“The Andy Griffith Show” ran from 1960 to 1968. Over the course of eight seasons, it helped make stars out of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, while introducing Hollywood to future director, Ron Howard. But not every actor had the same luck as these three. In fact, some actors learned too late that being on the show was a career ender. And this was not the only dark secret in Mayberry.
Just ask Frances Bavier, aka Aunt Bee, who was highly-trained and sophisticated, but felt her character didn’t show off her dramatic side. This caused tension with star Andy Griffith. But it didn’t help that Griffith was a serial prankster and she had no sense of humor. But Bavier wasn’t the only star whose talents had been seriously neglected.
During the “Red Scare,” a time where Hollywood folks were being falsely accused of sympathizing with communists, several directors got blacklisted. Among those was Coby Ruskin, who lived in exile in the U.K. for some time before returning. Shortly after coming back to the U.S., “The Andy Griffith Show” defied Hollywood and hired him. Ruskin was pretty lucky, but others didn’t have the same luck.
Andy Griffith wasn’t as mild-mannered as he seemed on the show. In fact, he had anger issues, which he proved during the second season when he punched a wall and broke his hand. The writers had to add his injury into the show’s storyline, by claiming his character broke his hand while capturing criminals. His bad temper also ended up affecting people in his personal life, as you can imagine.
Joanna Moore played Peggy, Andy’s girlfriend, during the show’s 3rd season. What viewers didn’t realize was the Moore had alcohol and drug problems, which led to her divorcing hubby Ryan O’Neal. In 1971, Moore lost custody of her kids after being arrested for drunk driving. And sadly, as it often happens with famous actors, she wasn’t the only member of the crew with substance abuse problems either.
Andy Griffith had been married to Barbara Edwards for 23 years. They also had two kids together. But their relationship ended badly. Rumors suggested that adultery, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence were to blame for their divorce. But it appeared that Griffith’s real-life soul mate was one of his lovely co-stars.
Aneta Corsaut played Helen Crump, who was Sheriff Taylor’s love interest on the show. But their chemistry onscreen trickled into the real world, because he and Corsaut had been having an affair throughout most of the show. Griffith eventually married two more times, but rumor has it he kept sleeping with Corsaut until she died in 1995. The only other cast member he could apparently stand was this actor.
Don Knotts had played Barney Fife for five seasons, but didn’t think the show would remain popular in season 6. So, he decided to leave the show after he tried and failed to negotiate an ownership stake in the show’s production. Griffith had seen this as an affront to him, so Knotts went on to star in other movies for Universal. But this didn’t stop Knotts and Griffith from remaining good friends over the years.
Andy Griffith could push anyone’s buttons with his pranks, which he was notoriously known for. But he didn’t know when to quit, like when he called Knotts by his first name, “Jess,” which the actor didn’t like. Fortunately, Knotts was BFFs with Griffith so he forgave him, but other members of the cast weren’t quite as forgiving with Griffith’s pranks.
During the first season, Elinor Donahue played Sheriff Taylor’s girlfriend, Ellie Walker. The character was seen in the opening credits and was supposed to be a regular, but Donahue quit before the 2nd season, stating she and Griffith lacked chemistry. But Griffith also admitted that it was tough for him to show affection while being on camera. Fortunately, there was work after Griffith for Donahue. But these actresses weren’t so lucky.
After the show ended, some cast members couldn’t get a lot of work. Maggie Peterson, who played Charle Darling, only landed commercial gigs. Meanwhile, Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou, only landed small TV roles that were hardly worth mentioning. And Frances Bavier simply retired after the show ended. Ironically, other actors from the show were actually poached for other projects.
After Don Knotts left the show, tried recreating the chemistry that had made him famous. So, for his 1st film, “The Ghost And Mr. Chicken,” he poached actors, directors, and screenwriters from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Also, the movie was loosely based on the show’s “The Haunted House” episode. But we can’t judge Knotts for what he did, given that his childhood was a real nightmare.
Unlike the oh-so funny character, Barney Fife, Don Knots had a horrible past. He grew up poor in Morgantown, West Virginia. He also had a father who suffered from alcoholism and schizophrenia. He even held a knife to Knott’s throat once. But by the time Knotts was 13, his old man passed away. Unfortunately, one actor faced death while filming the next show.
Actor Howard McNear played Floyd the Barber, but suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire left side of his body. By the time he returned to the show, he couldn’t stand for very long, and he certainly couldn’t walk either. Eventually, he left the show in 1967, and died two years later in 1969 when he suffered a second stroke. But unlike him, some actors didn’t even get to appear in the series.
Throughout all eight seasons, viewers saw other African-American extras in the background, but only Rockne Tarkington, who appeared in the episode “Opie’s Piano Lesson,” got the chance to say a few words. This was a huge milestone as Tarkington became the first black actor to get credited. But a darker chapter in the series occurred twenty years after “The Andy Griffith Show” ended its run.
In 1989, Nirvana released the album, “Bleach,” which contained the song “Floyd the Barber.” But it was no coincidence. It turns out that Kurt Cobain had written the song based on the show’s character, but with a twist. In the song, Cobain walks into the barbershop and gets molested and murdered by Aunt Bee, Barney, and Andy Griffith. Yikes!