Frances Bavier was the greatest actor on The Andy Griffith Show

The accomplished actor brought so much into her performance as Aunt Bee.

For fans in the know, watching The Andy Griffith Show episode "The Pageant" was a little bit of an ironic experience.

In the episode, Aunt Bee is suddenly cast in the leading role in Mayberry’s Centennial Pageant and it turns out her acting skills are much more limited than she ever realized.

Of course, if you look at the cast of The Andy Griffith Show, Aunt Bee actor Frances Bavier was by far the most seasoned actor of the bunch.

While Andy Griffith, Don Knotts and Ron Howard were all still relative newcomers to major acting roles, by the time the show premiered in 1960, Bavier had built up one of the most legendary and best regarded Broadway careers of any of her actor peers.

Her theater career started in 1925 when she graduated from a dramatic arts college and immediately began taking onstage roles.

Through the Thirties and Forties, she could be found endearing herself to audiences with well-remembered appearances, and by the start of the Fifties, one critic noted that she was being cast to play "the most exacting roles of the American theater."

She was so good, in fact, that she got away with something no other actors of her era ever could. On multiple occasions, she left a Broadway cast for other opportunities, and yet she always got offered new roles and never was seen as undependable because her performances were consistently so good.

One time, she left the stage to join a movie cast, but another time, perhaps most famously, she left on a tour to entertain World War II troops.

During this time in the Forties, Bavier behaved to soldiers a lot like the motherly way we think of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. Soldiers recalled how she would crack them up onstage and then after performing, talk with them for hours, becoming a caring ear.

In 1955, the Los Angeles Times reported that 10,000 of these soldiers passed around a giant scroll to gift to Bavier on Mother’s Day to thank her for being "Mom to a million homesick GIs," noting how eager she was to comfort them in their time of need.

In the 1950s, only after she had 25 years of theater experience under her belt, Bavier then made the move to doing way more TV and movie productions.

Starting in 1951, she was given choice character roles on the strength of her acting reputation, and on TV, she appeared in hit shows like Dragnet and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

By the mid-‘50s, Bavier joined her first sitcom cast as the beloved head of a boarding house in It’s a Great Life.

After that series ended in 1956, Bavier continued working in movies and landing roles on TV shows including Perry Mason and Wagon Train. Then in 1960, The Andy Griffith Show cast her as Aunt Bee, and the rest is TV history.

That year, critics pointed to Bavier as an example of why more sitcoms should anchor themselves with talented older women with seasoned acting chops.

Bavier was always glad that she spent so much time onstage before she ever gave a thought to auditioning in Hollywood.

In 1959, she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that her age was her strength in Hollywood because it conveyed her vast experience.

"I’m perhaps fortunate that I don’t have to live up to a ‘glamour’ role," Bavier said. "But I really feel that just because a person has approached, or passed, that 50-year mark there is no reason to hide behind the façade of those fallible 40s. I think that with the average women, the longer she’s lived, the more she’s learned."

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zzyzx 21 months ago
The show have been named the Don Knotts Show.
RichardMaceAnderson 26 months ago
Don Knotts was the best actor on The Andy Griffith Show. Hands Down.
Artsynanna 26 months ago
I absolutely love Aunt Bea. She embodies the innocence, patience, grit, and traditional values of the time for women over 40. She reminds me of female relatives that were ‘old’ but very sweet natured, affectionate, and supportive of family, friends and community. Patriotic, loyal, and protective of community and country Aunt Bea is/was a model for feminine behavior. So look deeper than ‘girth’ and highpitched voice and catch the real messages in each Andy Griffith show put forth by the characters. Artsynanna Soulsparkle
MBGun 26 months ago
If she was going for "endlessly shrill, hysterical annoying old-maid" she nailed it.
Coldnorth Matte8L4CK 25 months ago
Because I can’t master the like key. Consider this my like. Her voice was hard for me to listen to
Nala92129 26 months ago
I couldn't stand "Ain't Bee's" whining, childlike personna and her high-pitched Eleanor Roosevelt voice. After Floyd, Mayor Pike, Thelma Lou, Otis, Chester, Barney, the Fun Girls & Briscoe left the show, the charm and gentle humor that so endeared the show to viewers, evaporated. Howard, the dud, Warren, Clara Edwards, the petty, jealous grouch otherwise known as Helen Crump, Arlene Golonka, et al brought the show WAAAY down.
eddiecantorfan Nala92129 26 months ago
Peggy MacMillan (Joanna Moore) was a good girlfriend for Andy Taylor and Mary Simpson (Sue Ann Langdon)
was also a good girlfriend for
Andy Taylor. Peggy MacMillan was only on 4 Episodes of TAGS and Mary Simpson 2 Sue Ann Langdon was only on one
episode of TAGS
Ellie Walker (Elinor Donahue) was also okay.
MaryLou23976 26 months ago
Why is she wearing a wedding ring in the photo?
harlow1313 26 months ago
Oh. When I read "greatest," I thought the writer was referencing girth.
Pacificsun harlow1313 26 months ago
Made me laugh. I love those zingers you toss out there.
Runeshaper 26 months ago
Leaving on a tour to entertain World War II troops is AWESOME! Her quote of "I think that with the average women, the longer she’s lived, the more she’s learned" is pure gold.
DoubleNaughtSpy 26 months ago
As a fervent proponent of the argument that TAGS is the most criminally overrated and over-admired sitcom of the Golden Age of Television, I have to admit that I was surprisingly awestruck by Bavier's portrayal of a Ma Barker-like matriarch of a group of outlaws in an episode of "The Lone Ranger" which recently aired on fetv. It was absolutely hilarious watching her stomp on Tonto's (Jay Silverheels') foot when he tried to take her into custody by wrapping his arms around her!!
WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
Instead of "greatest," the MeTV headline writer should have went with "most accomplished," at least up until the show began. I still love the deep dives and hope MeTV keeps them up. Look up Frances Bavier on IMDb, check out her earlier photos and prepare to have your mind blown.
LoveMETV22 WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
"Greatest" has more visual appeal, grabs your attention and matches the content of the article closely enough. Good writing style. I like MeTV's presentation style for both Stories and Quizzes.
Moody LoveMETV22 26 months ago
I agree with WordsmithWorks that "most accomplished" more accurately describes the point of this article. Greatest, to me, is hyperbole & implies that she was the better actor in the show. She was a very good actor to be sure but not the greatest. Yes it's attention grabbing but so is most accomplished. That would have the same effect in drawing readers to the article. But, it's still a good article & gives the reader good background on her career. There are items there that I wasn't aware of. It was very informative.
LoveMETV22 Moody 26 months ago
Thank you. I see your point, maybe if they did away with greatest or most accomplished and described it differently without superlatives it wouldn't infer one better than the other. But a good point.
LoveMETV22 WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
PS: to my previous post and as I commented to Moody, perhaps they could have rephrased it without superlatives such as greatest or most accomplished. Still the cast were all great and accomplished actors.
MBGun WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
I agree. She was the 3rd best actor in the Taylor family.
SteveMcnary 26 months ago
I remember 2 episodes of Andy Griffith show that featured Jack Nicholson who I would consider a better actor than Frances Bavier.
JHP 26 months ago
so true or false

Andy and Aunt bee never did get along on the taping of the shows?
ncadams27 26 months ago
It would have been interesting if Desilu, in addition to casting Bill Frawley as the “head of a male household” in My Three Sons, also cast Vivian Vance as the “head of a male household” in The Andy Griffith Show, both of which debuted in 1960. Just a thought.
Nala92129 ncadams27 26 months ago
Who didn't love wonderful Vivian Vance? That would have been genius casting!
MaryHelen 26 months ago
yes,, fb was gret-- but she was less than fully respected on the ag show-- anyone ever notice, she was not in the starting line up for many years??
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Moody 26 months ago
What's this have to do with the article? Send your request to MeTv.
Deleted 26 months ago
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texasluva 26 months ago
I would say you are around 99.999% correct. At one time he was broadcasting off a 250,000 watt station. Came in loud and clear when my parents were traveling to Utah and we stopped at Las Vegas. I think at that time you could hear his station most everywhere in the USA. Those were the times.
eddiecantorfan 26 months ago
I used to watch Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive In on RETEO TV
But I think that Retro TV no longer carries Wolfman Mac.
I used to receive Retro TV as a
Subchannel of channel 13
WSET in Lynchburg VA until
Channel 13 Dropped Retro TV
And replaced Retro TV with either Comet or Charge .
Another excellent Horror Host
Is Bowman Body played by Bill
Bowman on Shock Theater on
Channel 8 WXEX in Petersburg-Richmond VA .There are videos of Bowman Body on the Internet.I also watched a different Shock Theater on ch 8 WGHP in High Point NC with
Host Dr Paul Bearer played by
Shock Theater on 8 WXEX in Petersburg-Richmond and 8 WGHP in High Point NC were
Both good shows with Bowman Body and Dr Paul Bearer.
eddiecantorfan 26 months ago
I enjoyed watching Wolfman Jack and Wolfman Mac's
Do you have Part 2 Of Howling
On The AIR with Wolfman Jack?
I also enjoyed The Adventures of Superman and The Adventures of Robin Hood
And Burns And Allen.
texasluva 26 months ago
Can't find part two of Howling. There are other part 2's and also this. .

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LoveMETV22 26 months ago
Howard Morris at least 5, about the same on George Lindsey.
Moody 26 months ago
Do you know how to use the search function here? It would answer many of your questions?
AgingDisgracefully 26 months ago
One day, Andy paid her the ultimate compliment: "Aunt Bee, you look good enough to take to Chinatown!"
JHP AgingDisgracefully 26 months ago
well when she had her elixir from the colonel
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