Frances Bavier: Everyone's Favorite "Aunt Bee" From TV's "The Andy Griffith Show"

Herbie J Pilato

She was everyone's favorite Aunt Bee. That is, at least on television, where she lives immortal on The Andy Griffith Show, which debuted on CBS in 1960. Her real name was Frances Bavier.

According to entertainment historian Allan Newsome and, "Frances Bavier was born in New York City on December 14, 1902. Her first Broadway appearance was in April 1925 in The Poor Nut, the start of a successful Broadway career. She traveled with the USO to entertain the U.S. troops in the Pacific during World War II. Her last appearance on Broadway was in the 1951 play, Point of No Return starring Henry Fonda. It ran for 356 performances.

Bavier's first movie was the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was also the first time the actress appeared with Olan Soule. He later went on to play Mayberry's choir director, John Masters, on The Andy Griffith Show. In The Day The Earth Stood Still, Bavier and Soule were both boarders in the rooming house where the alien stayed.

Bavier made several other motion pictures during the 1950s and appeared on TV as featured characters on shows like It's a Great Life (1954) and The Eve Arden Show (1957).

All of that transpired before Bavier was cast in what would become her most famous role. That of the beloved Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show, which starred Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor, and Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife.

The series would also introduce the world to Ron Howard, who would play Aunt Bee's grand-nephew, the son of Sheriff Taylor.

Howard would later find super fame as the kind and cordial Richie Cunningham playing opposite Henry Winkler as The Fonz on the long-running ABC sitcom Happy Days (1974-1984).

But Howard would also find success behind the scenes, as one of Hollywood's major directors.

As Howard once revealed, “Frances very much kept to herself. She was a New York stage actress, and I think she always loved [playing Aunt Bee] and appreciated [that The Andy Griffith Show] was a big success and was extremely professional. But I don’t think she ever felt a part of what these boys were up to and their shenanigans.”

Either way, Frances Bavier and Aunt Bee would have both been proud upon hearing Ron Howard's words.

Comments / 75

Published by

Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

More from Herbie J Pilato

Comments / 0