9 little details you never noticed in the Andy Griffith Show episode ''Christmas Story''

Tinkerbell was behind bars?!

It remains one of the greatest Christmas episodes in television history. Surprisingly, "Christmas Story" was the only holiday episode in the historic run of The Andy Griffith Show. But when you perfect the form on the first try — and, remember, this was just the 11th episode of the series — why mess with perfection?

Even if you have seen this heartwarming story several times, we think there are some things that might surprise you.

Here are nine curious little details from "Christmas Story."

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1. Will Wright played a different mean old businessman in the pilot.

 

Every classic Christmas tale needs its Scrooge. The mean and miserly Mr. Potter stands in the way of good cheer in It's a Wonderful Life. Mayberry had the similarly wealthy and crotchety Ben Weaver, played with perfect bite by Will Wright. It was not his first time portraying such a character in Mayberry. Remember, this series kicked off as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." It's a quite different town. In that, Wright played Mr. Johnson, a store owner who is charging poor Henrietta Perkins 50¢ a day for renting a suit that was buried with her husband. Oh, and Mrs. Perkins? That was Frances Bavier, who was not yet Aunt Bee!

2. Ellie and the actress share the same first name.

 

American audiences knew Elinor Donahue best from Father Knows Best, which had ended months earlier in 1960. She only stayed in Mayberry for one season as Andy's love interest, Ellie Walker. Up until this episode, everyone in town called her "Ellie." But in the middle of "Christmas Story," Aunt Bee calls her "Elinor." It might seem like an error, as if Frances Bavier is using the actress' name instead of the character's name. But, no! Elinor Walker is Ellie's real name. We see it printed on her diploma in her debut episode, "Ellie Comes to Town."

3. Elinor Donahue did not receive credit for the episode.

 

Ever wonder why Elinor Donahue did not stick around for longer than one season? Well, not receiving credit for her work might have had something to do with it. She sings a lovely rendition of "Away in a Manger" with Andy… and yet her name is not listed in the closing credits nor stated by the announcer in the opening credits. The only reference to her in the credits is "Miss Donahue's Fashions - Mr. Burt of Encino." Even Margaret Kerry gets a credit! Speaking of whom…

4. Tinkerbell is behind bars.

 

Old Man Weaver demands that moonshiner Sam Muggins and his family be put in the slammer for the holidays. Margaret Kerry plays the wife, Bess Muggins. You might not recognize her face, but you know her work. She performed as the live-action model for Tinkerbell in the 1953 Disney production of Peter Pan. Kerry acted out scenes with giant scissors and keyholes to give animators a reference. You can see some fascinating photos of her at work here. She was also a voice on Clutch Cargo!

5. The little girl shows up years later as Opie's classmate.

 

Let's stay in the slammer for a minute. The incarcerated Muggins clan also includes a little girl named Effie. She is played by Joy Ellison. This would not be the only time we see Ellison on the show. Seven years later, in the season eight premiere, "Opie's First Love," she appears as Iris, a friend of Mary Alice Carter.

6. Andy misreads the Christmas card from the Hubacher brothers.

 

Early in the episode, Andy and Barney sit in the police station and open Christmas cards. The Hubachers, a trio of brothers locked up in state prison, send one to the cops. Andy reads it aloud. "Merry Christmas from state prison," he says. There's just one problem. The insert shot of the card says, "Greetings from state prison."

7. The calendars in the station are a year old.

 

The episode first aired in December 1960. Christmas was on a Sunday that year. However, you can see that these calendars on the walls behind Barney show the 25th as falling on a Friday. They must have been calendars from 1959, when Christmas landed on a Friday.

8. A crew member left his initials in the jail cell.

 

As the camera pans up the jail cell (past a pin-up model) to Ben Weaver singing in the window, you can spot the initials "R.S." carved into the wall. That would be Reggie Smith, the propmaster on The Andy Griffith Show, who left his mark on the set!

9. That is not a real writer. The real writer won an Oscar.

 

The episode credits "David Adler" as the screenwriter. This was a pseudonym. The writer's true name was Frank Tarloff. Tarloff had been blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953 during the era of McCarthyism. Tarloff wrote nine total episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. He also won an Oscar for the film Father Goose a few years later.

SEE MORE: 11 other little details you might have missed in The Andy Griffith Show

 

Discover the disappearing beauty shops and upside-down maps of Mayberry. READ MORE

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83 Comments

brigarzmetv123 5 months ago
Too bad that the Andy Griffith show had only one Christmas episode. Can't figure that one out!! Another thing that I can't figure out is in the 2nd episode, I believe Andy refers to Barney as his cousin, and in subsequent episodes he refers to him as a good best friend from highschool.
Rick 5 months ago
Question for the internet: who "played" the Hubacher brothers? It's just a photo, but I wonder if anybody recognizes them as actors, or other people who worked on the show who thought it would be fun to be the prisoners in the Christmas card?
Runeshaper 5 months ago
Interesting finds, MeTV! 👍👍
Snickers 5 months ago
I think it stinks that Elinor Donahue didn't get credit for this episode.
jlh1028 17 months ago
IT'S A SHAME, the 1 and only Andy Griffith Show Christmas episode and you, MeTV, edit out more than 10 minutes of it just so you can play those 2 and 3 minute long commercials like health and life insurance or car warranties or bulb head stuff or I.D. online protection or Shriners and St Jude Hospitals and those drug commercials which none of them are over the shelf. We are here to see classic TV shows and shorten those mini movie long commercials to 30 seconds max, you get paid and we see the entire show, all 25 minutes worth what we turned in for
RHodgeLaw jlh1028 14 months ago
I love MeTV, and we watch it daily, but PlutoTV (free w/ limited ads) airs the B&W episodes of TAGS 24/7 on Ch 1345. You can also view any episode on demand. They’re in HD, and they don’t cut out any scenes for more ads.
JohnHardesty 18 months ago
Christmas Story is a classic, and it's still profoundly touching as the day it aired in 1960, it deserves an Emmy and Golden Globe. Still generates more consciousness of love than any episode ever made. Elinor Donahue’s singing voice of “Away In A Manger” still gives me goosebumps. One of my favorites.
Runeshaper 18 months ago
Very interesting. I want to watch this episode now!
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Ellie Walker sang Away IN A Manger and
Peggy McMillan sang Down IN The Valley
And Elinor Donahue (ELLIE) AND
JOANNA MOORE (Peggy ) had beautiful
Singing voices. Charlene Darling played by Maggie Peterson also had a wonderful singing voice. I Beleive that Maggie
Peterson (CHARLENE) sang the song
There Is A Time a beautiful song on
The Andy Griffith Show.
It's too bad that Lou Ann Poovie and Sgt Carter on Gomer Pyle
DID NOT TAKE SINGING VOICE
LESSONS!!!!!!!!!!
bagandwallyfan52 5 months ago
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RobertK 18 months ago
Very interesting observations! I love this episode and always watch it every Christmas, especially if I get a bit "Scroogey" during the holidays. It's kinda like "A Christmas Carol" without the 3 ghosts.
Zip 18 months ago
I "noticed" all of these, except for #'s 7-9.
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
It would be wonderful to see a Colorized
COPY OF the Christmas episode of TAGS.
jorel262 bagandwallyfan52 17 months ago
The colorized versions of this one and the Pickle Story are available on DVD.
Deleted 18 months ago
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bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
I Remember a while back an announcer said this during the opening of The Andy Griffith Show:
ALSO STARRING ELINOR DONAHUE AND DON KNOTTS.
Charlotte 18 months ago
Don Knotts left to pursue a bigger acting career. But he couldn't shake off the Barney character. All his movies were like Barney with different name.
Deleted 18 months ago
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bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Why was Jack Burns fired from
TAGS as Deputy Warren Ferguson?
Does anyone know why Don Knotts
LEFT THE Andy Griffith Show?
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
RIP
Cheerio Meredith(Played Emma BRAND WATSON)
Will Wright (BEN WEAVER)
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Correction :
I wonder of seasons one -five of The Andy Griffith Show have been
Colorized and if the black and white seasons of Gilligan's Island
Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeanne
have been colorized .
I wonder if it cost a lot of money to colorize b&w TV SHOWS and Movies.
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Rest IN Peace to ALL OF THE CAST
OF The Andy Griffith Show who have passed away.
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
I noticed that my Avitar TV set is not picking up HAPPY DAYS AND
MAYBERRY RFD!!
Pacificsun 18 months ago
The article and the thread go back at least 3 years. But thank you MeTV Staff for dusting it off and bringing it out again. I wouldn't have landed here (again) if it wasn't for a "like" or "reply" to an older comment. But no worries. It's always worth revisiting.

TAGs is a fascinating show to be going down rabbit holes! For one thing, it had no sense of self-consciousness. No sense of continuity. It was only meant to entertain in the moment. And that, it did very well indeed. Developing characters and relationships and personalities and predicaments and resolutions. Just for the sake of warm humor and nostalgia. Imagination was treated with relevance and context within the era itself, and limited to the town of Mayberry.

Once recurring characters were firmly established they held true with predictability to their reactions.

What viewers forget, is that a long term Show requires evolution. Think about that among shifting writers and directors, and story ideas, all of which needed to share and fast-forward their vision from season to season. Also not easy, since (in that day) summer hiatus allowed actors to focus on a lot of distraction (summer stock, movies, appearances, promotions). Imagine the challenge of maintaining a very consistent character, which fans remember better than the actor (except for the principles). From the day that Elinor Donahue "might've" been forgotten to be credited, there's no telling of the conversations happening that week. Did she get another offer, making it sound like she couldn't continue. Was there a criticism early on about the lack of chemistry between AG and ED. Was there another actress in mind for helping to make an episode funnier. This list of possibilities is endless. But the craft-talent (behind the scenes) wasn't paid to make glaring mistakes. Even before it went to air (meaning, there is a lot lead time between production and broadcast) there was plenty of time to fix that problem.

IMO, viewers who critique this Show endlessly, aren't fans but constantly armchair critics who just can't get over misplaced details. These Shows were never meant to be anything more than escapist entertainment, putting a smile on a viewer's face, and leaving them (in this case) with a down-home warm and fuzzy feeling. That they did such a good job bringing Mayberry to life, is amazing. And look at the fandom surrounding that interest, as proof!

We should have such wholesome, inspirational and warm-hearted Shows in this era. Which we'll never see again! We're fortunately it's a Series we can depend on, every evening. Thank you, MeTV!!
Deleted 18 months ago
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bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Jason Johnson and Tol Avery also played Ben Weaver.
Told Avery also played the father of
Lou Ann Poovie on one episode of
Gomer Pyle USMC.
bagandwallyfan52 18 months ago
Will Wright was the first actor to play Ben Weaver on The Andy Griffith Show.
harlow1313 18 months ago
As Moriyah likely knows, Joy Ellison really cuts the rug with one Private Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. Man, that Gomer has the dance moves. (I likely commented similarly when this story originally ran. My rotten brain holds a finite number of thoughts.)
Pacificsun harlow1313 18 months ago
And always pleasantly shared. We appreciate them!
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