Everyone who turns on “The Andy Griffith Show” finds “Aunt Bee” to be a sweet, kind character. The actress who played her could be difficult.
Frances Bavier, who played “Aunt Bee” on the “Griffith” show as well as its spinoff “Mayberry R.F.D.,” came on the show from a theatrical career. Her background was not in comedy, which definitely was a thread throughout the “Griffith” show’s run.
But Bavier had a bit of a reputation for being difficult to work with. In fact, one of the show’s other characters was rather vocal about it.
Howard Morris, who played “Ernest T. Bass” on the show, had a deep history in comedy from his days as a writer and performer on the classic “Your Show of Shows.” Morris played different roles on that show and worked incredibly well with that show’s main star, Sid Caesar.
On the “Griffith” show, Morris directed a few of those episodes. When it came to working with the show’s actors, Morris usually got along with the entire cast. One exception, though, was “Aunt Bee” character actress Frances Bavier.
Howard Morris Didn’t Get Along With ‘Aunt Bee’ Actress
Pop culture is something that interests so many people these days. There actually are historians who focus on pop culture. One of them, author Geoffrey Mark, spoke a little bit about the Morris-Bavier relationship on the set.
Historian Geoffrey Mark said, “I can only repeat what I was told, but on ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ Howard Morris, who played Ernest T. Bass on the show and directed episodes of it, said that directing Frances was like stepping on a landmine.
“If you would ask her to move three inches to the right to get in the proper frame, she’d blow a fuse and refuse,” Mark said.
Bavier did win an Emmy Award for her role on the “Griffith” show. Sheldon Leonard, who was the executive director on the show, shared his thoughts around Bavier in an interview with “The Andy Griffith Show Book” author Richard Kelly. Leonard flatly said she was the most difficult person to work with in the cast.
Leonard Remembers Bavier As Being ‘Self-Contained’
He remembered her “a rather remote lady. Highly professional and a fine comedienne, fine actress with very individual character. She was rather self-contained and was not part of the general hijinks that centered upon Andy on the set.” Leonard worked with comedian and entertainer Danny Thomas, who actually gave Andy Griffith’s Andy Taylor character its first appearance on TV in Thomas’ “Make Room For Daddy” show on ABC.
Bavier died on Dec. 6, 1989. She reportedly contacted Griffith a few months before her death, apologizing for being difficult with him and others on the show.
Morris portrayed Bass on a number of episodes where it crossed over from black-and-white television into color television.
There’s no word whether or not Morris and Bavier ever managed to settle their differences. Bavier and “Aunt Bee” remain a loving part of a show that still touches people’s hearts every day.
Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Jim Nabors, George Lindsey, Morris, Howard McNear, and others in the cast are still seen in episode after episode. They are deeply loved and, in spite of Bavier’s differences with Morris and others, “Aunt Bee” will always be a character near and dear to many fans.