Frances Bavier

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Frances Bavier
Frances Bavier 1964.JPG
Frances in 1964.
Born Frances Elizabeth Bavier
(1902-12-14)December 14, 1902
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died December 6, 1989(1989-12-06) (aged 86)
Siler City, North Carolina, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Oakwood Cemetery, Siler City, North Carolina
Other names Hazel Howard
Alma mater Columbia University
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actress
Years active 1927–1974
Known for The Andy Griffith Show
Mayberry R.F.D.

Frances Elizabeth Bavier (December 14, 1902 – December 6, 1989) was an American stage and television actress. Originally from New York theatre, Bavier worked in film and television from the 1950s. She is best known for her role of Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970. Aunt Bea logged more Mayberry years (ten) than any other character. Bavier won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actress for the role in 1967.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New York City in a brownstone on Gramercy Park[1] to Charles S., a stationary engineer, and Mary S. (née Bermingham) Bavier, Frances 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 American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1925, she found herself 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 an early auntie role as Aunt Maggie Sawtelle, a frontier Ma Barker-type character in the Lone Ranger episode "Sawtelle's Saga End." In the episode, she fights with Tonto while the Lone Ranger fought with her nephew. At the conclusion, Tonto says that he'd like to trade opponents next time. In 1957 she played Nora Martin, mother to Eve Arden, in the series The Eve Arden Show. That year she 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 became The Andy Griffith Show and Bavier was cast in the new 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] In contrast to her character, Bavier was easily offended on the set, and the production staff took a very cautious approach when communicating with her.[citation needed]. Series star Andy Griffith once admitted the two clashed sometimes during the series's long run.

In an April 24, 1998, appearance on Larry King Live, Griffith said Bavier had phoned him four months before she died and apologized for being so "difficult" during the series's run.

Frances 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.[5] On choosing to live in North Carolina instead of her native New York, Bavier said 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. Bavier never married or had children. Somewhat awkward in one-on-one relationships, she was nonetheless altruistic at heart. 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 health prevented her from taking part in the 1986 television movie, Return to Mayberry, in which Andy visits Aunt Bee's grave and that included a wistful voice-over.

Frances Bavier had been a fan of Studebaker cars since the thirties. In Mayberry R.F.D., she drove her own 1966 Daytona two-door Sports Sedan (which was the last model of the South Bend factory, though produced in Canada from 1964 to 1966). She kept this car in perfect condition while alive and refused to purchase a new car when her driver suggested it. As her health failed, it sat idle in her garage and was found with four flat tires and a ruined interior from her many cats. It was auctioned for $20,000 one year after her death in the same condition as it was found. The new owners felt if it were restored it would no longer be Aunt Bee's Studebaker. She was also a member of the Studebaker Drivers Club.


On November 22, 1989, Bavier was admitted to Chatham Hospital. She suffered 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 on December 6 of a heart attack, at age 86, 8 days before her 87th birthday.[6] Upon her death, she was found to have had 14 cats, worn furniture, fixtures and carpet. She was described as " living a sparse life in her latter years, a very quiet life".[7]

Bavier is interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Siler City.[8] 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
1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still Mrs. Barley
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
1952 Stooge, TheThe Stooge Mrs. Rogers
1953 Man in the Attic Helen Harley
1956 Bad Seed, TheThe 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
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 Pepsi-Cola Playhouse, TheThe Pepsi-Cola Playhouse Thelma 2 episodes
Waterfront Martha
2 episodes
It's a Great Life Mrs. Amy Morgan 62 episodes
1955 Lone RangerThe 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
Eve Arden Show, TheThe Eve Arden Show Mrs. Nora Martin 5 episodes
1958 Colgate Theatre 1 episode
1959 Ann Sothern Show, TheThe Ann Sothern Show Mrs. Wallace 1 episode
1959 Thin Man, TheThe Thin Man 1 episode
1959 Sugarfoot Aunt Nancy Thomas 1 episode
1959 Wagon Train Sister Joseph 1 episode
1959 77 Sunset Strip Grandma Fenwick 1 episode
1960 Danny Thomas Show, TheThe Danny Thomas Show Henrietta Perkins 1 episode
1960 Rawhide Ellen Ferguson 1 episode
Andy Griffith Show, TheThe 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. ^ "Frances Bavier Dead; TV Performer Was 86". The New York Times. 1989-12-08. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  3. ^ a b c Carp, Randy (12 March 2013). "Aunt Bee: Sex Symbol and Diva?". Fans Pages. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (1985). The Andy Griffith Show. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-89587-043-6. 
  5. ^ Kelly, Richard Michael (1985). The Andy Griffith Show. p. 14. ISBN 0-89587-043-6. 
  6. ^ "The case of 'Griffith Show' mourns Frances Bavier". Chicago Tribune. December 8, 1989. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "'Andy Griffith' Aunt Bee Recluse in Final Years". Los Angeles Times. January 17, 1990. Retrieved 13 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Hoffman, James L.; Grizzle, Ralph (2007). Day Trips From Raleigh-Durham. Globe Pequot. pp. 184, 186. ISBN 0-7627-4543-6. 

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