‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Elinor Donahue Credits Ron Howard’s Parents for Being Great

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Elinor Donahue had experience acting with children before The Andy Griffith Show. She recognized the power of Ron Howard’s parents.

When we say power, Outsiders, we’re talking about how they were great around their son. Donahue already had some time in television from her work on the sitcom Father Knows Best, starring Robert Young.

Donahue talked about her experiences on The Andy Griffith Show in an interview with the Archive of American Television.

“I credit his parents,” she said after giving Howard a number of heartfelt platitudes. “Rance Howard, who always has a nice cameo in any of Ron’s movies, is a wonderful character actor. And he came with him more than the mother, the mother stayed home. She’s also an actress.

“She stayed home with Clint, the baby,” Donahue said. “And Rance would come to the set with Ron and taught him his lines. But they were wonderful parents. They kept Ronny a little boy. That’s hard to do. Just a great child.”

Let’s take a few minutes and listen to Donahue talk about this and other topics associated with The Andy Griffith Show.

Donahue played drug store owner Ellie Walker for less than one season on The Andy Griffith Show. Ellie was one of Sheriff Andy Taylor’s first romances on the CBS sitcom.

The actress is still alive at 84 years old.

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Actress Talked About How Don Knotts Would Take Her Lines

As we said, Outsiders, Donahue was no stranger to being in TV sitcoms.

But her lines for The Andy Griffith Show would find themselves being said, instead, by Don Knotts. Of course, Knotts secured himself a lifetime spot in the TV land of humor with his portrayal of Deputy Barney Fife.

Yet Knotts would have a tendency to get her lines.

She said that Griffith and Knotts just clicked.

“And I don’t think they ever felt that that was what was going to happen,” Donahue said. “And we’d sit around the table for the first reading and Andy would say, ‘You know, why don’t we give Ellie’s line to Don and have Don say that?'”

Donahue said her lines kept getting taken away “but they worked.”

She also said that when Knotts said those lines, “they were funny. They weren’t funny when I said them. I’m not funny and, you know, it just worked. It evolved.”

Obviously, Howard went on to star in another sitcom, Happy Days, before becoming a movie director. Knotts would go on after five seasons to make movies. Griffith would have another long-running series as Matlock. All three of them, together with Frances Bavier and other cast members, provided lots of laughs.