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Aunt Bee

Beatrice Taylor (commonly known as Aunt Bee) is a fictional character from the 1960s American television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. The show was televised on CBS from October 3, 1960 until April 1, 1968. The character migrated to the spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. (1968-1971) when The Andy Griffith Show ended its run.

Black and white seasons, (1960-1965)

Aunt Bee is the paternal aunt of Sheriff Andy Taylor and grand-aunt to his son Opie Taylor. In the premier episode of The Andy Griffith Show, "The New Housekeeper", Aunt Bee returns to Mayberry after a five year sojourn in Morgantown, West Virginia, when Andy's housekeeper Rose marries and leaves his house. Aunt Bee thereafter manages Andy's household and becomes Opie's surrogate mother and grandmother. Andy explains to Opie that he was raised by Aunt Bee and Bee later speaks of raising other Taylors. Bee is well known in Mayberry for her cooking skills. In the first episode, she serves a platter of fried chicken with all the trimmings, and thereafter her character is associated with wholesome, homecooked meals. She frequently contributes meals to community or church events, and brings picnic baskets of food to Mayberry's tiny jail for its lawmen and inmates. While Aunt Bee is celebrated for her cuisine, she falls short as a pickler. Andy and Barney refer to her pickles as "kerosene cucumbers". Andy is fond of her pork chops and cornbread biscuits, while Opie's favorite dish is her Butterscotch pecan pie. Bee has several romances in the early seasons who prove to be cads.

Aunt Bee is not an only child; she speaks of trimming her brother's hair when a girl and, in one episode, her sister Nora visits. She also has a rapscallion cousin called Bradford J. Taylor who features in a color episode. Bee is a tea-totaller. In an episode where a traveling salesman comes to Mayberry peddling tonic, Andy tells Barney that Aunt Bee is heavily against alcohol due to a brother of hers. In this same episode Bee plays the piano and speaks of her baptism. Bee is a member of the town choir and sings in church.

Color seasons, (1965-1968)

Bee underwent some changes during the final three color years of The Andy Griffith Show. In the early years, she gave her heart to scalawags of all sorts and sometimes needed Andy's help in extricating herself from unpleasant romantic situations. In the color years however, Bee's suitors were respectable gentlemen and included a retired Congressman, a clergyman, and a distinguished professor. Bee's character change was reflected in her dress. In the show's early years, she was given to wearing comically dowdy housedresses, fruit and flower decorated hats, and ladylike white gloves for venturing outside the house. In the color episodes she discards her frumpy wardrobe and steps into more stylish attire.

Even more drastic in the evolution of Aunt Bee's character than her taste-shift in men and her wardrobe about-face was her liberation from her homemaker role in Andy's house. In the later episodes, Bee left the Taylor kitchen to open her own restaurant, to host a television cooking show, to run for office, to buy a car, and to take flying lessons. Andy and Opie were sometimes left at home to prepare their own meals. In spite of her sudden spirit of independence, Bee never quite makes a complete break and continues to rely on Andy to direct the course of her life and make the difficult decisions.

Aunt Bee sees Opie grow from age six to fourteen. When Andy marries his longtime girlfriend Helen Crump on the spin-off Mayberry R.F.D., she opts to give the newlyweds their own space and becomes housekeeper for farmer Sam Jones (another widowed father) and his young son Mike. Residing at the Jones' farm, Aunt Bee feeds the livestock and gathers eggs. The following year Andy and Helen move to Raleigh.

In 1986, a made-for-television reunion movie called Return to Mayberry was broadcast on NBC. Although many original cast members reprised their roles, Aunt Bee's portrayer, film veteran character actress and 1967 Emmy winner Frances Bavier, had retired to Siler City, North Carolina (where she died in 1989 and is buried), was in ill health, and declined to participate. In the television movie, Andy Taylor is seen reverentially visiting Aunt Bee's grave.

Aunt Bee's romances

Beginning with the second season, Aunt Bee had at least one romantic affair per season. Her romances added significant depth and interest to her character. In the black and white seasons, Bee gave her heart to cads of all sorts and sometimes needed Andy's help in extricating herself from unpleasant situations. In the color years however, Bee gained wisdom through experience. She paired herself with respectable gentlemen and managed her affairs without significant assistance from Andy. In spite of Aunt Bee's propensity for affairs of the heart and her active pursuit of elder bachelors, she was only engaged once -- to a cruise ship captain (for two episodes) during season one of Mayberry RFD.

  • Henry Wheeler, an itinerant handyman, uses Bee's romantic vulnerability to cadge himself free meals and a bed for the night. (Second season: "Aunt Bee's Brief Encounter")
  • Fred Goss, a chain-smoking dry cleaner operator, dates Bee when she believes her stay-at-home lifestyle inhibits Andy from pursuing his chances for dating and marrying. (Second season: "Wedding Bells for Aunt Bee")

  • Colonel Harvey, a travelling medicine man, sells Bee two bottles of his Indian elixir. Bee becomes tipsy on the brew and Colonel Harvey lands in jail. (Third season: "Aunt Bee's Medicine Man")
  • Briscoe Darling, a mountain man, becomes smitten with Aunt Bee and carries her off to his cabin in the hills. Andy rescues Bee but not before she makes Briscoe's life miserable. (Fourth season: "Briscoe Declares for Aunt Bee")
  • Roger Hanover is an old, out-of-town friend of Aunt Bee's. He visits Mayberry and loiters at the Taylor house until Andy gives him enough money to leave. (Fifth season: "Aunt Bee's Romance")
  • Orville Hendricks is a butter and egg delivery man who becomes the object of Bee's fantasy when she believes Andy needs space to pursue his own opportunities for marriage. (Fifth season: "Aunt Bee's Invisible Beau")
  • John Canfield, a retired Congressman, dates Aunt Bee until the two become exhausted with their whirlwind activities. (Sixth season: "Aunt Bee, the Swinger")
  • Reverend Leighton, a visiting pastor, is impressed with Bee and considers accepting a parish near Mayberry. Bee believes he will think less of her when he learns she wears a wig. (Seventh season: "Aunt Bee's Crowning Glory")
  • Hubert St. John is a visiting lecturer who becomes smitten with Aunt Bee because she resembles his deceased wife. (Eighth season: "Aunt Bee and the Lecturer")

Aunt Bee and Clara Edwards

Aunt Bee's closest friend in Mayberry is widow Clara Edwards (Hope Summers). Although Clara is a well-meaning woman, she often proves irksome when positioning herself as Bee's rival for the attentions of the single, older gentlemen passing through Mayberry. She vies with Bee in cooking contests and flower shows, and replaces her in the town pageant when Bee realizes she has no talent for theatricals. Clara and Bee attended school together as girls. They compose an anthem celebrating the good life in Mayberry, and, in one episode, vacation in Mexico with their friend Myrtle. Clara is sometimes a petty and jealous woman, often ruining Bee's pleasure in one small thing or another with a dismissive sniff or an abrupt and cutting comment.

Quotes

  • "First you eat the sandwich, then you eat the pie."
  • "Flibbertigibbet!"
  • "Oh, you're full of beans."
  • "I need to get out of the house more."
  • "I haven't had an experience like that since I was baptized."

Memorable moments

  • Aunt Bee's arrival in Mayberry in the first episode of the series, "The New Housekeeper", October 3, 1960. Opie takes an instant dislike to his great aunt but revises his thinking at episode's end when he realizes Aunt Bee needs him to teach her how to play baseball and how to catch fish.
  • In the second season episode "The Pickle Story", Aunt Bee makes quarts of inedible pickles to enter in a contest at the county fair. Andy and Barney refer to her pickles as "kerosene cucumbers". The episode often places on "Top Ten Favorite Episodes Lists" of fans and critics.
  • In "The Bed Jacket", Bee hopes Andy will buy a pretty bed jacket for her birthday. Instead, he buys her a box of canning jars. When he learns he broke Bee's heart with his mundane gift, he trades his favorite fishing rod for a bed jacket.

References

  • The Andy Griffith Show: Complete Series Collection. Paramount, 2007. (ISBN 1415731594)
  • Beck, Ken, and Clark, Jim. The Andy Griffith Show Book. St. Martin's Griffin, 2000.
  • Kelly, Richard. The Andy Griffith Show. Blair, 1984.

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