Monday, May 17, 2010

Mayberry Mondays #1: “Andy and Helen Get Married” (09/23/68, prod. no. 0101)

It was a spring day in March of 1963 when the sheriff first made her acquaintance—the circumstances of their meeting having been dictated by his young son’s refusal to do his history homework. She came charging into his office located in that sleepy little North Carolina town with blood in her eye, demanding to know why he wasn’t more supportive of her efforts to impart a little scholastic knowledge in his offspring.

His first words to her were: "You ain't, uh...you ain't Miss Crump...?" (He had envisioned the schoolteacher as being somewhat older, owing to the fact that his son not-so-affectionately referred to his instructor as “Old Lady Crump.”) Hardly what one would categorize as smooth talk…but with the passage of time (and his success at convincing his progeny of the importance of learning American history), he became more self-assured (he even walked her home shortly after their first meeting!) and the two of them began a whirlwind courtship. From that moment on, Helen Crump became Sheriff Andy Taylor’s “steady”…accompanying him to movies, dances, dinners and picnics. Sometimes the two of them would date in tandem with Taylor’s loyal (if bumbling) deputy, Barney Fife…who would usually be escorting the mysterious female known only as “Thelma Lou.”

Five years after their first meeting, Andy and Helen decided to make the whole thing legal…and while we never saw him propose to his eventual wife, we were honored to be among the invitees to their nuptials—telecast on the premiere episode of Mayberry R.F.D. Before the wedding, however, Sheriff Taylor’s friends threw him a bachelor bash that you just know was a pretty wild affair. (They had macaroni and potato salad, for starters.) Wild, if intimate—only the crème de la crème of Mayberry’s leading lights were in attendance: county clerk Howard Sprague, gas station magnate Goober Pyle, fix-it savant Emmett Clark…and the head of the town council hizzownself, Sam Jones:

SAM: Somebody once said that the perfect bridegroom at a wedding should be like the garlic in a spaghetti sauce…present, but not too noticeable…so, if he’s going to be in the background at the church on Saturday—it’s only right that he should have his moment in the spotlight here tonight… (He raises his glass as in a toast) Gentlemen…the groom…

(The bachelor party attendees, who are situated on both sides of a long dining table, stand up with glasses raised as the camera cuts to the individual seated at the other end…Sheriff Andy Taylor, who stands up, smiling…)

ANDY: Thank you, Sam…everybody…this has been a…a great evening, and I appreciate it…that is, somebody once said—probably that same feller who knew so much about grooms—he said his bachelor party got his marriage off to such a slam-bang start the next fifty years were all downhill… (The attendees laugh at this observation…) Now, great as this evening’s been, if, uh…if I know the lady I’m marrying…and I should…the years ahead are going to be no letdown…and again…thank you…

The festivities conclude with a rousing rendition of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow because you sort of get the feeling that the stripper who was supposed to jump out of Andy’s cake probably cancelled at the last minute (having to work a double shift at the diner). Later, over coffee, Andy and his friends discuss his honeymoon (they’re off to Florida; Howard tells Andy that he shouldn’t miss the wildlife sanctuary in Orlando, a place he and his mother attended during a 1962 holiday) and the fact that Goober will be “taking over” while Mr. and Mrs. Taylor are visiting the Sunshine State. (“Well, we’re safe at last,” observes Emmett, Mayberry’s resident rain cloud.) Andy’s marriage, unfortunately, will be dictating major changes in the life of his aunt/housekeeper, Beatrice “Bee” Taylor:

SAM: Aunt Bee and Opie going to hold the fort while you’re gone, Andy…?

ANDY (after a sigh): As a matter of fact, no…

SAM: Hmm…?

ANDY: Opie’s going on a camping trip with the Hutterfields, and…Aunt Bee is…moving back to West Virginia

SAM: Moving?

ANDY: Yeah…

SAM: Well, that sounds permanent

ANDY: I’m afraid it is…

SAM: Oh, no…

HOWARD: Gee, that’s too bad…

ANDY: Yeah, she’s going to live with her sister…Helen and I begged her to stay on with us, but…you know Aunt Bee, she says two women in one household is one woman too many…

As it would happen, Sam’s housekeeper has floated off to Fayetteville (“family problems”) so he’s temporarily without someone to do the cooking and cleaning—and from the looks of his attempts at cuisine (his hamburger and potatoes are practically inedible) a replacement can’t come soon enough. His son Mike expresses a wish for somebody to stay with them “like Opie has.” Sam tells the boy that Opie won’t have his aunt much longer, owing to her plans to move in with her Mountain State sis…but when Mike asks his father why Bee couldn’t stay with them instead, the ol’ thought processes are set in motion:

AUNT BEE: Oh, move out to the farm with you and Mike?

SAM (nodding assent): Right…

AUNT BEE: Hmm…I don’t know…I never lived on a farm before…of course, I’m very, very flattered, but…my plans are all made and my sister Laura is expecting me and…it’s very, very sweet of you to ask me but…no, no—I’m going to live with my sister…

SAM: Well, I understand…it was just a shot in the dark…

The day of the big wedding arrives. Aunt Bee and Opie are seated in the front pew (Bee is upset because she can’t find her “spare handkerchief”; Opie asks his aunt if “she’s going to cry a lot”) and Andy emerges from the rectory with his best man—Barney Fife—in tow. It promises to be a beautiful ceremony (Helen’s father, from Kansas, gives her away)…but things hit a snag when Barney clears his throat after the minister asks if there’s anyone present who can show just cause as to why Andy and Helen should not be wed. (This gives guest star Don Knotts—in his only appearance on Mayberry R.F.D.—the opportunity to do what he does best, his patented nervous shtick.) Barney further complicates matters when he temporarily misplaces the ring during the ceremony (“I knew he’d blow it,” mutters Goober to Howard)…and then for reasons unexplained, breaks tradition by accompanying Andy and Helen as they make their exit down the aisle—hand on Andy’s shoulder, waving to the crowd.

Okay, we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do, marry off those crazy kids. The minister talks with Aunt Bee after the ceremony about her decision to relocate, musing that it stems from Bee’s inclination to go where she can be “useful.” As such, Bee is inspired to take Sam up on his offer to move out to his farm to keep house for him and Mike. Things don’t progress as well as one would hope, however; Aunt Bee goes out to the kitchen and is “spooked” by the noises emanating from Irma, the family cow. (Ivan’s note: This woman has family in West Virginia and she’s never encountered a cow before? Look, I’m from WV—it ain’t exactly cosmopolitan.) Furthermore, Bee can’t adjust to the concept of farm-fresh eggs (she’s squeamish about reaching under the chickens) and a “stampede” of cows on the farm makes her downright skittish. So Sam lugs her hefty trunk down from her bedroom when she reverts to her original intention of moving back to West Virginia. While Sam does the heavy lifting, Aunt Bee sadly sits down with Mike (she’s upset about having to leave them both) to look at some photos from the Jones family album:

MIKE: This is my great-great-grandpa…he started the farm… (He turns a page) There’s my great-grandma…she was from Charlotte

AUNT BEE: Ohhhh…isn’t that a bear?

MIKE: She shot it! (Points toward the window) Right out there in the yard!

AUNT BEE: Heavens! She must have been terrified!

MIKE: Pa says she shot first…and then fainted later…once she talked some Indians out of burning down the house and barn…

AUNT BEE: Indians?

MIKE: Yeah…

AUNT BEE: Ohhh…well, Mike…you come from a very remarkable family…

MIKE: Yeah, I guess so…

AUNT BEE: Women seem to have courage…they didn’t flee in the face of danger, did they?

How dangerous could it be taking an egg from a chicken? (It’s hard to believe that this is the same woman who took flying lessons in an eighth-season episode of The Andy Griffith Show…) Well, it doesn’t take too long to find out—Aunt Bee, inspired by these acts of bravery in the Jones family, marches out of the house and into the barn, where she presumably removes some hen fruit from some unfortunate pullet’s keister. Because back inside, Sam answers a ringing telephone—it’s Andy, calling from sunny Florida…so Sam puts Aunt Bee on the line:

AUNT BEE: Oh, Andy, I’ve got something to tell you…this is the proudest day of my life…

(The scene cuts back and forth between Aunt Bee and Andy and Helen, who are seated in chairs inside their hotel room…)

ANDY: Why…what happened, Aunt Bee?

AUNT BEE: I lifted up a chicken with my bare hands! A live chicken!

HELEN: Well, what is it?

ANDY: She lifted a chicken

So, okay…maybe it’s not taking down a bear exactly…but baby steps, baby steps. The coda to this episode occurs inside Emmett’s fix-it shop, with Sam reading a postcard from Andy to Emmett, Howard and Goober:

EMMETT: You know…I believe that’s the nicest wedding I ever went to…

SAM: Ah, yeah…it was perfect… (He chuckles) Except for Barney…did you see him trying to find that ring?

(The four of them begin laughing…)

EMMETT: And trying to hold Andy’s hand…

HOWARD: Yeah, and then he walked all the way down the aisle with them…

EMMETT (laughing): He certainly tried to stay close to Andy…

SAM: Yeah…

HOWARD: Hey, Goob…looks like Andy and Helen are still staying at the same hotel…

GOOBER (walking over to get a better look at the postcard): Yeah…Helen and Andy…

The scene then cuts to a shot of Andy and Helen, with the groom serenading his lady love on guitar. His mellifluous voice soon blends with another—that of his ever-present deputy and best man…you-know-who. But back in Mayberry, Sam observes: “I’d say the whole wedding worked out great…Andy got Helen…and Mike and I got Aunt Bee.” (I hope he kept the receipt.)

“Andy and Helen Get Married,” penned by writer John McGreevey, was an auspicious debut for the new Mayberry R.F.D. series—which would soon become the second-most popular sitcom on television at the time (the other spin-off from The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, USMC, was first). It also allowed the former Griffith Show star to gradually disappear from Mayberry—Andy would turn up in three additional episodes during R.F.D.’s inaugural season…and make one more appearance in Season Two before it was explained that he and the new Mrs. Taylor had relocated to Charlotte. (This means that the town was now in the hands of part-time sheriff Goober Pyle…and don’t you think Mayberryians were frightened by that prospect.) As for myself, I’ve been curious as to the fate of Opie (this would be Ron Howard’s only R.F.D. guest shot) at this point…his absence was always conveniently explained away but this seems to suggest that Andy and Helen may not have been as attentive parents as one would like to believe.

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4 comments:

Gunz Mongleman said...

Nice magazine cover. I read Knotts' biography: he was quite the ladie's man. I remember watching RFD while it was on (I had to find out what RFD meant - I grew up in the suburbs)and thinking it was a strange but pleasant show. Miss Crump was a hottie - to good for Andy if ya ask me.

Gargantua7 said...

Andy Taylor had been seeing Miss Ellie at the diner for the first season or two. She was sweet, perky, cute as a button; and if sitcom single women in the early 60's had carnal knowlege, Sherrif Taylor might not have made it home to Aunt Bee's dinners each and every night.

Helen Crump, by contrast, was humorless and wound tight as a watch spring. Miss Ellie would never have given Andy a fraction of the grief that Crump woman did. The soundtrack played a lot more moody clarinet riffs after she signed on.

David said...

"So Sam lugs her hefty trunk ..."

Let's not get personal, pal.

Trent said...

I have to agree with some other posters, Ellie was wonderful and Helen ..not so wonderful. I have always thought it was one of the greatest injustices of all telivision that Andy ended up with Helen and not Ellie or some one more like her. To this day I refuse to watch episodes with Helen in them, But thats just me.