The woman who played Barney Fife's mom owned more of Mayberry than you realize
Lillian Culver has deep ties to television production history.
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Did you know Barney Fife had a mother? Of course, he did. Everybody has a mom, even Opie, though we never learn her name.
A better question is — did you realize that Mrs. Fife appears on The Andy Griffith Show? It is a fleeting moment onscreen, occurring quite early in the series. In the second-ever episode, "The Manhunt," Andy and Barney are on the search for an escaped criminal. The Sheriff has the deputy stake out the back roads. The ever-diligent Fife pulls over anyone. He stops and frisks Mayor Pike. Barney even pulls over his own dear mom!
"But Barney, I'm your mother!" she protests.
Her scene is but a fleeting moment on the series. We never see Mother Fife again, though Barney occasionally mentions her.
Sixties television experts might recognize the actress. She is Lillian Culver, probably best known for her recurring role as the busybody and socialite Mrs. Schooner on Dennis the Menace.
Yet Lillian Culver has a much more prominent role in the history of Hollywood, and it's hiding right there in her name.
In 1916, Lillian Roberts married Harry Culver, a prominent real estate developer. Three years prior, at the California Club in Los Angeles, Mr. Culver announced his plans to build a new city. Naturally, he called it Culver City. The city was incorporated in 1917, a year after the newlyweds tied the knot.
Sitting southwest of Hollywood nearer to the ocean, Culver City soon became a prominent place in motion pictures. Silent comedy visionary Hal Roach planted his studio there, as did MGM. RKO Pictures constructed its RKO Forty Acres studio lot in Culver City, as well.
Desilu Productions eventually became the owners of Forty Acres lot, using it as a production base for its many television series — including The Andy Griffith Show. The outdoor street facades of the Forty Acres are most familiar as "Mayberry," of course.
So, in a way, without the Culvers, we might not have a Mayberry at all! Lillian Culver would live to be 103 years old, passing away in 1999.