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|First appearance||"Danny Meets Andy Griffith" (1960), backdoor pilot|
|Last appearance||Return to Mayberry (1986)|
|Created by||Sheldon Leonard|
|Portrayed by||Ron Howard|
|Occupation||Newspaperman in Return to Mayberry|
|Family||Andy Taylor (father)|
Beatrice “Bee” Taylor (great aunt)
Nora (great aunt)
Bradford J. Taylor (great aunt's cousin)
Helen Taylor (nee Crump, step mother)
Andrew Samuel Taylor, Jr. (half brother)
Opie Taylor is a fictional character played by Ron Howard in the American television program The Andy Griffith Show, which was televised on CBS from October 3, 1960, to April 1, 1968. Opie Taylor appeared in 209 of the 249 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, and appeared in 2 spin-off shows and a TV Movie.
Opie is a 6-year-old when the series opens, who lives in the fictional and idealized small, sleepy southern community of Mayberry, North Carolina, with his widowed father, Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), the sheriff of Mayberry County, and his father's spinster aunt, Beatrice "Aunt Bee" Taylor (Frances Bavier). Opie appears once in The Andy Griffith Show spinoff Mayberry R.F.D., twice in the spinoff Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and also in the 1986 reunion telemovie Return to Mayberry.
There are two explanations of the origin of the character's name. One is that Opie was named after bandleader and radio actor Opie Cates; the other is that he was named for Opie Shelton (1915–1999), a childhood friend of Griffith, who went on to become president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
"The New Housekeeper"
In the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show (October 1960), Andy's Aunt Bee returns to Mayberry via Morgantown, West Virginia, at her nephew's invitation in order to manage the Taylor household after Andy's housekeeper Rose marries and departs. Opie, 6, takes an instant dislike to Aunt Bee based upon his grief at losing his beloved Rose, although he does secretly enjoy her cooking. After discovering that she can neither play baseball nor fish, Opie declares that he will never love her. The final straw comes when she accidentally lets his pet bird escape, though it reappears at the end of the episode (the bird is never again mentioned). A disheartened Aunt Bee chooses to leave. However, in a surge of empathy, Opie begs his father to let her stay, as he fears for her well-being as she doesn't know how to do anything on her own.
Opie's relationship with his "Pa", Andy, provided plot material for many episodes. In one episode ("Opie the Birdman", September 30, 1963), Andy teaches Opie the value of responsibility and parenthood after Opie accidentally kills a mother bird with his slingshot and leaves her three nestlings orphaned. Andy, underscoring the loss, opens Opie's bedroom window so he will hear the chicks calling after the mother who will never come home. Naming the birds "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod", Opie nurtures them until they are ready to be released into the wild.
Andy sometimes misjudges Opie, suspecting him of being selfish and oblivious to the needs of the less fortunate. Andy would then discover to his chagrin that Opie had been self-sacrificing and generous. For example, in one episode, Opie forfeits a grocery store delivery job to allow a boy with an ill father to replace him. In another episode, Andy lambastes him for contributing only three cents to a charity, only for Opie to reveal his plans to use his savings to buy a friend a winter coat. In another case, Opie finds a wallet containing $50 and gets to keep it when nobody claims it. A day later, Opie meets the man who lost it. The man later tells Andy (who was reimbursing the $50 after he found an ad describing the wallet in the paper) that he met Opie at the courthouse and told him about the wallet. Andy naturally assumes that Opie spent all the money anyway and confronts his son. Opie tells his father that he decided to give back the $50, since he realizes that he couldn't be happy with the money because it wasn't truly 'his' to spend.
When not visiting his father at the courthouse, Opie would sometimes get into jams. Some of his juvenile misdeeds include: trespassing in a neighbor's barn, selling Miracle Salve to the citizens of Mayberry; accidentally destroying Aunt Bee's prize rose; concealing an abandoned baby in his clubhouse; tricking Goober Pyle into thinking a shaggy dog can speak, and starting his own tell-all community newspaper.
For all his boyish misgivings, Opie is always honest and truthful with his father, sometimes to his own detriment. In one episode, Opie describes a utility worker named Mr. McBeevee he met in the woods. Andy thinks it is an imaginary friend and tries to convince Opie of it; but, Mr. McBeevee is real and Opie maintains his story despite facing certain discipline from Andy. In another episode, a runaway boy tells Opie not to disclose his whereabouts. Having previously learned the value of confidentiality from Andy, Opie refuses to tell his father where the boy is rather than lie, or break a confidence, much to Andy's chagrin.
Friends, girlfriends and jobs
Opie's best friend through the black-and-white run is Johnny Paul Jason; in color episodes, it is Arnold Bailey, who is the Doctor's son. He also has several other friends during his childhood including Howie Pruitt. In one episode, Opie's new friend Trey Bowden provokes Opie's jealousy when Andy takes a liking to Trey and invites him along on outings. Other new friends sometimes prove unworthy. One friend, Arnold Winkler, for instance, encourages Opie to throw tantrums at home to get his way.
In another episode, Opie joins a secret club and is made keeper of the club's special candle. The club trespasses in a farmer's barn and, when the barn later burns to the ground, Opie is blamed. Another time, Opie hooks up with a boy that plays a mean trick on Goober. Both boys are taken to task by Andy for their mischief making. Opie is respectful and friendly to adults in Mayberry. He spends time at the filling station hanging out with Goober and the two often share their comic books.
Opie has several girlfriends including, in his boyhood, Karen Burgess (Ronda Jeter)[note 1] and, in his teens, Mary Alice Carter (Morgan Brittany, credited by her real name, Suzanne Cupito). He also develops crushes on Barney Fife's sweetheart Thelma Lou and on his father's sweetheart Helen Crump.
When Opie is "almost 12" he runs away from Mayberry by boarding a jet airplane in Raleigh under false pretenses, and flies to California to see Gomer Pyle and join the Marines in a 1966 episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
During his teens, Opie has a few jobs around Mayberry. He works in the drug store, and, in another episode, works as a delivery boy at the grocery store. He also plays in a rock band with his friends and has a paying gig at a teen party. In a later color episode, Opie makes college plans with dentistry as his career choice.
Opie's mother and half-brother
Opie's mother is mentioned only once in the series. In "Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee", Andy tells Opie he had a love for the boy's mother similar to the love Aunt Bee feels for her beau. Other than this one mention, Opie's mother is non-existent on the show; there are no photographs of her in the house, or other souvenirs, and no one mentions a grave.
In the backdoor pilot episode from The Danny Thomas Show, viewers learn Andy lost Opie's mother when the boy was "the least little speck of a baby." Opie, whose turtle died when someone stepped on it, asked "Who stepped on Ma?" Andy was referred to as a widower several times in the show which would indicate that Opie's mother died and that she did not leave Andy and Opie. On a Mayberry RFD episode, viewers learn that Opie's former teacher and stepmother Helen gave birth to Andy Taylor, Jr, who is christened in Mayberry.
Reunion telemovie (1986)
In the 1986 made-for-TV reunion movie Return to Mayberry, Ron Howard reprised his role as a now-adult Opie, who has become a newspaper writer. The plot was driven by his father's return to see Opie's wife give birth to their first child. Half-brother Andy Jr. does not appear nor was he mentioned.
- In other episodes Ronda Jeter plays Opie's girlfriend under the name Sharon Porter.
- Interview with Ron Howard on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
- Interview with Ron Howard, Archive of American Television, 2006, Part 2, at 14:12.
- Interview with Opie Shelton, on the CBC radio program As It Happens, June 18, 1999.
- Clodfelter, Tim (September 27, 2019). "Ask SAM". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved September 28, 2019.