Parley Baer was a dedicated circus man, even when he was Mayberry's mayor
Lions and tigers and Baer… oh my! He even had a horse in his wedding.
Parley Baer is one of those character actors with ties to most of the MeTV "universe." Most will know him as Mayor Stoner of Mayberry, the second leader of the small town, and a presence alongside Sheriff Andy on The Andy Griffith Show. The role of municipal leadership must have suited him because he also became the mayor on The Addams Family. Elsewhere, he can be seen as a guest on Wagon Train, Rawhide, The Rifleman, and Perry Mason. Baer got his start on the radio, where he pioneered the roles of iconic characters like Chester on Gunsmoke and Eb on Green Acres (or Granby's Green Acres, as it was known on the radio).
But deep down, Baer was a circus man. His heart belonged to the three rings. He even found true love under the big top.
In 1946, upon being discharged from the Army as a captain, Baer married Ernestine Clarke. She was a talented bareback rider and aerialist in the circus. The circus was in her blood. Her father, Ernest, was the first human to perform a triple somersault on the flying trapeze. Ernestine could not do the triple, but she executed the double somersault with ease, with a few twists thrown in.
There was even a horse at their wedding. A photo of the white steed was shown nibbling on the bride's flowers in their wedding pictures, which made the newspapers. "Where but in the circus would the horse end up catching the bride's bouquet?" the photo caption asked. Baer began his own circus career as a lion and tiger tamer. We can only hope that the advertisements declared, "Lions and tigers and Baer — oh my!"
Throughout the 1950s, Baer continued to juggle his work between Hollywood and the circus, primarily with the Pollack Brothers circus. He was acting, largely in Westerns, throughout this entire time. Horses were nothing compared to safari beats. Besides, as you now know, a horse was practically the best man at his wedding.
As Baer took over the role of Mayberry Mayor in season three (following the death of Dick Elliot, who portrayed Mayor Pike) he remained loyal to the circus. In 1963, a small newspaper item in the Elmira Star-Gazette reported, "Parley Baer of The Andy Griffith Show is a former wild animal trainer, still works eight weeks a year as a circus publicity man."
In case you were wondering, yes, Baer was able to merge both of his careers at least once. The 1976 film The Amazing Dobermans, the third movie in the Doberman Gang trilogy, starred Fred Astaire, Barbara Eden, and a bunch of talented dogs. The revolved around the five Doberman Pinschers and Astaire going undercover in a carnival. Whatever — what you need to know is Parley Baer played Septimus, the circus owner.
That's him in the circus attire up top. What perfect casting!