The name ‘Frances Bavier’ may not easily ring a bell for the present generation but for those who grew up in the 60s and 70s, she was one of the beloved screen darlings of her time – thanks to her role as the loving and doting Aunt Bee on the popular CBS sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. Bavier appeared on the show for a total of eight years during which she won hearts with her southern matriarch persona. She subsequently reprised the character on the spinoff series, Mayberry R.F.D, and won a Primetime Emmy award for outstanding supporting actress.
Frances Bavier’s Background in ‘The Big Apple’
Frances Bavier was born Frances Elizabeth Bavier to Charles Samuel and Mary Bavier, nee Birmingham, on December 14, 1902. She was born in one of the popular brownstone buildings in Gramercy Park, New York City. At the time of her birth, her father was a stationary engineer while her mother’s occupation is not known. It is not also revealed if the actress has siblings as there is no information with regards to that on the internet. For her education, the only information known is that she obtained her college education at Columbia University. She had a passion for teaching and intended to become an academic instructor after graduation but life chose another path for her and she began acting in stage plays.
Frances Bavier’s Fact Card
Transitioning from Broadway to Hollywood
The life of a stage actress is progressive and so was that of Frances Bavier. She began stage acting in the Vaudeville comic entertainment theatre and later moved over to the big league of Broadway theatres. She further enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to boost her acting skills. After graduating in 1925, Bavier featured in plays like Henry Fonda, Point of No Return, and The Poor Nut. She got her breakthrough while appearing on the Broadway play, On Borrowed Time. The play has been described as her most successful stage play throughout her career.
As a versatile and dexterous actress, Frances Bavier was also great in television and films. She made her debut film appearance with an uncredited role in the 1931 movie Girls About Town. The next couple of years saw more of her on the movie scene with films such as The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Stooge, Bend of the River, Man in the Attic, Horizon West and so on. Reports indicate that one of her most successful movie role was in the 1952 movie The Lady Says No, where she played the lead role as Aunt Alice Hatch.
Frances Bavier began featuring on the small screens in 1952 and was known for her roles in the following series: Racket Squad, City Detective, Letter to Loretta, It’s A Great Life and Dragnet, among others. She later got her career-defining role on the sitcom – The Andy Griffith Show – which revolved around Andy Griffith, a widowed sheriff who has to keep a calm head whilst dealing with small-town miscreants and a precocious young son. In the series, Bavier portrayed Griffith’s cheerful and pleasant Aunt Bee who acts as his housekeeper and also helps him raise his son. The New York native featured on the show for eight straight years, 1960 to 1968.
Life After Retirement
Frances Bavier officially from acting in 1972 and sought for a small town, much like the fictional Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, where she could settle down in peace and quiet. She eventually chose the town of Siler City, North Carolina. The actress had first become acquainted with the town in 1963 when she visited to participate in the famous rice diet held at the Duke University Medical Centre. Bavier moved to Siler City the same year she retired.
By most accounts, she was initially a warm and active member of the community, participating in both Christmas and Easter seals as well as holiday parades. She also patronized the local Girl’s Scout and enthusiastically answered fan mail. However, with the passage of time, the actress became quite reclusive. She almost never left her home and on the few occasions she did, she was quite short with people. This earned her an unfavorable reputation amongst the townsfolk but some people defended her saying that she was only trying to protect her privacy from the gawking public.
Her Last Days on Earth
Frances Bavier experienced a bout of serious ill-health in November 1989 and was admitted into Chatham hospital on the 22nd of that month. She spent a fortnight in the hospital during which she received many cards, letters, and flowers from well-wishers. The actress was later discharged from the hospital on the 4th of December 1989 but sadly passed away at her home two days later. Her death was primarily as a result of heart-related issues including myocardial infarction and coronary artery disease. Other ailments that also contributed to her demise were breast cancer, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Bavier’s demise led to an outpouring of grief from fans and the Siler City community. There were also tributes from The Andy Griffith family. Co-star, Gomer Pyle stated that he was a better person for having known her while Andy Griffith Appreciation Society described her as essential to the show’s success. The actress was subsequently interred at Oakwood Cemetery, Siler City. On her headstone is engraved the evergreen words by Scottish poet Thomas Campbell thus “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”.
How Much Was Frances Bavier’s Estate Worth?
Bavier was quite wealthy at the time of her demise and this does not come as a surprise given the hermitic lifestyle that she lived. The actress left behind an estate of $700,000 which she disbursed in her will. The lucky beneficiaries included several residents of Connecticut and New York which is her home state. Others are the Actors Fund of America as well as the University of North Carolina (UNC) Public TV. Bavier also left a sizable trust of $100,000 to the Siler City Police Department. The principal sum is left untouched while the accruing interest is shared amongst staff as an annual Christmas bonus. Bavier’s generosity to the cops may have been due to the fact that they kept the gawking fans at bay and also occasionally helped her out.