Frances Bavier nearly turned down The Andy Griffith Show

Mayberry almost had a different matriarch.

A Mayberry without Aunt Bee is hardly Mayberry at all. Her homespun phraseologies and down-home cooking bring warmth and Southern authenticity to Andy and Co.'s fictional locale. And what would've become of Opie without the surrogate motherly guidance that Bee provided? 

There's probably no universe wherein Aunt Bee does not reside in Mayberry. Any production of The Andy Griffith Show would need to cast someone in that role. However, we were very nearly part of a world in which Frances Bavier refused the part. That may come as a shock to most fans; we all see the two as inextricably linked. Aunt Bee is Frances Bavier, and vice versa. While her personal life would eventually come to terms with those ties between actor and character, at the beginning of her journey, Frances Bavier very nearly was not Aunt Bee.

When the first Andy Griffith Show script arrived in her possession, Bavier initially scoffed at the way it was written. "But people simply don't talk like that," she told TV Graphic in 1966. This was completely understandable for Bavier, a New York native who'd built a career in Hollywood and on Broadway. Mayberry was a lot of things, but The Great White Way it was not. For someone who'd lived outside of the South for her entire life, the rural colloquialisms might as well have been Greek.

However, as time passed, and with some travel under her belt, Bavier realized her error. "It was my first trip to the South," she explained. "I didn't believe it before. I thought Andy was making it up." The quote speaks to both the voice Griffith helped capture and the charm that was inherent to that part of the country. While the writers took liberties in creating these fictional characters, each was imbued with a sense of genuineness. Bavier, in her travels, confirmed for herself that people actually spoke like this. But more importantly, she realized the care with which the writing staff highlighted our neighbors to the South. 

The Andy Griffith Show is a rare example of Southerners in media that aren't played for laughs. The show took pride in its regionalism, and in embracing what made the South special, it hit on a lot of universal truths. 

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19 Comments

Coldnorth 9 months ago
Too bad Granny Moses didn’t get the part. She would’ve fit right in. Jed could have taken care of Elly, Jethro, etc. Seriously, Bee wasn’t my favorite at first then she grew on me. She turned out to be like a mother to Opie. Couldn’t ask for more than that
Jerryfan 10 months ago
I've always heard that she really didn't like playing the character too much and considered herself a bit above TV. This wasn't uncommon for a fair number of actors back then.
BenSobeleone 10 months ago
I've heard that she hit George Lindsey because he was swearing! Howard Morris said that when he directed an episode of TAGS, he asked her to repeat a line. She asked him why does he want her to repeat it. He said so that she could get it right and she replied "How dare you!"
BenSobeleone 10 months ago
Pickles episode was a classic! Those kerosene cucumbers.
Andybandit 10 months ago
TAGS would not be the same without Aunt Bee. It was weird that she and AG didn't get along.
KawiVulc 10 months ago
Can't imagine anyone else sitting at that piano three sheets to the wind...
Runeshaper 10 months ago
It's excellent that the show captured the South in that very special way.
Zip 10 months ago
I can't imagine anyone else as Aunt Bee. I am glad she didn't turn down the role.
Runeshaper Zip 10 months ago
Me too!
tootsieg Zip 10 months ago
Count me in. 😊
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Glad that Frances Bavier chose to play the role of Aunt Bee and also remain with the series. Her role was just as important as Andy Griffith,Don Knotts and Ron Howard's in the success of the series.

However what happened to the Producers, Writers, Etc.... in those last three seasons? Yes Don Knotts decision to leave the series at that point didn't help, but the series seemed to lose a bit of its genuine flavor.
McGillahooala LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Very true. The cast seemed more sophisticated and less interesting in the last seasons. The color episodes were the dividing line between homespun humor and whatever it was later on. Still a good show but not the same.
Zip McGillahooala 10 months ago
And Andy turned very grumpy. He just wasn't the same without Barney there. Or maybe it could have had something to do with hanging around his girlfriend/future wife too much, and her grumpiness rubbed off on him.
Coldnorth Zip 10 months ago
My favorite Dwarf ——- Grumpy
LoveMETV22 Coldnorth 10 months ago
Does have a ring to it Grumpy Griffith or GG for short.
Coldnorth LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Sounds good to me. Especially GAG LOLGrumpy Andy Griffith
FrankensteinLover 10 months ago
Greatest show ever and forever living off Reruns.
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