Frances Bavier

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Frances Bavier
Frances Bavier 1964.JPG
Frances Bavier in 1964.
BornFrances Elizabeth Bavier
(1902-12-14)December 14, 1902
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 86)
Siler City, North Carolina, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Oakwood Cemetery
Other namesHazel Howard
Alma materColumbia University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActress
Years active1930–1974
Known forThe Andy Griffith Show
Mayberry R.F.D.
 
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Frances Bavier
Frances Bavier 1964.JPG
Frances Bavier in 1964.
BornFrances Elizabeth Bavier
(1902-12-14)December 14, 1902
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 86)
Siler City, North Carolina, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Oakwood Cemetery
Other namesHazel Howard
Alma materColumbia University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationActress
Years active1930–1974
Known forThe Andy Griffith Show
Mayberry R.F.D.

Frances Elizabeth Bavier (December 14, 1902 – December 6, 1989) was an American stage and television actress. Originally from New York theatre, Bavier worked in film and television from the 1950s. She played the role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970. Aunt Bee logged more Mayberry years (ten) than any other character. Bavier won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress for the role in 1967.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New York City, Bavier originally planned to become a teacher after attending Columbia University. She first appeared in vaudeville, later moving to the Broadway stage.[1] After graduating from American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1925, she found herself cast in the stage comedy The Poor Nut.[2] Bavier's big break came in the original Broadway production of On Borrowed Time. She later appeared with Henry Fonda in the play Point of No Return.[3]

Bavier had roles in more than a dozen films, as well as playing a range of supporting roles on television. Career highlights include her turn as Mrs. Barley in the classic 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. In 1955 she played an early auntie role as Aunt Maggie Sawtelle, a frontier Ma Barker-type character in the Lone Ranger episode "Sawtelle's Saga End." In the episode, she fights with Tonto while the Lone Ranger fought with her nephew. At the conclusion, Tonto says that he'd like to trade opponents next time. In 1957 she played Nora Martin, mother to Eve Arden, in the series The Eve Arden Show. That year she guest starred in the eighth episode of Perry Mason as Louise Marlow in "The Case of the Crimson Kiss".

Bavier had a love-hate relationship with her most famous role, Aunt Bee, during The Andy Griffith Show. She was also in an episode of Make Room for Daddy which featured Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor. She played a character named Henrietta Perkins. As a New York actress, she felt her dramatic talents were overlooked. At the same time, she played Aunt Bee for eight seasons and was the only original cast member to remain with the series in the spin-off Mayberry R.F.D., staying two additional seasons.[4] In contrast to her affable character Aunt Bee, Bavier was easily offended and the production staff took a "walking on eggshells" approach to dealing with her. She won the Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy in 1967. Series star Andy Griffith admitted that the two sometimes clashed during the series' run. According to Griffith (Larry King Live, April 24, 1998), Bavier phoned him four months before she died, and said she was deeply sorry for being "difficult" during the series' run.

Later years[edit]

In 1972, Bavier retired from acting and bought a home in Siler City, North Carolina.[5] On choosing to live in North Carolina instead of her native New York, Bavier said that, "I fell in love with North Carolina, all the pretty roads and the trees." She briefly returned to acting in 1974 in the family film Benji. Bavier never married or had children. Somewhat awkward in one-on-one relationships, she was nonetheless altruistic at heart. According to a 1981 article by Chip Womick, a staff writer of The Courier Tribune, Bavier enthusiastically promoted Christmas and Easter Seal Societies from her Siler City home, and often wrote inspirational letters to fans who sought autographs. Overly zealous fans, however, often invaded both her property and privacy, and Bavier became reclusive.

Bavier's health prevented her from taking part in the 1986 television movie Return to Mayberry. Andy and Barney visit Aunt Bee at a grave site, which included a wistful voice over.

Frances Bavier had been a fan of Studebaker cars since the thirties. In Mayberry R.F.D., she drove her own 1966 Daytona two-door Sports Sedan (which was the last model of the South Bend factory, though produced in Canada from 1964 to 1966). She kept this car in perfect condition while alive and refused to purchase a new car when her driver suggested it. As her health failed, it sat idle in her garage and was found with four flat tires, and a ruined interior from her many cats. It was auctioned for $20,000 one year after her death in the same condition as it was found. The new owners felt if it were restored it would no longer be Aunt Bee's Studebaker. She was also a member of the Studebaker Drivers Club.

Death[edit]

On November 22, 1989, Bavier was admitted to Chatham Hospital. She suffered from both heart disease and cancer and was kept in the coronary care unit for two weeks. She was discharged on December 4, 1989, and died at her home two days later of a heart attack.

Bavier is interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City.[6] Her headstone includes the name of her most famous role, "Aunt Bee" and reads, "To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die."[7]

Filmography[edit]

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
1931Girls About TownJoy
1951The Day the Earth Stood StillMrs. Barley
1952The Lady Says NoAunt Alice Hatch
1952Bend of the RiverMrs. PrentissAlternative title: Where the River Bends
1952Sally and Saint AnneMrs. Kitty "Mom" O'Moyne
1952My Wife's Best FriendMrs. Chamberlain
1952Horizons WestMartha Hammond
1952Stooge, TheThe StoogeMrs. Rogers
1953Man in the AtticHelen Harley
1956Bad Seed, TheThe Bad SeedWoman in dinner party sceneUncredited
1958Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed, AA Nice Little Bank That Should Be RobbedMrs. SolitaireAlternative title: How to Rob a Bank
1959It Started with a KissMrs. Tappe
1974BenjiLady with cat
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1952Racket SquadMartha Carver1 episode
1952–
1953
Gruen Guild PlayhouseSarah Cummings2 episodes
1953Hallmark Hall of FameLou Bloor1 episode
1953–
1954
City DetectiveVarious roles3 episodes
1953–
1954
Letter to LorettaVarious roles3 episodes
1953–
1955
DragnetHazel Howard3 episodes
1954Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, TheThe Pepsi-Cola PlayhouseThelma2 episodes
1954–
1955
WaterfrontMartha
Amy
2 episodes
1954–
1956
It's a Great LifeMrs. Amy Morgan62 episodes
1955Lone RangerThe Lone RangerAunt Maggie Sawtelle1 episode
1955Soldiers of FortuneAmelia Lilly1 episode
1955Damon Runyon Theater1 episode
1955Alfred Hitchcock Presents: RevengeMrs. Fergusen1 episode
1956Lux Video Theatre1 episode
1956Cavalcade of AmericaMrs. Hayes1 episode
1957Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre1 episode
1957General Electric TheaterMiss Trimingham1 episode
1957Perry MasonLouise Marlow1 episode
1957–
1958
Eve Arden Show, TheThe Eve Arden ShowMrs. Nora Martin5 episodes
1958Colgate Theatre1 episode
1959Ann Sothern Show, TheThe Ann Sothern ShowMrs. Wallace1 episode
1959Thin Man, TheThe Thin Man1 episode
1959SugarfootAunt Nancy Thomas1 episode
1959Wagon TrainSister Joseph1 episode
195977 Sunset StripGrandma Fenwick1 episode
1960Danny Thomas Show, TheThe Danny Thomas ShowHenrietta Perkins1 episode
1960RawhideEllen Ferguson1 episode
1960–
1968
Andy Griffith Show, TheThe Andy Griffith ShowAunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor175 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Comedy Series (1967)
1967Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.Aunt Bee Taylor1 episode
1968–
1970
Mayberry R.F.D.Aunt Bee Taylor24 episodes

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Frances Bavier Dead; TV Performer Was 86". The New York Times. 1989-12-08. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  2. ^ Carp, Randy (12 March 2013). "Aunt Bee: Sex Symbol and Diva?". Fans Pages. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Carp, Randy (12 March 2013). "Aunt Bee: Sex Symbol and Diva?". Fans Pages. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (1985). The Andy Griffith Show. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-89587-043-6. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (1985). The Andy Griffith Show. p. 14. ISBN 0-89587-043-6. 
  6. ^ Hoffman, James L.; Grizzle, Ralph (2007). Day Trips From Raleigh-Durham. Globe Pequot. pp. 184, 186. ISBN 0-7627-4543-6. 
  7. ^ Carp, Randy (12 March 2013). "Aunt Bee: Sex Symbol and Diva?". Fans Pages. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 

External links[edit]