Unfortunately, Annie Oakley star Gail Davis performed her last role ever as Sheriff Andy's sweetheart
The Andy Griffith Show cast her as ''the perfect female,'' but most directors believed the Western star ''was always going to be Annie Oakley.''
When Barney Fife and his gal set up Sheriff Andy Taylor with Thelma Lou's cousin Karen in The Andy Griffith Show episode "The Perfect Female," she seems the perfect match for Andy.
She can play guitar and sing, and he's even surprised to learn that she likes shooting sporting clays. As the episode title suggests, she's a real looker and she shares all the same interests as Andy.
There's only one problem getting in the way of this romance: Karen's worried Andy's ego is a bit too big, and she's determined to shoot it down.
So at the end of the episode, when Andy seems certain to win the prize for shooting sporting clays in a local tournament, nobody sees it coming when suddenly Karen becomes his biggest competition.
Well, nobody saw it coming, except everybody in the audience who knew the actor playing Karen better as TV's Annie Oakley.
From 1954 to 1957, Gail Davis appeared in the starring role of Annie Oakley, handpicked by series producer and cowboy singer Gene Autry.
Autry once famously called Davis "the perfect Western actress," to which The Andy Griffith Show episode title likely calls back.
You see, Davis didn't just play a sharpshooter on TV. When she was a little girl, before she even learned to sing and dance, she learned to shoot doing target practice with acorns, growing up in her small town in Arkansas.
According to The Miami News in 1956, Davis received a rifle as a gift from her physician father at the age of eight, and by nine years old was able to pick off an acorn from 60 yards away, shooting backward.
She met Autry as a college student who had recently transferred to the University of Texas, and she impressed him so much, he told her to look him up if she ever came to Hollywood.
Shortly after she graduated, she made a point to ride through California and Autry made good on his word and put her in his shows and live events.
In 1956, The Charlotte Observer described Davis as she appeared at a local show, saying, "With her yellow hair and pigtails down her back, wearing her flat cowgirl hat, she was as tiny and dainty as a Dresden China doll, with a six-gun on her hip and toting a shiny-barrelled .22 rifle."
At live shows, Davis would thrill crowds by shooting Christmas ornaments off of a revolving wheel or shooting over her shoulder while sighting in a mirror and then nailing a bullseye located far behind her.
On The Andy Griffith Show, Davis recreated this act for the last time. Knowing more about her history makes the comedy of the final scene as brilliant as the rhinestone hats Davis once tossed to young fans.
By 1961, when she appeared as Thelma Lou's cousin Karen and Andy's potential sweetheart, Davis was more than ready to leave Annie Oakley behind and step into more roles. Sadly, she instead felt that she had become typecast and never found the success she deserved.
"I tried to find other acting work, but I was so identified as Annie Oakley that directors would say, 'Gail, I'd like to hire you, but you're going to have to wait a few years, dye your hair and cut off your pigtails,'" Davis told The Chicago Tribune in 1982. "Directors just couldn't envision me in a sexy part or playing a heavy. I was always going to be Annie Oakley. So, as they say, I retired."
Thus, The Andy Griffith Show would be the last time she ever appeared onscreen.