Elinor Donahue had to wear a fake ponytail for years on TV

The acting talent? Real. The hair? Fake.

MeTV fans know Elinor Donhue as the sweet Mayberry pharmacist that Andy dates in the first season of The Andy Griffith Show. Or maybe from her role on Star Trek, where she appears on the episode "Metamorphosis" — notable for being the first appearance of the character Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive.

Before she appeared in Mayberry, though, she was a household name from her starring role on the sitcom Father Knows Best. Donahue played eldest daughter Betty Anderson in the TV program from 1954 until its abrupt ending in 1960. Betty was known for her distinctive hair style: her ponytail. In a 1982 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Donahue called it "Betty Anderson's trademark." And that trademark caused a lot of fuss.

Donahue, during the filming of the series, had gotten married and become pregnant. The producers were not pleased. "I was playing America's teen-ager," Donahue said. "The world was supposed to think of me as a 16-year-old girl, not a 19-year-old woman who was married and was having a baby. They wrote me out of the show."

In a fit of pique over her sudden expulsion from the series, Donahue lopped off her iconic locks. "I actually thought I wasn't going back, so I cut my hair very, very short. Then my agent called and said 'You're back on the show'. The producer saw the haircut and nearly had a fit."

Betty Anderson came back to the show, of course, and she had to have her ponytail. "Within a month, the hair department had gotten a false pony tail for me," Donahue said. "They would slick my hair all up and then mash it down and pin this false pony tail on me. Except for a few shows, I had it all the way through the series."

Donahue appeared on The Andy Griffith Show in 1960, the same year Father Knows Best ended. Presumably, as Ellie Walker, Donahue had her own hair. The fake ponytail wasn't gone yet, though.

"I kept the pony tail in a box for many years," Donahue said. Then, she donated it as a prize to a "Betty Anderson look-alike contest" at a girl's school.

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79 Comments

WayneKeith 11 months ago
Mary Simpson, from "Three's a Crowd"(S2e27) was the prettiest girlfriend Andy ever had.
theoIV 11 months ago
They could have filmed Ellie from above the protruding bulge of her pregnancy, which had been done on other shows, after all Ellie was not in every segment of an episode to have made a difference some full shots could have been taken from her standing behind a counter or even in the car the front seats could have hidden her pregnancy when in the back seat even if sitting in the front the dashboard could have hidden her pregnancy, there are many ways they could have kept Ellie.
Bloodymama5 12 months ago
The best chemistry Andy Taylor had was with Peggy MacMillan. Andy Griffith and Joanna Cook Moore were involved off screen for a brief time.
theoIV 12 months ago
I watch the show and noticed that the actor who played on the dukes of hazzard as boss hogs stuttering side kick also played on Andy Griffin as an awesome musician who had an almost elvis look, also watched the episode with Jamie Farrell (klinger of mash) played a gypsy on Griffin alot of stars where on Andy's before they were stars even Alan hale who was the skipper on Gilligan he was the big guy going around lifting woman up.
lifelinx 12 months ago
She also played the sister of Dr. Quinn in the 90's
WVsass 12 months ago
Andy’s girlfriends in the earlier seasons were so warm, likable and cheerful. I never understood why the producers settled on frustrated school marm Helen. She was about as cozy as an igloo and as cheerful as a rattlesnake.
harlow1313 13 months ago
Personally, I feel the TAGS writing was far from hitting its stride during her tenure. The early plots are pretty annoying, especially "hick" Andy episodes, or heavy handed "battle of the sexes" episodes.
Zip 13 months ago
I never cottoned to Ellie on TAGS. That is not to say anything about Elinor Donahue, because I loved her on Get A Life. I just didn't like the character of Ellie very much. Better than Helen Grump but not by much.
Now Peggy... Andy really let a good one get away with her. Sweet, even-tempered, and definitely easy on the eyes.
Deleted 13 months ago
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bsantaniello 13 months ago
She was Felix’s girlfriend Miriam.
LalaLucy 13 months ago
I always liked Ellie and wished she could have been on there longer, though I understand why it was not possible. There was something a lot warmer and more pleasant to me about the pairing of Ellie with Andy than Helen. Helen was too cold and snippy to suit me.
Blondie7 13 months ago
Early days before reliable contraceptives.
obectionoverruled 13 months ago
Never absorbed her as Sheriff Taylor’s girlfriend. Helen Crump the schoolteacher was better, and more credible in the role. But even better yet was Barney’s little squeeze, Thelma Lou. That girl was absolutely beautiful.
kmarsh12 obectionoverruled 13 months ago
She could have done a lot better than Barney.
CoreyC 13 months ago
Elinor had short hair as Felix's girlfriend in The Odd Couple.
tootsieg 13 months ago
Nice story. I liked Elinor Donahue’s run on TAGS. Short but sweet.
BorisK 13 months ago
P.S. for the record ... wow, a lot of cranky people on here lately ... MeTV threads are unfortunately starting to look like Yahoo's comment dumping ground. This is MeTV folks. Can't you just be happy to be here?
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BorisK 13 months ago
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McGillahooala BorisK 13 months ago
I’m glad this argument is occurring online. I’d hate to see one of those Floyd Lawson punching Mr. Foley in the nose moments materialize.
cinamac McGillahooala 12 months ago
“It’s as open as it ever was!”
Henry30 13 months ago
I've always liked Elinor and her "girl next door" look. I'm glad she chose the entertainment industry for her career.
BorisK 13 months ago
Ms. Donahue lived in Palm Desert CA (out by Palm Springs, I think she's still there) when we lived there about 10 years ago. We met her several times at a couple of Palm Desert city celebration functions; she was easily one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. You could still see 'Elly' right there in front of you.
Indianagirl1963 13 months ago
Why would she jeopardize her job on TV series by getting pregnant during the series? Not very smart. I don't blame the producers for being angry and firing her. She should have waited until the show was finished to start her family. It's just common sense.
Ellen8 Indianagirl1963 13 months ago
Really?........Those days were wholesome and family oriented...many would simply not understand.
BorisK Indianagirl1963 13 months ago
One would guess because having a family was far more important to her than Hollywood. IMHO there is zero wrong with wanting children over a career. I'd call that very smart.
ncadams27 Indianagirl1963 13 months ago
She turned 18 in 1955 when she got married for the first time. The producers didn’t seem to mind that they no longer had to follow the rules that required her to be in school and limiting the number of hours she could work. I heard that on her 18th birthday, they threw a party and told her she would need to work late.
Zip Indianagirl1963 13 months ago
To quote Arthur Vanderkellen on Newhart, "These things happen."
WVsass Indianagirl1963 12 months ago
Ms Donahue probably recognized the fact that she was a grown woman and could do what she wanted. Why on earth would she sacrifice a personal life and happiness for a TV show?? Yes, the producers threw a fit. They wanted that money to continue flowing. They didn’t care about what Ms Donahue wanted. I commend her!
StanP Indianagirl1963 12 months ago
For a moment I thought you were serious. Then I realized the dry humor.
ncadams27 13 months ago
I wonder if the same thing happened to Mister Ed.
BorisK ncadams27 13 months ago
Would you elaborate please?
ncadams27 BorisK 13 months ago
A fake pony tail (Ed’s a horse).
Moverfan ncadams27 13 months ago
I don't think Ed was ever with foal...
dougandandyfan ncadams27 13 months ago
Allan Rocky Lane did the voice of
Mr.Ed.
Zip ncadams27 13 months ago
Thank goodness. For a second there I thought you were referring to Ed Asner.
ncadams27 13 months ago
Father Knows Best ran for six seasons on all three networks. Like Leave it To Beaver (also six seasons) the kids were growing up and Betty was already out of high school when it ended (I don’t call that abrupt). Oddly enough, in the Fall of 1960, CBS (same network as TAGS) decided to air reruns of Father Knows Best in prime time on Tuesdays, while new episodes of TAGS ran on Monday - both with Elinor Donahue.
Wiseguy70005 ncadams27 13 months ago
Never on ABC; reruns don't count.
ncadams27 Wiseguy70005 13 months ago
You’re right. CBS, then NBC, then back to CBS. ABC ran reruns in the daytime.
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