‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard’s Father Suspected Andy Griffith Didn’t Want Frances Bavier in the Role of Aunt Bee
What’s not mentioned as frequently is the theory that Griffith didn’t want Bavier in the role in the first place.
According to Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show author Daniel de Visé, that may have been the case and Ron Howard’s father reportedly heard Griffith speak of it.
Bavier was an accomplished actor
Famed director Ron Howard who played Sheriff Taylor’s son Opie on the classic series recalled Bavier as a dedicated actor with something of a difficult personality. It’s no wonder then, that she and Griffith had a hard time seeing eye to eye, as Griffith also was known for his moody personality.
Howard remained in touch with Bavier until her death in 1989 at age 86.
“She kept to herself,” Howard told the Archive of American Television in 2006. “Frances very much kept to herself. She was a New York stage actress, and I think she always loved the job and appreciated it was a big success, and was extremely professional.
“But I don’t think she ever felt a part of what these boys were up to and their shenanigans,” he added.
Bavier was quite a character herself
The actor who would gain worldwide fame as Aunt Bee was a complex personality, de Visé said.
“There was no more enigmatic presence on the Desilu set than Frances, who turned 60 on the third season of Griffith,” he wrote. “She had perhaps the longest résumé of anyone in the cast.
“Frances was a singular, sobering presence on the Griffith set. She wouldn’t dance and sing and laugh with the others,” he added. “She didn’t like coarse language or practical jokes. She could be prickly.”
Griffith reportedly didn’t like Bavier from the start
According to de Visé, Ron Howard’s father Rance may have picked up on Griffith’s lack of approval of or affection for Bavier.
“Her rapport with Andy was particularly cool, a mutual disapprobation that Andy expressed mostly in the absence of his usual, voluble warmth,” he wrote.
De Visé quotes Rance as saying, “He seemed to bear some kind of resentment toward Frances. I think she was [executive producer] Sheldon Leonard’s choice…and she may not have been Andy’s choice.”
The father to the show’s star child actor also remarked about overhearing Gomer actor Jim Nabors chide Griffith for making unkind remarks about 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.”
In the end, however, Bavier and Griffith mended fences before her death. The two spoke in a phone conversation during which, Griffith reported, she apologized to him for the rocky relationship they’d had.
[Correction: An earlier version erroneously stated Jim Nabors played Goober.]