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.
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.
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.
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.
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.