A Carolina accent got Elizabeth MacRae cast as Gomer Pyle's girlfriend
Would Lou-Ann Poovie be the same without her twang?
You have to hand it to whoever came up with character names for The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. The world of Mayberry and Camp Henderson was populated by the likes of Gomer, Goober, Opie, Asa, Duke, Rafe, Briscoe, Bunny and Bee. But was there truly a cuter character name than Lou-Ann Poovie?
Making her debut in the season-three episode "Love's Old Sweet Song," nightclub singer Lou-Ann Poovie would go on to become Gomer's girlfriend. She made the ideal sweetheart for the gas-pumper turned grunt. Her Southern charm and accent kept Gomer from feeling too homesick while stationed way out in California.
Elizabeth MacRae was perfectly suited for the part. Not only did she grow up in North Carolina, but she was also raised in Fort Bragg. MacRae also had experience playing a main squeeze with a twang. Over the span of a few seasons, in a handful of episodes, she had portrayed the girlfriend of Festus, April, on Gunsmoke. It's hard to imagine a better Lou-Ann.
Yet, at her audition for Gomer Pyle, MacRae not only tried out for a different role — she hid her Carolina accent. And Lou-Ann Poovie would not have hardly existed if not for a chance encounter at the studio.
"I went to read for another part and I was trying not to have a Southern accent," MacRae confessed to her hometown newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer, in 2017.
MacRae was reading lines with series creator and producer Aaron Ruben when Lee Phillips happened to pass by. Phillips, a Peyton Place actor who happened to direct 60 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, also had North Carolina roots, according to MacRae.
Phillips popped his head in the office and declared, "My Lord, that’s my favorite Southern belle!" The remark took Ruben by surprise, as she had not been disguising her natural voice.
Ruben asked, "Can you speak with a Southern accent?"
"He hired me on the spot," MacRae recalled. "And that was the birth of Lou-Ann Poovie. It was supposed to be a one-shot deal. I did 15 episodes."
Good thing Phillips stopped to say hello! Otherwise, Gomer might have been a little lonelier.