‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Aunt Bee Actor Francis Bavier Played a Different Character in the Pilot

by Keeli Parkey

The cast members and creators behind the earliest episodes of classic television shows are often different than later seasons of that show. This was true of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

One actress, in particular, played a very different role in the show’s pilot than she played to great acclaim later on in the series. That actress was Frances Bavier. She played the kind, loving, and supportive Aunt Bee Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

However, according to an article by MeTV.com, in the pilot episode of the beloved show, Bavier played a character known as Mrs. Henrietta Perkins. Mrs. Perkins was a widow who lived in Mayberry – the fictional town where “The Andy Griffith Show” was based.

In this pilot episode, Mrs. Perkins comes to Andy Griffith’s character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, in order to address an issue of great concern to her. That concern is that a man named Mr. Johnson has been “gouging” Mrs. Perkins on the rental fees for a suit she put on her husband for his funeral.

One factor that is leading to the issue between Bavier’s Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Johnson is that Mrs. Perkins’ husband was actually laid to rest while wearing the suit in question. That’s a great premise for a sitcom if there ever was one, to be honest. It provides conflict, that while it is tragic is basically ridiculous.

Anyway, while Frances Bavier was playing a character that was not Sheriff Andy Taylor’s Aunt Bee, there was a mention of an aunt in Taylor’s life. According to the article, Andy Griffith does reference an Aunt Lucy in the pilot episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Frances Bavier Feared Fans Would Not Like That She Wasn’t Like Her Character on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

According to IMDb.com, Frances Bavier played Aunt Bee on “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960 until 1968. Aunt Bee was the aunt to Andy Griffith’s Sheriff Andy Taylor and great aunt to his son, Opie Taylor, who was played by Ron Howard.

During her tenure on the show, actress Frances Bavier became so closely identified with her Mayberry character that she was worried that fans of the show would be upset when they realized that she, in fact, wasn’t like Aunt Bee in real life.

The actress shared her concerns about the topic during an interview with Carolina Camera prior to her death in 1989.

“I had played Aunt Bee for 10 years. And, it’s very, very difficult for an actress or an actor to create a role and be so identified (with that role) that you as a person no longer exist,” Bavier said. “And all the recognition you get is for a part that is created on the screen.”

After the show ended, Bavier moved to Siler City, North Carolina, and made her home there. Interacting with the locals there proved to be an interesting experience, she said.

“They’re having a problem with trying to be friendly and show their friendliness, at the same time not intrude. It makes it very difficult for them … I’ve had many, many Christmas cards and gifts and it was a little difficult adjustment for me when I first came. …” Bavier said.