A determined fan used his wedding to break through Frances Bavier's wall of silence

You could say he was the last fan to get advice from Aunt Bee.

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Take a minute and think about Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. What comes to mind?

Is it her excellent cooking? Her maternal instinct to care for everyone? Maybe her colorful housedresses and aprons? Or, if you're feeling a little nitpicky, is it her yucky pickles?

Now, let's put Aunt Bee aside. Take this next minute to think about the actor Frances Bavier. What do you know of her?

Don't feel bad if you can't distinguish between the two. Bavier has said that she got lost in the character of Aunt Bee, not just in wrapping her head around how other people thought of her, but in how she thought of herself.

"You can't be an actress for 40 years, living in a world of make-believe, and not be affected," Bavier said in one of her rare interviews when The Andy Griffith Show was still on air.

Other actors who played famous housekeepers in the Sixties like Ann B. Davis (The Brady Bunch) have said that they experienced the opposite. The longer that Davis played Alice, the more the producers started injecting her real personality into the character. For Bavier, it happened the other way around.

"Sooner or later, your mind begins to click, and in my case, you are wise to seek professional help, to help stop being Aunt Bee after work," she told the Star-Gazette in 1966.

To save her sanity and separate herself from her iconic TV character, most fans know that Bavier went into hiding later in her life, retiring to Siler City, North Carolina, where she mostly kept to herself (ironically the only people she kept close were her own house staff) and stopped answering fan letters.

Many fans tried to reach Bavier over the years, writing letters and hoping for a note back, but Bavier had disconnected from Aunt Bee. She had to because being Aunt Bee just wasn't as easy as it looks.

"It's terribly difficult because Aunt Bee is so much nicer than the real me," Bavier said, echoing a similar sentiment Griffith has expressed about his iconic character.

But then along came a big fan who broke through this wall of silence.

Scott Reboul was a radiochemist living in North Carolina, about to marry Debbi, the love of his life. The year was 1988, and the couple planned their wedding in Charlotte.

About 100 miles away, Bavier lived in Siler City. Like many adoring fans, Scott thought he'd send her a letter. He'd heard from others that Bavier was a famous recluse, but he figured he'd give it a shot anyway. In an interview with fellow retro pop culture fan Jeremy Roberts, Scott said, "Not surprisingly, she didn't respond to my note."

Scott and Debbi had no hard feelings. They stopped by the local florist and left flowers for the TV matriarch on her front porch (a very Mayberry image), then resumed their wedding planning. It wasn't until they were putting together the wedding invitations when Scott got an idea.

"Anyway, in April 1988, Debbi and I were preparing for our wedding on May 7 by sending out early RSVPs so we could figure out who was the best caterer for our number of guests," Scott said. "I figured this was my last chance to get a potential response from Bavier, so I sent her an invitation. Everything I had heard about her was that she was a very formal person, so maybe she'd feel a desire to send back the wedding invitation card."

This was a clever scheme indeed, and perhaps Bavier was still a little more like her character than she thought, because Scott's trick worked. He became one of the last fans to break through Bavier’s wall of silence when she actually sent her RSVP back, and wouldn't you know, scrawled on the RSVP card was the perfect polite advice to decline a wedding invitation:

“Miss Bavier regrets she will be unable to attend, but wishes you and yours happiness in your coming years.”

Scott's pretty sure it's her handwriting on the RSVP card.

"From what I can tell, Bavier wrote the note herself about a year and a half before her death at age 86, as the handwriting appears the same as that found on her checks and letters," he explained. He also said he sometimes started borrowing this exact wording when he had to decline to attend weddings, so in a way, he became the last fan to take some good polite advice from Aunt Bee.

A year later, Bavier passed away on a December day in 1989. Before she did, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard visited her Siler City home, and with the two boys she raised on TV by her side, she made peace with her difficult feelings regarding Aunt Bee, a character for which her most loyal fans maintain eternal fondness.

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OnePunchOpie 1 month ago
I've been a working actor since the Carter administration; it doesn't surprise me a bit to hear an actor is completely different than an iconic character they played, and it's not uncommon to hear they really dislike that character. But sometimes you find out an actor and their character are EXACTLY alike.

Like the time I got Buddy Ebsen to laugh.

I was running Security at an early "Con" type deal in Tuscaloosa Alabama in the 80s. Not a Sci-Fi Con, possibly a Comic Con, something like that. First time I'd ever heard con used as a suffix for convention like that. Buddy came in to do a Q&A session. I had a Q that only Buddy could A.

There was a room full of people waiting to ask him a question. I was on duty and couldn't just blow 45 minutes standing in line, so I Head of Securitied my way up to the front. "Mr Ebsen," I say, "we got a generation full of yuppies runnin' loose out there wearing sport coats over t-shirts. It's practically their uniform, and they call it the "Sonny Crockett look", from Don Johnson's character on Miami Vice. But c'mon. Everyone knows it was Jed Clampett who pioneered that look. Does it bug you at all you've been written out of history like that?" Buddy chuckled, gave me the Jed grin, and said "well, Don Johnson is a fine actor and I'll not say a word against him".

You were a class act all the way, Buddy.
ewinguno 4 months ago
Not sure where your information about Ron Howard and Andy Griffith visiting her comes from--- from every account--- including recorded interviews of Andy and Ron--- they went together unannounced to visit her and were TURNED AWAY. Several years later Andy noted Frances called him and "apologized they didn't get along better" and took the blame for it being that way... if there is a definitive reference to what you quote in your article--- let's see it.
Newyorkcitygal 8 months ago
I heard in real life she and Andy did not get along at all. I am glad they made up before her passing. One of my all time favorite shows till this day! OH ANDY!!!
MaryHelen 10 months ago
read all the comments-- maybe people don't know as it is rarely written, but she was treated condescendingly, paid a lot less and expected to take whatever unfair, rude treatment she got from directors, producers, AND costars. it was the 60s, she was a woman and not the only one-- look it up
kkvegas 10 months ago
If anyone wants to see what Frances Bavier's house looked like, it's currently for sale. You can check it out on Zillow; the address is 503 W. Elk St., Siler City, NC.
Gitch64 10 months ago
A nice story, I enjoy learning about the real person.
MLeale57 10 months ago
It doesn't matter to me about the real aunt bee. I will adore her all of my days. As well as the rest of the cast. And I will continue to have a major crush on andy.
Greg 10 months ago
Many times actors who have withdrawn from the public eye are falsely perceived as recluses. Fans want to meet the character not the real person. The better an actor plays a role the more fans believe they must be mostly like that in life. If Bavier desired privacy I hope she enjoyed her retirement
DoubleNaughtSpy 10 months ago
Thankfully, no trees died in the creation of this cornball article.

Cranky, ungrateful, and defiant old biddy right up until to the end. Bet she gave Leona Helmsley a run for her money.
dodgebob DoubleNaughtSpy 10 months ago
Sounds like something a relative that was left out of the will would say!

Rest in peace Frances, most of us loved you!
Sooner dodgebob 10 months ago
We loved the character, but evidently she was a crank.
Greg Sooner 10 months ago
She wasn't the impossibly cheerful character doesn't mean she was a crank. She probably got sick of fans hounding her.
dodgebob Sooner 10 months ago
But why the hate? Cranks are people too.
Sooner dodgebob 10 months ago
No hate. Why the quick judgement? I happen to like a lot of cranks.
dodgebob Sooner 10 months ago
My bad, I guess the "Cranky Old Bitty" threw me off! lol ah
trodes 10 months ago
What a shame she couldnt move on and have a nice life! It did leave her with money to hire people to take care of her in her later years! RIP
ELEANOR 10 months ago
So sad that she had such a small life. But I can understand. Her face was splashed all across America, and linking it with someone she didn't ever wanted to resemble; it was probably hard for her to even go to the grocery store or to get her hair done. And then there were the reruns, forever cementing the bond between character and person. So in a way I don't blame her for her choices. But still it is sad.
JustGeri 10 months ago
I smiled when I read that Andy Griffith and Ron Howard visited her before she passed.
katkev2003 JustGeri 10 months ago
me too. lol
StephenZmuda 10 months ago
I recall that only a couple of opening credits where she was mentioned in them.
Also her later persona may have matched her character in a Lone Ranger episode as the leader of a group of outlaws.
denny 11 months ago
I want to get away from the Aunt Bea character so bad, that I move to North Carolina. Of course everyone knows she turned into a cat lady to the extreme, with 50 or so cats. If you go down the rabbit hole, it doesn't end well, let's just say cats have to eat.
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denny MikefromJersey 10 months ago
That's so cool. Thanks for sharing.
OnePunchOpie denny 1 month ago
I've been a working actor since the Carter administration; it doesn't surprise me a bit to hear an actor is completely different than an iconic character they played, and it's not uncommon to hear they really dislike that character. But sometimes they're EXACTLY alike.
I made Buddy Ebsen laugh once, y'know. A personal highlight.

I once got Buddy Ebsen to laugh. I was running Security at an early "Con" type deal in the Tuscaloosa Alabama in the 80s. Not a Sci-Fi Con, possibly a Comic Con, something like that. First time I'd ever heard con used as a suffix for convention like that. Buddy came in to do a Q&A session. I had a question that had already been troubling me for months, and Buddy was the only one who COULD answer it.

There was a very long line of people waiting to ask him a question. I was on duty and couldn't just blow 45 minutes standing in it, so I Head of Securitied my way up to the front. "Mr Ebsen," I say "we got yuppies runnin' loose all around the country wearing sport coats over t-shirts. It's practically their uniform, and they call it the "Sonny Crockett look", from Don Johnson's character on Miami Vice. But c'mon. Everyone knows it was Jed Clampett who pioneered that look. Does it bug you at all you've been written out of history like that?"

Buddy chuckled, gave me the Jed grin, and said "well, Don Johnson is a fine actor and I'll not say a word against him". You were a class act all the way, Buddy.
OnePunchOpie denny 1 month ago
Dang it. I know better than to post without proofreading. Sorry that's such a mess to read.
denny OnePunchOpie 1 month ago
Hate to correct you, but Jed wore a collarless dress shirt, not tee shirt.
JHP 11 months ago
havent had my 1st coffee yet - but the guy in the wedding pic looks like Ken Berry
dodgebob JHP 10 months ago
....or Rod Serling?
JHP dodgebob 10 months ago
yeah the only thing he doesn't have a cigarette in his yap
StephenZmuda JHP 10 months ago
I agree with the Ken Berry comparison.
Pacificsun 11 months ago
MeTV Staff - Please fix your "Login" issue. We shouldn't need to login every time we're adding a comment to a Thread.
JHP Pacificsun 11 months ago
hate to say it - that doesnt happen to me - randomly and rarely to I have to log in (now watch I will have to log in next time:))
Pacificsun JHP 11 months ago
I know, that's what's weird. It wasn't happening to me for years, and now it is. But ... whatever it's takes ... to stay as spam free as possible. 😉
dodgebob Pacificsun 10 months ago
My login is spotty.
JHP Pacificsun 10 months ago
spam isn't that bad - I like it fried (only kidding)

"spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam !!!!!! wonderful spam"
JeffHinson 11 months ago
The town she moved to in real life was Siler City North Carolina. Not just Siler. 🥒🥒🥒
daDoctah 11 months ago
I have a non-Bee connection to Frances Bavier. When my mother went into labor with me, she didn't want to leave to go to the hospital because it meant she would miss her favorite TV show at the time, "77 Sunset Strip". (This was 1959, and they didn't have TV sets in hospital rooms in those days, nor would most people have been able to record a program on home video to watch when they got back, and most shows including 77SS ran a full year, no summer reruns.)

Flash forward fifty years, and Mom's in the hospital again, recuperating from a stroke, when I manage to dig up a copy of the very episode she missed that weekend, which guest-starred Frances Bavier as a kooky small-town eccentric who likes to shoplift (from her own family's department store) to make her life more exciting, and gets mixed up with a gang of serious crooks who want her to join them for a big bank heist.

I took my laptop and the show to Mom and we watched it together in her hospital room. (Sorry to say, Mom later decided it wasn't one of the better episodes.)
MrsPhilHarris daDoctah 11 months ago
Great story !
Pacificsun daDoctah 10 months ago
Yes, best story!! Thanks for sharing!!
Pacificsun 11 months ago
Television is (obviously) such a make believe world. It is regrettable sometimes that fans expect too much of hard working actors. It is for them, “employment” in a craft they find challenging and personally rewarding. But never is there an agreement that the characters they play should consume them. It is difficult to imagine what was going on in Ms. Bavier’s mind. Perhaps anything from the fear or regret of not living up to a “perfect” Aunt Bee. Maybe she felt fans would see through her. Or co-stars would reveal too much, and so her penchant for distance. Or perhaps resentment that such a perfect character could be crafted in the writer’s hands. Yet couldn’t be found in real life. With its disappointments and hurts. We forget (or dismiss) that these are real people in the shows we love. And it’s a sad legacy when Ms. Bavier is often remembered more for her peculiarities, than for her hard-earned talent! Filming a TV series (year after year) is grueling, with very long days, too much waiting, and the piece-meal effect of assembly, which is something that the actors (often) don’t see in the finished product, or as least as we the fans do! They usually don’t have time for it!
AnnieM Pacificsun 11 months ago
I remember a quote from Harrison Ford years back, something to the effect of "I owe fans the best performance I can give, but I don't owe them my personal life."
cperrynaples AnnieM 11 months ago
I've heard that quote atributed to Russell Crowe!
AnnieM cperrynaples 11 months ago
Russell Crowe seems like he'd say something like that, as well. I do remember the HF quote was in either People or EW.
x60hz11 AnnieM 11 months ago
Humphrey Bogart said it years earlier. "All you owe the public is a good performance". Personally I think that's a crock. A smile, light banter or an autograph here & there wouldn't hurt. They're famous because of their fans.
Tuckerpete Pacificsun 11 months ago
It has been suggested that Bavier, a film actress, had difficulty acclimating to working on the small screen, and frequently voiced her disdain to her costars. This resulted in what some referred to as a "walking on eggshells" atmosphere amongst the production crew.According to Andy Griffith, he and Bavier occasionally clashed during their eight-year run on the show.
When Griffith was interviewed on Larry King Live in 1998, he admitted that Bavier phoned him four months before her death, and apologized for being difficult on the set.

Pacificsun Pacificsun 10 months ago
I'm not sure if I heard it correctly, and no doubt the actor was it repeating from he'd heard too, like originally from the above references. But Robert Conrad (and to some degree, James Garner) once said that beyond their performances, the public would never get to know who they really are. The point being, that the facade they assumed in public was so absolute they were proud of any performance they could easily turn off and on!! And yet they both seemed so genuine!
katkev2003 Tuckerpete 10 months ago
I remember reading Mr. Brady on the bradybunch was the same way. Not cranky but they said he thought he was too good to play on TV.
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