Frances Bavier was a cherished actress who rose to fame for her role on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mayberry R.F.D.” where she played the beloved Aunt Bee for ten years. She won countless people over with her sweet attitude and amazing acting, and when she passed away in 1989, she was mourned by her dear fans. 28 years after the loss of this iconic actress, we’re taking the time to look back at who she was and all she accomplished in her long life.
Frances Elizabeth Bavier was born on December 14, 1902, in a little brownstone house on Gramercy Park in New York City. Her parents, a stationary engineer named Charles, and a stay-at-home mom named Mary, did their best to raise Frances to be the best she could be. She attended Columbia University and was going to become a school teacher when she was cast in a vaudeville performance.
She then went on to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she graduated in 1925. She was cast in her first stage comedy, “The Poor Nut,” after graduation. She didn’t catch her first big break, however, until she was cast as the replacement for the character Nellie, in the 1938 play, “On Borrowed Time.” In her final Broadway theatre performance, she worked alongside Henry Fonda in “Point of No Return.”
Her first performance on the big screen was as Joy in “Girls About Town” in 1931. During her film and television career, she went on to receive credits in over 50 television shows and movies! Of course, the role she was most famous for was her character, Aunt Bee, who starred in both The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D.
Frances played her iconic role of Aunt Bee for all eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, and then moved on to Mayberry R.F.D. for an additional two years, making her the longest-running character of the Mayberry universe. During her time on the show, she was known to be the most serious cast member who was not a fan of the practical jokes and humor that Andy Griffith often brought to the show. However, she did become the only other member of the cast to earn an Emmy for their work on the show!
After retiring from acting, she moved to Silver City, North Carolina where she bought a lovely home. She lived there with her beloved cats; she had never married or had children due to her awkwardness in one-on-one relationships. On November 22, 1989, she was admitted to the hospital with heart problems, and she stayed there for two weeks before being discharged.
Two days later, on December 6, 1989, she passed away at her home, a mere eight days before what would have been her 87th birthday. The cause of death was listed as congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis with the supporting factors of breast cancer, COPD, and arthritis. Although she lived to a good age, the loss was still unexpected and was felt around the world by people who had grown to love the dear Aunt Bee.