Just once Denver Pyle wanted to play the guy who gets the girl

Aunt Bee was just another in a long line of ladies who rejected the veteran character actor onscreen.

Read to Me

Is there anything purer than Briscoe Darling's face as he serenades Aunt Bee in the unexpectedly sweet Andy Griffith Show episode "Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee"?

The episode finds Briscoe suddenly smitten with Aunt Bee after confusing her kindness for affection.

On The Andy Griffith Show, Denver Pyle played Briscoe Darling, ordinarily wearing a hat and blowing over the top of a jug. In this scene, though, his hat's off and his heart's out. We've never seen Pyle so earnest about anything in Mayberry before — not even Charlene's wedding!

As a character actor, Pyle told The Miami Herald in 1967 that it was basically written in stone that he’d never be the sort of guy who ended up with the girl on his arm.

"They talk about 'overexposure' among actors," Pyle said. "Me, if I don't work, in a few weeks I get restless. I'm very good for half-hour TV films. Minute they see my face, people know my character — a slick heavy, a nasty heavy, a heavy heavy. One thing they know, I won't get the girl. Just once I'd like to get the girl. But it's been so long I've forgotten what I'd do anyway."

True to this pattern, in the end of The Andy Griffith Show episode, Aunt Bee does not take Briscoe's hand.

Poor Denver! Another onscreen chance at love spurned!

If it's any consolation, you should know that by this point in his life, Denver Pyle in his real life had found love.

He married his first wife Marilee in 1956 and they stayed together until 1975, trading time with their two sons between two California homes — one in Balboa Island and the other in Toluca Lake.

Pyle was doing just fine despite never being a leading man, and he had a theory as to why, and funny enough, it has to do somewhat with Briscoe Darling's fashion trademark — his signature hat.

"Secret of my overnight success, after about 10 years, is the fact that I was born with a good western face and I wear a hat well," Pyle told the Herald.

"Lots of people can't, you know," Pyle continued.

He certainly had some opinions.

"[John] Wayne has the best Western hat face in the business," he speculated. However: "Tony Curtis? Ha! Terrible!" and "Jack Lemmon? No Way."

He then went on to praise one of the biggest TV stars to ever tip his hat, saying, "Add Jim Arness to the list of good western hat faces. Maybe Jim's the best of 'em all on TV."

We're sure you'll agree Denver Pyle had a "good Western hat face," but a recurring joke throughout "Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee" finds his hat off, trying to prove to Aunt Bee that he has manners (even after he's kidnapped her, Ernest T. Bass style).

In his real life, Denver met his wife Marilee when she was working as a production assistant at Twentieth Century Fox Studios. She believed in his acting and helped him throughout their marriage and even after their divorce to manage his career, remaining friends until he passed away in 1997.

While together, the couple liked to entertain friends at fancy dinners, hosting parties in hip settings like the actor Phil Ahn's famous Moongate Restaurant. They could also be found flying off to Las Vegas to catch Sammy Davis Jr.'s act.

Pyle was happy with taking on as many TV gigs as he could get, more desiring this peculiar, fast-paced quality of life he found jumping between sets than sitting too long in the spotlight, and he became well-respected as an actor that way. Everybody recognized how much he brought to every scene, no matter what was asked. Pyle said he couldn’t remember ever getting a single bad review.

"Not once in my life have I ever been rapped by a critic," he told the Herald. "If the thing bombs, it's the hero's fault. If it's good, then they say, boy, he sure had good support from people like Denver Pyle."

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 PM & 8:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

12 Comments

Post a comment
Nadya92129 24 days ago
The look on "Briscoe's" face, when he saw "Charlene" in her mother's wedding dress was priceless.
Nadya92129 Nadya92129 24 days ago
"You look just like your Ma..."
stephaniestavr5 25 days ago
Because I like the show more, I prefer Denver Pyle's Uncle Jesse on the Dukes Of Hazzard, better that Briscoe Darling. I'm not saying I don't like the character, because I do. I've also wondered if whomever it was that created the show starring Bruce Campbell: The Advetures Of Briscoe County, Jr. named the Briscoe character after BD.
Wiseguy stephaniestavr5 25 days ago
whoever not whomever
vintagefan Wiseguy 22 days ago
Stop with the grammarian nonsense. I'm an English teacher, and I don't correct people on an online forum. You are one of the reasons why the internet is as toxic as it is.
MichaelGreene 25 days ago
Even when he played a bad guy, Denver Pyle was good. In his career, a number of bad guys he played meet bad ends...one was killed off(off-screen) by the ultimate villain in a 1954 Adventures of Superman episode("Beware the Wrecker"), and he was the last murder victim in the last Perry Mason episode("The Case of the Final Fade-Out") in 1966...the cast and crew knew it was the show's finale, hence both the show title, and the use of the Perry Mason show crew in various roles, and, as the judge in the final case, none other than Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason novels.
Wow, Michael, you sure are a Denver Pyle Expert ! The Darlings always were my favorite characters on the Andy Griffith Show, and I always wished that they would spin off into their own series.
Mike MichaelGreene 24 days ago
In TCOT Final Fade-Out, Denver Pyle's producer character was named 'Jackson Sidemark' - after the real Mason showrunners: Gail Patrick Jackson, Art Seid, and Arthur Marks.

Also:
Denver Pyle was a Perry Mason Triple player!
In different episodes over the years, Pyle was a victim, a defendant, and a murderer (one of eleven actors to make that claim).

Oh, and in almost all of his Masons, Denver Pyle was usually a city slicker - well-dressed, well-groomed, and very well-spoken (check the episodes sometime and see for yourself!).
Growing up watching TAGS, it was interesting to see Denver Pyle as an ordinary husband and father on the Twilight Zone ("Black Leather Jackets").
harlow1313 25 days ago
Sadly, my kisser is better suited to a Musketeer's hat with purple ostrich plumage. I guess I'd have to play the bank clerk who gets shot by robbers in an early scene. Like poor Denver Pyle, I am a hang nail on the fickle finger of fate.
Your taste for colors and combinations, also sounds like the type of wild an wacky outfits/colors Mr. Spock's mother-in-law Endora would wear. {Any of you wondering why I wrote this: See harlow1313's outlandish, and side splitting, laughter filled comments (and my replies,) on the Doomsday quiz page, about who he thinks played Spock's mother!
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?