What Was ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Star Frances Bavier’s Last Project?

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images)

Some actors found their big break on The Andy Griffith Show. For instance, Andy Griffith had worked on the stage and appeared in a handful of variety shows and films before the iconic series took off. Additionally, Ron Howard got his big break on the show. He went on to star in Happy Days and direct several major motion pictures. However, Frances Bavier was different. By the time she landed the role of Aunt Bee, she was an accomplished actress.

Frances Bavier landed her first Broadway role in 1925 in The Poor Nut. It kicked off a long and successful stage career, according to IMDb. Bavier started taking film and television roles in the early thirties. Her first major role came in the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. She was 58 years old when she took the role of the kindly Aunt Bee.

Frances Bavier stayed in Mayberry for eleven years. First, she was in The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1968. Then, she reprised her role for Mayberry R.F.D from 1968 to 1971. Aunt Bee was one of her final roles. After leaving Mayberry, Bavier only took on one more role.

Frances Bavier’s Final Film Role

After playing Aunt Bee for over a decade, the nearly 70-year-old Bavier only took one more role. She played The Lady with the Cat in the 1974 family comedy classic Benji. If you’ve seen the movie, you might remember seeing Frances Bavier as the elderly owner of a white cat named Sweetie Petey. The titular canine chases the cat up a tree every morning as part of his daily routine.

After that relatively small role, Frances Bavier retired from acting. She passed away in 1989 at the age of 86 in Siler City, North Carolina.

Aunt Bee Didn’t Feel Like She Belonged in Mayberry

Frances Bavier entered the cast of The Andy Griffith Show as an accomplished professional actress. As a result, she had a different bearing than the other members of the cast. In an interview, Ron Howard recalled that Bavier didn’t really feel like she fit in with the rest of the cast. “I don’t think she ever felt a part of what these boys were up to and their shenanigans,” Howard recalled.

Additionally, her years of serious acting made her hard to deal with on the set. Howard recalled that Howard Morris, who directed some episodes of the show and played Ernest T. Bass had issues directing Frances Bavier. Morris, Howard said, compared directing Bavier to “stepping on a landmine.”

Before she passed away in 1989, Frances Bavier called Andy Griffith to apologize for her behavior on set and to say that she wished they would have been better friends.