Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Frances Bavier Was ‘Adopted’ by Ron Howard’s Family

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Frances Bavier Was ‘Adopted’ by Ron Howard’s Family

While The Andy Griffith Show gave off a family vibe, a real one existed between Frances Bavier and Ron Howard. The interactions between Bavier’s Aunt Bee and Howard’s Opie Taylor were warm and cute, and, as Bavier herself once recalled, spilled outside of the fictional world of Mayberry.

Remember the time Aunt Bee became infatuated with Colonel Harvey, the medicine man? Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) comes home to find a tipsy Aunt Bee sitting at the piano with Opie singing “Toot, Toot, Tootsie.”

Bavier and Howard also had a first-episode moment in The New Housekeeper when little Opie runs out to Andy’s car. He’s about to take Aunt Bee to the bus station when Opie pleads for her to stay. She wasn’t sure she could cut it being around Andy and Opie, what with her lack of skill at fishing or playing baseball. Yet the intangibles were what Opie really wanted and needed, so Aunt Bee stayed.

Frances Bavier and Ron Howard Enjoyed a Close Bond in Real Life

Frances Bavier played Aunt Bee for all eight seasons that The Andy Griffith Show scored big ratings for CBS. She also continued playing the role for three seasons on Mayberry R.F.D. But there’s more to Bavier, Howard, and their connection. Bavier elaborated on the family type of situation when chatting back in 1961 with the Hartford Courant newspaper.

“But no one ever adopted me before,” Bavier said, per MeTV. “I started out playing an aunt to a little boy I had not known. And now I feel like a member of the family.”

The Courant interview pointed out that Ron Howard even referred to Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee. Bavier, and Aunt Bee, had a spot in his real life. There was a warmth and friendship between Ron Howard and Frances Bavier.

Bavier related one story about Howard turning seven years old. On the show, both cast and crew members got Howard a jungle gym and swing set. Ron Howard immediately sought out Frances Bavier, wanting her to try out the swing set with him.

“Now mind you, he thanked everyone for the present,” Bavier said. “He’s a very mannerly little boy. But when he got to me, he climbed into my lap and invited me to come over and swing with him. I think he has truly adopted me at last.”

The Andy Griffith Show star added that she would have dinner often with Ron Howard, his brother Clint, his father Rance, and his mother Jean. “They feel like family,” Bavier said.

Ron Howard Spoke Highly of His ‘TAGS’ Costar

It’s worth pointing out that Bavier herself wasn’t much like Aunt Bee. Bavier came from the stage world of New York and spoke in proper diction all the time.

In Howard’s memoir The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, Ron offers some thoughts about Frances Bavier as he did with the rest of the series’ cast. He remembered her for being quite professional on the set and how she would relax when not on the camera.

Upon retiring from the acting world, Bavier bought a house in North Carolina. She lived out the latter years of her life in seclusion. Even an effort by Andy Griffith and Ron Howard to have her become a part of the Return to Mayberry TV movie fell flat.

While she never returned to her most famous role, Bavier has been Aunt Bee to millions of viewers. Sure, she did other things in her career but none lasted as long as this one. Generation after generation continues to see the connection between Opie and Aunt Bee, learning life lessons along the way.

One might imagine if Frances Bavier could see Ron Howard today as a successful movie director. She probably would be pretty proud of his work, just like a sweet aunt.