As happy as life was in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, according to some cast members’ accounts there was friction at times on the beloved show’s set.
One of these incidents occurred between Goober actor George Lindsey and another cast member, who embarrassed him on the set.
Lindsey said Jim Nabors was chosen over him to play ‘Gomer Pyle’
One of the most popular characters on The Andy Griffith Show was indisputably the sweet and naive Gomer Pyle. The role, originally, was slated for Lindsey, who was deflated when it instead went to Nabors, a nightclub performer with absolutely no acting experience.
After Griffith attended one of Jim Nabors’ performances, he was convinced only Nabors would do as Gomer Pyle. He contacted show producer Aaron Ruben to wait on hiring Lindsey for the role until he and show creator Sheldon Leonard had seen Nabors for themselves.
According to Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show author Daniel de Visé, Ruben recalled: “So in comes Jim Nabors. He has a script, he reads. What he lacked in professionalism and experience he made up for with a certain naive charm that he had.”
He had a hard time getting over this
In addition to being set aside in favor of Nabors, the Goober actor revealed in his memoir Goober in a Nutshell an incident involving Frances Bavier who portrayed Aunt Bee on the comedy. Her behavior caught the attention of another cast mate.
“One instance I remember in particular was an episode of Mayberry, R.F.D. titled ‘The Race Horse,’” Lindsey wrote. “We were doing a scene on a race track set, and me with my foul mouth. I was cursing and cutting up (the camera wasn’t going, of course).
“Well, Frances wasn’t going to stand still for that, and she turned around and whopped me over the head with her umbrella and proceeded to lecture me.”
After scolding him, Bavier smashed Lindsey once again on the head with her umbrella. Her behavior dismayed Ken Berry, the actors’ co-star: “Later, Ken Berry, who played Sam Jones, came up to me and said, ‘That wasn’t right, what Frances did. I’m sorry I didn’t say something to her. She shouldn’t have done that.’
“He was really irate that she would do that to me. And he was right; she shouldn’t have done that. I had always liked Frances, but I never forgave her for clobbering me.”
Frances Bavier was very serious on the show’s set
Bavier’s demeanor wasn’t reserved for Lindsey alone.
Actor and director Ron Howard famously portrayed Opie Taylor from the age of 6 on the classic series. He remembered Bavier as an absolute professional who also possessed a somewhat difficult personality. He kept in touch with Bavier until she died in 1989.
“She kept to herself,” Howard told the Television Academy Foundation. “Frances very much kept to herself. She was a New York stage actress, and I think she always loved the job and appreciated it was a big success, and was extremely professional.
“But I don’t think she ever felt a part of what these boys were up to and their shenanigans.”
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