‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Frances Bavier Resented Time on the Show Because ‘She Liked to Be the Center of Attention’

The Andy Griffith Show has been earning new fans for more than five decades. The classic show first debuted on television in 1960, becoming an instant favorite with viewers of all ages. Out of all the memorable characters that the series introduced, one of the most timeless and endearing is Aunt Bee, played by Frances Bavier. While the character of Aunt Bee became known as “everyone’s aunt,” behind the scenes, Bavier was a far different personality than the woman that she portrayed on television. 

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was an ensemble show

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The Andy Griffith Show was the brainchild of entertainer and singer Andy Griffith, a multi-talented performer who rose to fame with his comedy monologue, “What It Was, Was Football.” Griffith’s series launched in 1960, with the first few seasons filmed entirely in black and white. The show provided a peaceful escape for many fans, set in the quaint, old-fashioned fictional town of Mayberry.

The Andy Griffith Show might have been helmed by Griffith, but there were many talented stars who were featured on the series. A few fan-favorite performers included Ron Howard as Opie Taylor, Sheriff Taylor’s young son, Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife, Howard McNear as the barber, Floyd Lawson, and the town drunk Otis Campbell, played by Hal Smith.

However, one of the most beloved characters on the show was Aunt Bee, Andy’s maternal aunt who helps him take care of his household. 

Frances Bavier played Aunt Bee on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

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Aunt Bee might have been a gentle soul, a woman who was primarily focused on the kitchen and on the relationships she forged with those closest to her. In real life, however, the actress who played her was a fierce, driven career woman who rose to fame on the stages of New York City.

Bavier began acting in the ’20s, after abandoning her early career plans to be a teacher. Bavier received acclaim for her work in a variety of stage shows and by the ’50s, she was an established character actress on television.

When Bavier was cast as Aunt Bee, it marked a major shift in her career focus. She became closely associated with the role, and she remained a vital part of the cast for the remainder of her career.

Even after The Andy Griffith Show ended in 1968, Bavier continued to play Aunt Bee in the spinoff, Mayberry RFD. Still, many of those who worked with the actress spoke out later about how she had a strong love/hate relationship with the series and with the character that she portrayed. 

Frances Bavier reportedly wasn’t happy with her role as Aunt Bee

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Pop culture expert Geoffrey Mark later wrote, reports Closer Weekly, about a possible source of Bavier’s discontentment with her role as Aunt Bee.

“In the first episode, they tell you how things came to be and much of it centered on Frances’ character. That was the main thrust of the episode, but she wasn’t the main thrust of the show,” Mark explained. “There are many episodes where she actually has very little to do; they’re not centered around her. When Don Knotts left the show and it went to color, the whole mood of the show changed.”

Mark went on to describe how many of the cast members started taking center stage: “Andy was more or less a straight man to the other characters, so one week it was about Aunt Bee, another was about Opie and so on, and it would be less and less about Andy. So Frances began to get larger and larger parts of the last three seasons, which she enjoyed. She liked to be the center of attention, but when she wasn’t, she didn’t like it. She and Andy Griffith did not get along at all. She was practically rude to him.” 

Ultimately, it is Bavier’s skill at creating such a loving character that has become her legacy, and the character of Aunt Bee remains popular to this day.