checker player and a clarinetist. Others referred to him as "Jason" or "Jase," many of those could all be the same fellow.
5. Joseph Crehan
Died April 15, 1966
Elliott, Hamilton and Crehan coincidentally shared a scene together, when Andy, Mayor Pike and two councilmen debate the merit of Otis Campbell in "A Plague for Mayberry." Speaking of being typecast, Crehan previously portrayed Ulysses S. Grant in nine different productions. Perhaps his most notable role was that of the police chief in Dick Tracy (1945), the first feature-length film adapted from the comic strip, following the serials.
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