The Andy Griffith Show answered many questions about life, love, and friendship, but it failed to answer one very specific question about the plot—what happened to Opie’s mom? While the writers never gave the mother much direct attention, they did reveal that she died in the backdoor pilot and hinted she passed during childbirth.
The only episode that addressed the question in the actual series was Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee, which aired during Season 2. During a heart-to-heart chat between Andy Taylor and Opie, Andy mentioned that he and Opie’s mom were very much in love when they were together.
Of course, that small mention doesn’t mean anything besides the fact that Mayberry’s sheriff loved his former wife at some point. However what some fans don’t know is that The Andy Griffith Show first reached TV through a backdoor pilot on The Danny Thomas Show. In an episode titled Danny Meets Andy Griffith, Andy admits that his wife passed away when Opie was a baby.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Backdoor Pilot Reveals the Fate of Mrs. Taylor
The story aired on Feb. 15, 1960. In it, Danny drives through Andy’s idyllic town and makes the mistake of blowing through a stop sign, which might be the worst thing that ever happened in Mayberry. So, Sheriff Taylor books him in the local jail.
There was a short dialogue between Andy and Opie that somewhat cleared up the missing mother element. At one point in the show, Opie’s pet turtle died after someone stepped on it. When Andy tries to help Opie reconcile the death, he admits that he could empathize with the experience because his wife died when Opie was “the least little speck of a baby.”
How Mrs. Taylor died is never addressed, but as Bob Snapp, the host of the popular YouTube series The Andy Griffith Show Facts and Trivia shares, many fans speculate that she died during childbirth or just after.
One thing we do know is that Mrs. Taylor died before Opie was old enough to form memories of her because the short mentions of her make it obvious that he doesn’t remember life with her.
If you’d like to watch the back door pilot, it’s available here.
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