This Mayberry charity drive organizer was composer John Williams' mother-in-law

Lurene Tuttle was "The First Lady of Radio" before her son-in-law composer wrote the Star Wars soundtrack.

In one of the best-loved episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Opie learns to be more generous when Andy sets him straight after only donating three cents to his school charity.

Watch closely in "Opie’s Charity," and you’ll recognize the charity organizer Annabelle Silby is played by Lurene Tuttle, who could be seen the same year playing the sheriff’s wife in Psycho.

While Tuttle may not be a name that many remember today as well as icons like Lucille Ball, from the 1920s to the 1940s, she was dubbed "The First Lady of Radio" because she was by far the most popular woman on the airwaves.

It’s said that no one in the history of radio achieved the same level of fame.

During the height of her radio career, Tuttle averaged 15 shows weekly, with critics declaring by the end of the 1940s that she was "the finest radio dramatic actress."

"I can think of nothing more enjoyable than a continuing series of half hour dramas with Lurene Tuttle as the star," one critic wrote in the Valley Times in 1948.

Then, when TV dramas started looking for talent, naturally Tuttle was a popular choice among casting directors due to her reputation from radio.

By the time she appeared on The Andy Griffith Show, she had moved on from radio to become one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood.

"At times, I’ve felt like I was caught in a squirrel cage," Tuttle said.

She didn’t exactly know what she was getting into when she started radio acting, but once people became aware of her immense talent, there was no stopping the constant demand and ongoing roles from being offered.

It was a tough adjustment from radio, but Tuttle was game.

"Radio was much easier than any other media," Tuttle told the Hartford Courant in 1961. "We didn’t have to go home to memorize lines for the next day."

Luckily for Tuttle, who started acting when she was 6 years old, she did get a short break when she married actor Mel Ruick and had her daughter Barbara in 1920, temporarily retiring.

Demand would bring her out of retirement almost immediately, though, and Tuttle had to juggle being a mom with being a top character actor.

Once Barbara grew up, she got bit by the acting bug, too, even appearing with her mom in the 1953 movie The Affairs of Dobie Gillis.

The pretty younger starlet eventually got married, started a family, and became an actor in her own right, and her mom Lurene couldn’t have been prouder.

"Barbara is doing something I always wished I could do," Tuttle said, admiring how her daughter balanced work with family. "She sings and dances and is making a name of her own. And my granddaughter and two grandsons are adorable and fun."

Tuttle’s daughter must have been so used to being part of a very busy family that she chose for her husband one of the busiest composers in Hollywood: John Williams.

In the 1950s, Williams got his start composing for TV and movies, leading him to score hit shows like Wagon Train and Lost in Space in the Sixties before his best-known movie soundtrack work in the Seventies on movies like Jaws and Star Wars.

Once Williams married Tuttle’s daughter Barbara, their home was just as busy as both the radio star and the composer’s schedules stayed.

In 2018, the Los Angeles Times reported Williams’ home was a constant jam session, and that the only thing more important to him than music at that time was his love of Barbara.

It was tragic for both Tuttle and Williams when Barbara suddenly died from a brain aneurysm at the age of 41, discovered in her hotel while filming a new movie. Williams said the prior night she had complained of headaches.

Williams eventually remarried, and Tuttle outlived her daughter by more than a decade, passing away in 1986 after performing hundreds and hundreds of roles right up to 1985.

One of her radio costars Howard Duff summed up what made Lurene Tuttle such a go-to character actor through different media, through the ages:

"I think she never met a part she didn't like. She just loved to work; she loved to act. She's a woman who was born to do what she was doing and loved every minute of it."

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

14 Comments

Post a comment
Deirsmith 25 days ago
Lurene Tuttle was an awesome lady! While in college in the early 80’s I took acting and speech classes from Lurene Tuttle! She was fabulous and I consider myself very blessed for the time I got to spend with her.
Jon 28 days ago
I think it was mentioned here on this website that Lurene Tuttle befriended Tom Lester when he moved from Miss. to LA, and his career which she helped him start led him to play Ed Dawson on GREEN ACRES.
tootsieg 29 days ago
Loved learning about the connection between Lurene Tuttle and John Williams. Thanks MeTV!!!
Kenner 1 month ago
“Little old lady’s ought not to clank”
Lantern 1 month ago
She also played Diahann Carroll's nurse colleague on the 60's series "Julia".
Hilary 1 month ago
Ms. Tuttle appeared nearly every season of Perry Mason-from season one in TCOT Substitute Face to Season9 in the Avenging Angel plenty more in between even in as a shop lifter in TCOT Shoplifter’s Shoe and reprised her role as an other shoplifter on Andy Griffith .
Adanor Hilary 1 month ago
Yes, I also have enjoyed watching her on Perry Mason.
JHP 1 month ago
I listen to old time radio all the time and she was a staple regular on so many shows (her and her bible in the shopping bag)
coffeecup 1 month ago
Yes I do remember Lorene on Dynasty. Other funny roles shoplifter on Andy Griffith Show and on movie Psyco. "Norman took a wife???", I love Lucy. Interesting article but sad she lost Barbara too early.
CecilMJames1 1 month ago
Lorene Tuttle one of her last roles was as Adam Carringtons grandmother on a 1983 episode of Dynasty the grandmother the faux grandmother that kidnapped him as an infant and raised him in Billings Montana.
LoveMETV22 1 month ago
Thank You MeTV. Very interesting story about Lurene Tuttle, her daughter and John Williams, and their connections to classic and MeTV as well. Lurene was on this mornings Leave It to Beaver/Bachelor at Large episode as Eddy Haskell's Landlady.
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
On radio she played Marjorie on The Great Gildersleeve and Effie on Sam Spade. She was everywhere.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Lurene Tuttle sounds like a very talented woman. It's sad that her daughter passed away so young.
justjeff 1 month ago
I never would have guessed that Lurene Tuttle's son-in-law was John Williams... you learn something new on occasion from these MeTV stories...
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?