Elinor Donahue was only 23 when she joined the cast of The Andy Griffith Show.
She played a very modern woman, albeit one from 1960. As Ellie Walker, Donahue was a pharmacist. Sheriff Andy Taylor became her boyfriend. And Andy called her the “lady pharmacist. On the show, she ran for city council. Andy talked his friends into voting for her, vouching that she could do the job as well as a man. (Again, this was 1960 and The Andy Griffith Show).
Plus, in her one season with the show, she helped Barney get together with Thelma Lou.
Although Donahue signed a three-year contract, she only stayed for a season. She was going through a divorce as The Andy Griffith Show premiered. In hindsight, Donahue said she needed a break to take care of some personal issues.
She married Harry Ackerman in 1962. They’d met on set of Father Knows Best. And together, they were a Hollywood power couple. She was an actress, while Donahue’s husband produced some of the most popular shows on TV. Besides Father Knows Best, Ackerman also produced Dennis the Menace, Leave It to Beaver, Hazel, Bewitched, The Flying Nun and Gidget. There was a 25-year age difference between the two of them. But they were married for almost 30 years. Ackerman died in 1991.
Donahue, who was so charming in The Andy Griffith Show, stayed busy working in television. She even had a role in the Julia Roberts’ movie Pretty Woman.
If you’re a fan of classic TV, you’ve spotted Donahue on a lot of shows. She played Sally Field’s sister on The Flying Nun. (That was the sister of Sister Bertrille, not a fellow nun.)
Do You Recognize This Andy Griffith Show Star From Golden Girls?
This one-time star on The Andy Griffith Show also played a memorable character on the iconic Golden Girls. Toss it back to 1989 for the Donahue episode when she played the future wife of Stan Zbornak, Dorothy’s ex husband.
Stan met his future, age-appropriate wife at the post office. He courted her with candy and flowers. But Stan never told Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia and Rose until he was about to propose. And yes, Blanche didn’t think the diamond was big enough.
The episode also was memorable because Sophia was so sick she needed to go to the ICU. Stan waited at the hospital with Dorothy the entire night. And Dorothy convinced herself she wanted him back.
But, she didn’t cause a fuss. Instead, Donahue unknowingly gave Dorothy one of the biggest compliments of her life.
Here’s a sampling of the dialogue between Donahue, the one-time star of The Andy Griffith Show, and Bea Arthur, the iconic Dorothy. The two were sitting at a bar. Neither women knew who the other was.
Donahue described why she was so intimidated by Stan’s first wife.
“No one’s like her. She’s superwoman. She was the perfect wife. Cooked, cleaned, had two kids, got an education, has never looked better, and now she has a career.”
Dorothy cracks: “That wasn’t a marriage. That’s a commercial for a mini pad.”
Donahue tells her all about Dorothy. “She’s coming to our wedding. I mean, they’re still friends. … I’m so intimidated by a woman I’ve never even met.
“She sounds pretty terrific,” Dorothy said. “I bet she’s gorgeous, too.”