‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Frances Bavier Struggled With Aunt Bee Fame After Series Ended

The Andy Griffith Show is a series that created several stars, introducing characters that live on in pop culture history to this day — even though the series went off the air more than five decades ago. One of the most popular characters on the show was Aunt Bee, the maternal aunt to Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith.

Aunt Bee was a warm, wonderful woman, who took care not only of Andy Taylor but of his young son, Opie, as well. While Aunt Bee was often seen as “America’s aunt,” the actor behind the character was, in real life, a great deal more complex

Frances Bavier got her start in vaudeville

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee looks out a bus window on 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee looks out a bus window on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS via Getty Images

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Frances Bavier was born in New York City in 1902. Raised in a working-class family, Bavier planned on becoming a teacher after completing her education — but her future took a drastically different path when she began working in vaudeville.

Bavier went on to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating in 1925, and then moving on to appear in various Broadway productions. She made waves in several big-budget Broadway productions, including On Borrowed Time and Point of no Return

Eventually, she made the transition to acting in movies and television, all while keeping one foot on the stage. A few of Bavier’s early movie roles included parts in TV shows like The Eve Arden Show, The Lone Ranger, and Make Room for Daddy.

It was her work in the latter show that indirectly led to an audition for The Andy Griffith Show, a brand-new series headlined by Southern entertainer and actor Andy Griffith. 

Frances Bavier rose to fame as Aunt Bee on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

(L to R): Aneta Corsaut as Helen Crump, Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor, Ron Howard as Opie Taylor, and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor of 'The Andy Griffith Show'
(L to R): Aneta Corsaut as Helen Crump, Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor, Ron Howard as Opie Taylor, and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Bavier, a talented actress, was able to make the character of Aunt Bee an immediate fan-favorite on The Andy Griffith Show. Still, Bavier was known to be somewhat distant from her fellow cast members.

As showrunner Sheldon Leonard later recalled, Bavier was “a rather remote lady. Highly professional and a fine comedienne, fine actress with very individual character. She was rather self-contained and was not part of the general hijinks that centered upon Andy on the set.”

Ron Howard, who played Opie Taylor, remembered Bavier as an actress who “kept to herself” and was “extremely professional.” Still, Bavier had a hard time reconciling the success that she received from the show with her desire for privacy. 

How did Frances Bavier deal with fame after ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ ended?

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Even after The Andy Griffith Show ended, Bavier continued playing the character of Aunt Bee in a spinoff series and several made-for-television movies. Still, the last years of her life were anything but easy.

As YouTuber LandumC Goes There detailed in a video, reports Closer Weekly, Bavier suffered from an extreme lack of privacy in her later years: “She had people gawking at her house and peeking through the window. She couldn’t go out to dinner or to the grocery store without being constantly harassed in her mind by adoring fans. People were constantly making jokes relating to Aunt Bee and she actually didn’t have her own personality anymore. She lived through everybody’s eyes of seeing her as Aunt Bee. This continued and it just wore Frances down.”

The YouTuber continued, detailing how Bavier felt pressured to stay inside more than ever: “It’s a small wonder then, by the ’80s, the former television star was living out of her back bedroom. Her curtains were pulled tight and she lived there with her 14 cats.” Bavier passed away in 1989, but left behind a legacy of love and laughter that endures to this day.