Goober Pyle Actor George Lindsey Revealed Andy Griffith Wouldn’t Budge on His Salary for the Mayberry Reunion Movie

In 1986, when Andy Griffith made the decision to get the old Andy Griffith Show gang together for the television film Return to Mayberry, he offered George Lindsey a sum the Goober Pyle actor simply could not accept.

Griffith contacted the actor again and his request surprised Lindsey.

A few cast members from the 1986 television movie 'Return to Mayberry' pose for a photo: (back row l-r) Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, George Lindsey as Goober Pyle (front row l-r) Don Knotts as Barney Fife, Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, Ron Howard as Opie Taylor
The ‘Return to Mayberry’ cast:
(back row l-r) Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, George Lindsey as Goober Pyle
(front row l-r) Don Knotts as Barney Fife, Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor,
Ron Howard as Opie Taylor | Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

‘Return to Mayberry’ aired in 1986

Andy Griffith started reaching out to the Griffith Show cast for the Return to Mayberry reunion television movie special in 1986. Everyone was available to appear, except for Aunt Bee actor Frances Bavier, as well as “Floyd the barber” actor Howard McNear who died in 1969.

As Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show author Daniel de Visé wrote, “In February 1986, the Griffith principals traveled to Southern California wine country to begin shooting Return to Mayberry.

Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in a scene from the 1986 television film, 'Return to Mayberry'
Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in a scene from the 1986 television film, ‘Return to Mayberry’ | Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

“The exception was Frances Bavier, Aunt Bee,” he continued. “The official explanation was illness, but Frances simply wasn’t interested in returning to Mayberry. She refused to record even a few lines to be played, like a voice-over from beyond, in a scene that had Andy visit her grave.”

Dean Hargrove, an executive producer of the film, went on to help create and produce Griffith’s next success, Matlock. He was quoted as saying that the actors and crew “weren’t all that unhappy that [Bavier] declined.”

Lindsey refused at first to appear in the TV movie

Initially, George Lindsey was hired in the 1960s for The Andy Griffith Show for the role of Gomer Pyle. When Griffith met Jim Nabors, however, the show star and its producers agreed that Nabors was a better fit for the role of the innocent, slightly dim gas station attendant.

Although Griffith did eventually hire Lindsey to play Goober Pyle, when he was called up for Return to Mayberry, he took the opportunity to avenge the snub.

RELATED: Was ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Television’s Very First Spinoff?

“If the producers paid us more money, that meant less money for them,” he wrote. “So those decisions always come down to the bottom line, and that meant our pay was never extravagant.

“The Return to Mayberry producers offered me $20,000 to play Goober. I turned them down and they withdrew the offer. A short time later, Andy, who was also executive producer for the project, called and asked if I would do the part for $20,000 as a personal favor to him. Of course I said yes. How could I not?”

The movie was a huge success

Return to Mayberry was a big hit and a welcome reunion for much of the cast, as de Visé noted: “[The film] was part movie, part reunion show – and on those terms, it far exceeded Andy’s dim hopes. The writers wisely built the story around the friendship between Andy and Barney.”

The former cast were grateful to Griffith for the opportunity to revisit a happy time in their lives.

“‘Return to Mayberry was the nicest thing Andy could have done for anybody,’ recalled Mitch Jayne of the Dillards, the bluegrass ensemble Andy had discovered and promoted on the Griffith Show two decades earlier. ‘It told people that he had never forgotten the place, or the people who had loved him for creating it.'”