One of The Andy Griffith Show‘s most beloved actors was, as has been well-documented, one of Andy Griffith’s least favorite co-stars.
Frances Bavier played Aunt Bee on the classic comedy series for its entire eight-season run, and as well on its spin-off series, Mayberry R.F.D. for three more years.
Jim Nabors who portrayed Gomer Pyle on the program was good friends with Bavier and spoke up to Griffith when he spoke unkindly of her, as Ron Howard’s father recalled.
Nabors joined ‘Andy Griffith’ in the show’s 3rd season
Griffith discovered Nabors while the entertainer was performing at a nightclub. A mutual friend of the two men highly encouraged Griffith to see Nabors’ show. They were right. Griffith was more than impressed with Nabors. He could picture him fitting right in on his CBS comedy.
Daniel de Visé wrote in 2015’s Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show that the friend “escorted Andy to see Jim perform. ‘I didn’t want to go,’ Andy recalled. ‘But the man got up and was electrifying.’”
Nabors’ performance displayed his broad talent: he would sing opera and then go into a monologue using his hillbilly ‘Gomer Pyle’ accent.
“Afterward, Andy caught up with Jim on the sidewalk outside,” de Visé said. “‘I don’t know what you do, but it’s magic, whatever it is. If a part ever comes up on our show, I’ll give you a call.’”
The performer, of course, would go on to play Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and within a year would receive his very own spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Frances Bavier served as mentor to Nabors – and the 2 shared a hobby
Bavier, who famously did not warm up to very many on The Andy Griffith Show cast, quickly became good friends with Nabors. Not only did she take him under her wing to help the inexperienced actor with his lines, but the two also took up a hobby together, visiting antique stores together on the weekends, according to de Visé.
Asking Nabors, “Is this really your first time?,” Bavier watched his first moment attempting to deliver his lines for the camera instead of a large audience.
She offered feedback right away. “Darling,” she told him, “the camera never misses anything. It never misses a wink or a blink or a smile. I know you’re from nightclubs. You don’t have to do any of that expository, expressive acting. Just settle down and be yourself.”
Nabors shut Griffith down
It’s not a secret that Griffith and Bavier never saw eye to eye. As noted, the Aunt Bee actor didn’t warm up to many of her cast mates. With Griffith, it seemed to be a full-on cold war.
Rance Howard, young Ron Howard’s father, shared with de Visé that he’d heard an exchange between Nabors and Griffith regarding Bavier.
“Jim Nabors counted Frances as a dear friend,” Rance recalled to the author. “One day on the set, Andy muttered something under his breath about Frances.”
Rance continued, “And I remember we were walking back from a table reading on our way to the soundstage, and I heard Jim say, not loudly, but he said, ‘Andy, she’s a good actress. You be nice to her.’ And Andy had no reply for that.”