Frances Bavier

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Frances Bavier
Frances Bavier 1964.JPG
Frances Bavier (1964)
Frances Elizabeth Bavier

(1902-12-14)December 14, 1902
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 86)
Resting placeOakwood Cemetery, Siler City, North Carolina, U.S.
Alma materColumbia University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1927–1974
Known forThe Andy Griffith Show
Mayberry R.F.D.
It's a Great Life

Frances Elizabeth Bavier (December 14, 1902 – December 6, 1989) was an American stage and television actress. Originally from New York theatre, she worked in film and television from the 1950s until the 1970s. She is best known for her 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. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress for the role in 1967. Bavier was additionally known for playing Amy Morgan on It's a Great Life (1954–1956).

Early life and career[edit]

Bavier was born in New York City in a brownstone on Gramercy Park[1] to Charles S. Bavier, a stationary engineer, and Mary S. (née Birmingham) Bavier. She originally planned to become a teacher after attending Columbia University. She first appeared in vaudeville, later moving to the Broadway stage.[2]

After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1925, she was cast in the stage comedy The Poor Nut.[3] 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 the rough and tough "Aunt Maggie" Sawtelle, a frontier Ma Barker-type character, in the Lone Ranger episode "Sawtelle's Saga End". In 1957, she played Nora Martin, mother of Eve Arden's character on The Eve Arden Show, despite the fact that Arden was less than six years younger than Bavier. That same year, Bavier guest-starred in the eighth episode of Perry Mason as Louise Marlow in "The Case of the Crimson Kiss".

She was in an episode of Make Room for Daddy, which featured Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor and Ron Howard as Opie Taylor. She played a character named Henrietta Perkins. The episode led to The Andy Griffith Show, and Bavier was cast in the role of Aunt Bee. Bavier had a love-hate relationship with her famous role during the run of the show. As a New York City actress, she felt her dramatic talents were being overlooked, yet after playing Bee for eight seasons, she was the only original cast member to remain with the series in the spin-off, Mayberry R.F.D., for two additional seasons.[4]

Bavier was easily offended on the set of The Andy Griffith Show and the production staff took a cautious approach when communicating with her. Series star Andy Griffith once admitted the two sometimes clashed during the series run.[5][6] On an appearance on Larry King Live (November 27, 2003), Griffith said Bavier phoned him four months before she died and apologized for being "difficult" during the series run. Bavier confessed in an interview with Bill Ballard for Carolina Camera that "it is very difficult for an actress ... to create a role and to be so identified that you as a person no longer exist and all the recognition you get is for a part that is created on the screen."[7]

Bavier won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy in 1967.

Later years[edit]

In 1972, Bavier retired from acting and bought a home in Siler City, North Carolina.[4] On choosing to live in North Carolina instead of her native New York, Bavier said, "I fell in love with North Carolina, all the pretty roads and the trees." Bavier was said to have married Russell Carpenter briefly in her early career, but there is no proof of this having actually occurred. 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.[citation needed] Additionally she left a $100,000 trust fund for the police force in Siler City, North Carolina whose interest is divided between the approximately 20 employees as a bonus every December.[8]


Bavier's gravestone in 2017

Bavier was described "as living a sparse life in her later years, a very quiet life".[9] On November 22, 1989, she was admitted to Chatham Hospital, where she was kept in the coronary care unit for two weeks. She was discharged on December 4, 1989, ten days before her 87th birthday. Bavier died at 7pm on December 6, 1989, two days after being released from the hospital.[2] The immediate causes of death were listed as congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis, with supporting factors being breast cancer, arthritis, and COPD.[10][11] Bavier is interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City.[12] 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."[3]


Year Title: Role: Notes
1931 Girls About Town Joy Uncredited
1943 O, My Darling Clementine Mrs. Asbury
1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still Mrs. Barley
1951 The Stooge Mrs. Rogers
1952 The Lady Says No Aunt Alice Hatch
1952 Bend of the River Mrs. Prentiss Alternative title: Where the River Bends
1952 Sally and Saint Anne Mrs. Kitty "Mom" O'Moyne
1952 My Wife's Best Friend Mrs. Chamberlain
1952 Horizons West Martha Hammond
1953 Man in the Attic Helen Harley
1956 The Bad Seed Woman in dinner party scene Uncredited
1958 A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed Mrs. Solitaire Alternative title: How to Rob a Bank
1959 It Started with a Kiss Mrs. Tappe
1974 Benji Lady with cat (final film role)

Television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1952 Racket Squad Martha Carver 1 episode
Gruen Guild Playhouse Sarah Cummings 2 episodes
1953 Hallmark Hall of Fame Lou Bloor 1 episode
City Detective Various roles 3 episodes
Letter to Loretta Various roles 3 episodes
Dragnet Hazel Howard 3 episodes
1954 The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse Thelma 2 episodes
Waterfront Martha
2 episodes
It's a Great Life Mrs. Amy Morgan 62 episodes
1955 The Lone Ranger Aunt Maggie Sawtelle 1 episode
1955 Soldiers of Fortune Amelia Lilly 1 episode
1955 Damon Runyon Theater 1 episode
1955 Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Revenge Mrs. Fergusen 1 episode
1956 Lux Video Theatre 1 episode
1956 Cavalcade of America Mrs. Hayes 1 episode
1957 Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre 1 episode
1957 General Electric Theater Miss Trimingham 1 episode
1957 Perry Mason Louise Marlow 1 episode
The Eve Arden Show Mrs. Nora Martin 5 episodes
1958 Colgate Theatre 1 episode
1959 The Ann Sothern Show Mrs. Wallace 1 episode
1959 The Thin Man 1 episode
1959 Sugarfoot Aunt Nancy Thomas 1 episode
1959 Wagon Train Sister Joseph 1 episode - "The Sister Rita Story"
1959 77 Sunset Strip Grandma Fenwick 1 episode
1960 The Danny Thomas Show Henrietta Perkins 1 episode
1960 Rawhide Ellen Ferguson 1 episode
The Andy Griffith Show Aunt Beatrice "Bee" Taylor 175 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Comedy Series (1967)
1967 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Aunt Bee Taylor 1 episode
Mayberry R.F.D. Aunt Bee Taylor 24 episodes


  1. ^ "Childhood Jealousy Leads Frances Bavier to Stage". The Ogden Standard-Examiner: 13. June 26, 1936.
  2. ^ a b "Frances Bavier Dead; TV Performer Was 86". The New York Times. December 8, 1989. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Carp, Randy. "Aunt Bee: Sex Symbol and Diva?". Fans Pages. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Kelly, Richard Michael (1985). The Andy Griffith Show. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-89587-043-6.
  5. ^ "Frances 'Aunt Bee' Bavier dead at 86". United Press International. December 7, 1989. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  6. ^ Foley, Rich (October 23, 2014). "Aunt Bee's Studebaker and other fine vehicles". State Line Observer. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  7. ^ Carolina Camera: Aunt Bee Retires. Ballard, Bill.
  8. ^ "Did Aunt Bee leave $100K for the Siler City police? Here's the answer".
  9. ^ "'Andy Griffith' Aunt Bee Recluse in Final Years". Los Angeles Times. January 17, 1990. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  10. ^ "The cast of 'Griffith Show' mourns Frances Bavier". Chicago Tribune. December 8, 1989. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  11. ^ Frances Bavier death certificate,; accessed September 28, 2016.
  12. ^ Hoffman, James L.; Grizzle, Ralph (2007). Day Trips From Raleigh-Durham. Globe Pequot. pp. 184–86. ISBN 978-0-7627-4543-2.

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