Frances Bavier – "Aunt Bee"
We all remember her for her role in The Andy Griffith Show.
The show that won her an Emmy ended in 1968, and in 1972 - Frances retired to Siler City, North Carolina. She’d visited the town previously during local celebrations, and fell in love with it, and bought a house on West Elk Street.
During her time in Siler City – she avoided fans and interviews like the plague. This aside, she supposedly made many friends in the area, and a lot of them called her, "Aunt Bee." Inevitably, some idiot would come and knock on her door, looking for Sheriff Andy or some such nonsense. I don’t blame her for being a bit apprehensive, but I think she was losing her marbles.
Andy Griffith once did an interview with Ralph Emery, and the subject of Frances came up. He said that both he and Ron Howard tried visiting her in Siler City. Unannounced. She flipped. Later, a mutual friend of theirs called Andy, and said that Frances wanted to talk to him. Andy called her, and she told him that she was sorry they never got along better. She told him that she had suffered two heart attacks and cancer. Andy said in the interview that it wasn’t that they didn’t get along, it was just that she didn’t always feel up to playing the role.
She was admitted to the Chatham Hospital, the day before Thanksgiving, 1989. She was kept in the coronary care unit for two weeks, and finally discharged on Monday, December 4. She died in this house on Wednesday, December 6. Heart Failure. She was 86 years old.
The plaster was peeling, the carpets frayed, and the upholstery worn. She didn’t keep a tidy home. She had 14 cats and their litter box was the basement shower.
Supposedly, Frances spent most of her time in a large back room, sparsely furnished with a bed, a desk, a television and an end table. The only mementoes they found were a few hats and dresses that she wore on the show. In the garage they found a blue 1966 Studebaker, with four flat tires. "Aunt Bee drove a 1966, I think that was the year, Studebaker Lark. Way after that date, she would drive herself to the studio in it. It was a pea green Studebaker Packard -- Supposedly it was the same car that she drove in Mayberry, RFD. Cool. The last time she used the car was in 1983 – for a trip to the grocery store. In all, her estate was worth $700,000
and her possessions were worth just under $32,000.
She is buried in the nearby Oakwood Cemetery. Her tombstone says "Aunt Bee" on it.
In her will, Frances bequeathed her house to the Moore Memorial Hospital, in Pinehurst. The contents of the house went to the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television. The cats were found homes, well, except for one that got away.
On Saturday, June 2, 1990 – there was an auction held of Frances’s belongings. Fans lined up to pick over things like velvet hats and white gloves (which Frances really wore), and even her old contracts from The Andy Griffith Show. All in all, there were 800 items for sale.
Trivia: I once wrote Andy Griffith a fan letter, and this was my response.
She filmed her last movie, Benji (yes, the dog story), in the Dallas, TX area in 1974...she played the old lady whose cat Benji chased every day..
I was told that Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass) couldn't abide Frances Bavier. Their feud supposedly came to a head during an episode he was directing.
Morris was placing actors on the set. He said: "Frances? I'd like to move you over here." Frances was sensitive about her considerable girth, and real or imagined slights. She turned on Morris and snarled, "Nobody will `move' me!!!! I am not a sofa! I am not a dining room table!! How dare you?!!!!!"
She did this in front of cast and crew.
Born Frances Elizabeth Bavier
December 14, 1902(1902-12-14)
New York City, New York
Died December 6, 1989 (aged 86)
Siler City, North Carolina
Occupation Film, stage, television actress
Years active 1930-1974
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Comedy Series
1967 The Andy Griffith Show
Frances Bavier (December 14, 1902 – December 6, 1989) was an American Emmy Award-winning character actress, best remembered for her role as Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970. Her role of Aunt Bee earned her an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress in 1967, making her one of only two cast members on either show to win an Emmy Award (Don Knotts is the other).
In addition to her years in Mayberry, Bavier performed on Broadway and in more than a dozen films, as well playing a range of supporting roles on television. Career highlights include the play Point of No Return, alongside Henry Fonda, and her turn as Mrs. Barley in the classic 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Bavier had a love-hate relationship with her most famous role, Aunt Bee. As a New York actress, she felt her dramatic talents were being overlooked. At the same time, she played Aunt Bee for ten seasons, longer than any other Mayberry character. So adept at conveying the essence of Aunt Bee's personality was Bavier that audiences either didn't notice or didn't care that she made no attempt to speak with a Southern accent or inflection. Her career illustrates the paradox facing many strongly "typed" performers. Audiences took at face value her portrayal of a warm, nurturing matron, but co-workers and others who interacted with her reportedly often found her uneasy and hypersensitive. Bavier and Andy Griffith did not get along well on the set. Andy Griffith had addressed the fact that the two sometimes clashed during The Andy Griffith Show's run. The actress was easily slighted, and the production staff would often appease her by "walking on eggshells". 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. Her medical condition prevented her from taking part in the 1986 television movie, Return to Mayberry.
In 1972, Bavier, bought a home in Siler City, North Carolina, site unseen, and retired from acting. On choosing to live in North Carolina instead of her native New York, Bavier stated in an interview 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. While the actress seemed awkward in one-on-one relationships, she seemed to be charitable to the needs of organizations and fans. According to a 1981 article by Chip Womick, a staff writer of The Courier Tribune, Ms 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 the actress chose to become reclusive.
The day before Thanksgiving 1989, Bavier was admitted to Chatham Hospital. Frances was suffering 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, just eight days before her 87th birthday.
Bavier was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City. Her headstone is emblazoned with the name of her most famous role, "Aunt Bee" and reads, "To live in the hearts of those left behind, is not to die".
Bavier's will bequeathed her home to the Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and some contents of the home went to the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television. On June 20, 1990, Bavier's belongings were auctioned off, including her wardrobe from The Andy Griffith Show and a 1966 Studebaker. Frances had last driven in the car in 1983. After her death, it was found in her garage, sitting on four flat tires, its interior having been ruined by her many cats. Despite its deterioration, two Andy Griffith fans bought it for US$20,000 at the auction.
Frances "Aunt Bee" Bavier
Birth: Dec. 14, 1902
New York County
Death: Dec. 6, 1989
Actress, most noted for her performance as "Aunt Bee" on the Andy Griffith Show TV series. She appeared in 10 films and 4 television series.
Born in New York City, she began her acting career in April 1925, on Broadway, in the play "The Poor Nut." During World War II, she travelled with the USO to entertain troops in the Pacific. In 1951, she got her first film role, that of Mrs Barley in the movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Her last movie was in 1974, in "Benji" where she was the woman with the cat. She played Mrs Amy Morgan in the TV series "It's a Great Life", and the role of Nora in "The Eve Arden Show." However, she is most remembered for her role of Aunt Bee in "The Andy Griffith Show" (1960 to 1968) and its spinoff series, "Mayberry RFD".
North Carolina, USA
Plot: Section 2, Part 6, lot 3