R.I.P. Joan Staley, co-star of Don Knotts and classic Batman villain
The former Playboy Playmate appeared on Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip before becoming Bob Barker's agent.
Image: The Everett Collection
In many ways, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show. Beyond the headlining star Don Knotts, many familiar Mayberry faces appeared in the film. Hal Smith, best known as Otis Campbell, pops up as another town drunk. Mayberry elders Burt Mustin and Hope Summers both have roles in the movie, too. It may have been Knotts' first major blockbuster after leaving The Andy Griffith Show, but essentially it repurposed the plot of "The Haunted House," the hilarious Halloween episode from season four.
Knotts had a new co-star, however. Joan Staley, a onetime 1958 Playboy Playmate, portrayed the love interest of "Mr. Chicken," Alma.
She may not have come from Mayberry, but Staley was certainly recognizable to anyone who watched great television. The former child violinist grew up in Los Angeles, landing film roles as an adolescent. She appeared on Perry Mason four times between 1958 and 1962, playing four different roles.
Staley found a recurring role on 77 Sunset Strip, where she played Hannah, the secretary of Stuart Bailey (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.). Immediately following that gig, she landed a starring spot on Broadside, a military sitcom loosely spun off from McHale's Navy.
Living in Memphis for a spell, Staley also had a couple of ties to Elvis Presley. She was working as a legal secretary and married to a local director. She met the King himself.
"So me and my first husband, who was a cameraman for a local television station, got to meet Elvis," Staley said in a 2016 interview with The College Crowd Digs Me blog. "It was in 1956. And we became casual friends with Elvis. We were invited to some of the celebrations at Sun Records."
Staley would end up singing backup on some Sun Records releases.
And, she would end up on the big screen alongside Elvis himself, as a character in his 1964 movie Roustabout.
Following her two major cinematic roles, Staley had another notable job on the small screen. In the fall of 1966, she became the Batman villain Okie Annie, sidekick to the wicked cowboy Shame. In one memorable scene, Okie Annie helps Bruce Wayne buy lingerie for Aunt Harriet.
Staley did not have many screen appearances following that, a handful including Adam-12. Instead, she worked behind the camera, forming a talent agency with her second husband, Dale Sheets. The two ran International Ventures Inc. and represented clients as diverse as Bob Barker and Mel Tormé.
On November 24, Staley died due to heart failure, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 79.