logo
Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier Who Played 'Aunt Bee' Put Her Career before Marriage & Spent the Rest of Her Life Alone

Junie Sihlangu
Jul 16, 2022
07:00 A.M.
Share this pen
FacebookFacebookTwitterTwitterLinkedInLinkedInEmailEmail

Frances Bavier was once married, but their marriage failed because she loved acting more than anything. She hated being known as "Aunt Bee" and spent the rest of her life in a state that would've broken her fans' hearts.

Advertisement

After "The Andy Griffith Show" concluded, rumors went around about whether the lovable Aunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor was different in real life from the actress Frances Bavier. The star was born on December 14, 1902, as Frances Elizabeth Bavier.

Some of her stage credits include 1935's "Black Pit" and "Mother," 1936's "Bitter Stream," 1937's "Marching Song," and 1942's "Native Son." She also appeared in 1943's "Kiss and Tell," 1947's "Little A," 1948's "Jenny Kissed Me," and more.

Frances Bavier in an unspecified black and white photo. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier in an unspecified black and white photo. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

The actress worked for 40 years on stage, television, and film before getting her iconic role. The star was seen as her character in the series rather than who she was in real life.

While some people have an idea about her history, Bavier's image was more complicated and multifaceted than many thought. In the following piece, we learn more about the late actress who was once a household name.

FRANCES' EARLY LIFE

Advertisement

The New York City native's initial plan was to become a teacher, and she studied for it at Columbia University before realizing it wasn't working out. Bavier confessed that she was awful as a teacher and was terrified of the role.

Instead, she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to seek a better career. Her first theater job was in a vaudeville skit after the woman who was meant to play the role left because she was going to have a baby.

Frances Bavier posing for a portrait in 1967. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier posing for a portrait in 1967. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

When she was an understudy in "Higher and Higher," Bavier replaced Hilda Spong while the play was in Boston. The actress then joined in "On Borrowed Time," where she completed her Broadway work.

On the big screen, in 1931, the star had an uncredited role in the movie "Girls About Town." She was later recognized for roles in 1943's "O, My Darling Clementine" and more features in the 50s and 60s but little did she know that her most significant part was yet to come.

BAVIER'S FAILED MARRIAGE

Frances Bavier as Helen Harley in the film "Man in the Attic," in 1953. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Helen Harley in the film "Man in the Attic," in 1953. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

It wasn't clear if Bavier ever got married in the early stages of her career. However, some reports stated that from 1928 until 1933, she was married to a member of the military, Russell Carpenter, while other claims said she never tied the knot; however, in 1964, she told the Star-Gazette:

“I married a man who was charming in every way, except that, being non-professional, he had little patience with my dedication to acting."

Frances Bavier as Aunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor in an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show," Los Angeles, California, on October 18, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor in an episode of "The Andy Griffith Show," Los Angeles, California, on October 18, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

The actress revealed that she'd wanted to be a wife and an actress but learned that it was impossible for her. Quoting Shakespeare, Bavier admitted that she hadn't loved Carpenter less but "loved acting more."

The star noted how husbands generally thought a woman couldn't have a career and raise children. Instead, he'd want his wife to show complete devotion to him and their children, but this was something Bavier couldn't do, leading to the end of her marriage.

STARRING ON "THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW"

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

In 1960, Bavier landed her legendary role as Aunt Bee on "The Andy Griffith Show." Fans were drawn to the beloved character, but the lines blurred when fans started thinking there was no difference between the actress and the role.

However, that was true, as referenced in The Andy Griffith Show Book. Sheldon Leonard, the show's producer, once described Bavier as "a rather remote lady" who was a fine actress and comedian and highly professional.

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

Leonard said the actress was quite an individual who never took part in the fun on the show's set. Others recalled how difficult Bavier was to work with, as producer Richard Linke shared how "very touchy and moody" she was due to her age.

Linke said people had to be careful how they treated the actress and what they said around her. He recalled how Andy Griffith offended the actress a few times; however, the two eventually became close friends.

Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor and  Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" in Los Angeles on August 27, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor and Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" in Los Angeles on August 27, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

In a past interview, Bavier confessed that it was challenging to play the role of Aunt Bee for ten years and be identified with it. She felt she didn't exist as a person outside of the part, and people expected her to act and react the way her character would've.

People were disappointed when she destroyed the image they'd grown to love after she retired to Siler City, North Carolina. In a sense, the star was "trapped" in her character no matter where she went.

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor holding Ron Howard as Opie Taylor, and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" on July 26, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor holding Ron Howard as Opie Taylor, and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" on July 26, 1960. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

The disassociation became so bad that the actress had to visit a psychiatrist. Speaking to Elmira, New York's Star-Gazette, Bavier revealed it was impossible to spend forty years in a make-believe world and not get affected, adding:

“Sooner or later, your mind begins to click, and in my case, you are wise to seek professional help to help stop being Aunt Bee after work."

Advertisement

The star said it was difficult to break free because Aunt Bee was nicer than her in real life. She lamented having to play the role for twelve hours daily and then having people recognize her as the character instead of herself when she went home.

Bavier admitted that it could be "awfully confusing." However, there were a few benefits to being recognized by fans; like when she was living in California in 1961 and started feeling lonely, she would visit the supermarket, and someone would greet her by her character's name.

HOW FRANCES LIVED AS A RECLUSE

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" on July 26, 1960, in Los Angeles. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" on July 26, 1960, in Los Angeles. | Source: Getty Images

Advertisement

In 1966, Bavier confessed to The Times Record of Troy, New York, that she didn't have many friends. She didn't understand how anyone her age who worked as hard as she did could have a big social life.

In December 1989, [Frances] Bavier passed away from a combination of health issues...

The actress admitted that she got crankier, impatient, and annoyed with people the older she got. In 1990, The Los Angeles Times revealed that Bavier lived her last years in seclusion in a dark and rundown house with fourteen cats.

Advertisement

After playing variations of her role as Aunt Bee in several shows, Bavier never acted again. She was given a chance to reprise the position in the 1986 film "Return to Mayberry" but rejected the offer.

Griffith explained that the actress wanted to take the role but didn't want people to see how sick she'd become. She hardly spoke to people because she wanted them to remember the character she played as it was.

Four months before her death, Bavier sent Griffith a letter apologizing for how she'd treated him while working on his show. Chances were, she knew she was close to going and wanted to make amends.

BAVIER'S DEATH

Advertisement
Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee Taylor in the series "The Andy Griffith Show" on March 16, 1965, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

In December 1989, Bavier passed away from a combination of health issues, including myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, breast cancer, coronary artery disease, COPD, and arthritis.

The star was 86 when she died in her large two-story Siler City home, where she retired in 1972. Her neighbors and town residents recalled how she rarely left her home.

Advertisement
info
Please fill in your e-mail so we can share with you our top stories!
By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
Advertisement
Related posts

Allison Janney Wanted to Meet Someone Her Age after Broken Engagement Yet Later Dated a 20-Years-Younger Man

June 05, 2022

The Life of Twins Lindsay & Sidney Greenbush 40 Years after Playing Carrie in 'Little House on the Prairie'

April 07, 2022

Mindy Cohn’s World Now after She Suddenly Felt Exhausted & Had to Fight for Her Life for 5 Years against Cancer

March 29, 2022

Inside Private Lesbian Life of Kristy McNichol Who Lived through ‘Years of Hell’ & Was ‘A Total Mess’

March 28, 2022