Thursday, August 20, 2009

Frances Bavier: AKA Aunt Bee

Above, Frances Bavier, I would guess in the 1930's-40's. Below, site where Frances lived in 1920. Former PS 177 student and Smith Project alumni Donald Singletary currently lives about a block away

Frances Elizabeth Bavier (December 14, 1902 – December 6, 1989) was an American stage and television actress. Originally from the New York theatre, Bavier worked in film and television from the 1950s. She played the continuing role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress for the role in 1967.
Born in New York City, Bavier attended Columbia University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before embarking on a career in acting. She first appeared in vaudeville, later moving to the Broadway stage. Bavier had roles 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 and was the only original cast member to remain with the series from the original pilot episode to the spin-off Mayberry R.F.D. In contrast to her affable character Aunt Bee, Bavier was easily slighted and the production staff would often appease her by "walking on eggshells". Series star Andy Griffith addressed the fact 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.
In 1972, Bavier retired from acting and bought a home in Siler City, North Carolina. 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 Bavier 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, 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 medical condition prevented her from taking part in the 1986 television movie Return to Mayberry.
On November 29, 1989 (the day before Thanksgiving), Bavier was admitted to Chatham Hospital. She 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.
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."

My cousin has a wacky Aunt Bee video on his blog


Anonymous said...

why didn't she like andy? so sad she wasn't the sweet lady she potraits on griffith show. god bless her anyway.i hope she knew jesus as her lord and savior i'd like to see her and all of them in heaven.a beliver in jesus.

Anonymous said...

I liked her charactar Aunt Bee
But as far as for being difficult who knows what went on inside of her?
She never married or had children this tells a lot about her.
Though in my opinion it tells us nothing bad.
Apparently she did love God because she promoted Christmas and Easter.
The words on her headstone I think tell it all about her.
She was born to play Aunt Bee for us.
This is what God gave her to do.
And I think she did a great job.
May Frances Bavier/ Aunt Bee rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Ms. Bavier was not the mean-spirited person she was often "rumored" to be after the series ended. She was an actress, she lived her life for her craft and it left very little time for a personal life. She spent the majority of her acting career(which spanned nearly sixty years) on the stage. It was typical in her day, for stage actresses to have difficulty transitioning to television roles. She took her acting jobs seriously and was a complete perfectionist. As a New York Broadway actress, she was trained that way, while her compatriots on TV were not. She became aggravated when other actors didn't take such pains as she did to get it right the first shoot. What fans that met her said was that she was always gracious when encountered. What I think she didn't like about playing "Aunt Bee" was that as an actress, all the work she had done in her career was forgotten once she began playing "Aunt Bee". But she did embrace the character and did a great job.