This Mayberry actress promised to not get married to further her sci-fi career
Apparently, she never wed. Her final two TV appearances were on The Andy Griffith Show.
The second season of The Andy Griffith Show found someone rather unexpected in trouble with the law: Sheriff Andy.
In the episode "Andy on Trial," Andy messes with the wrong man, a big-time newspaper publisher named J. Howard Jackson, whom the sheriff caught speeding through Mayberry. At the time he's caught speeding, Andy lets Jackson go, but only on the condition that the publisher return to Mayberry in two weeks to stand trial and pay his fine.
When he doesn't show, Andy goes after him. When Andy won't back off, the publisher flips the script and lands Andy on the stand instead.
The episode starts with an exterior shot of a tall office building, signaling to viewers that we are not in Mayberry anymore. Next, we see Andy walking into an office, and there's a lovely secretary who greets him.
This secretary is played by Sally Mansfield, one of the great small screen beauties of the 1950s. She's best known for playing the leading lady in a since-forgotten science-fiction show called Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. It ran for 39 episodes in 1954.
Her character's name was Vena Ray, whose role on the ship was to do typical housewife chores like tutoring and sewing, but also intelligent and competent space adventure stuff like serving as navigator or translator. She was very much part of this crew, defending Earth from space invaders for a full season. Fun fact: The crew also included the ship's resident smartie named… Professor Mayberry!
To nab this role, Mansfield auditioned along with 300 other women. A knockout blonde with big eyes, she landed it with ease, but clearly producers liked her so much, they became very concerned with her ever choosing to leave the show. So in her contract, the story goes, she agreed to never marry and stay single throughout the show's run. She believed it was because they didn't want her getting pregnant.
Although Rocky Jones only lasted one season, Mansfield's contract was for five years. That seems like a lot to promise for a bit of stardom, but Mansfield was an ambitious actor who caught a lot of eyes.
In the same year that her sci-fi show premiered, she was selected to be Miss Emmy, a coveted onstage role where she got to carry the torch and pose as the statuette during the TV awards ceremony. Miss America had the honor the prior year.
But Mansfield wasn't the only one making weird promises in her TV contract. Her costar Richard Crane, Rocky Jones himself, also had to make agreements regarding his marriage status. In his contract, he agreed not to divorce his wife during the show's run.
Although Crane did eventually remarry after the sci-fi show ended, it appears that Mansfield kept her end of the bargain, never marrying her entire life.
She continued acting, guest-starring on The Phil Silvers Show, Hazel, The Donna Reed Show and Bachelor Father. But her acting career ended in 1965, with the last of two appearances she made on The Andy Griffith Show.
The second and final time we see Mansfield in Mayberry comes in the sitcom's sixth season. She plays a character named Stella in an episode called "The Cannon." This time, she's not just the secretary of the rulebreaker Andy's after — she plays one of the thieves who gets caught in the end!
A lovely actor who could play good guys and bad guys equally well, Mansfield stopped acting after this last appearance on The Andy Griffith Show. She passed away in 2001, but not much is known about her life after she stepped out of the spotlight.
In an interview about her starring role for Rocky Jones, Mansfield described producers' expectations of her, and it turned out to be a true summation of her career and her life: "I'm just a sweet little thing who lives in a sort of vacuum — on the television screens and in private life, too."