Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy birthday, “Aunt Bee” and Elyse Knox!


It just wouldn’t be proper to do today’s birthday list and not give a shout-out to the actress who played one of television’s best known housekeepers—a lady born in New York City on this date one hundred and eight years ago named Frances Elizabeth Bavier.  Frances was a highly respected theatrical actress who worked occasionally in films and television before landing the role that would gain her television immortality and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1967—the affable but pure dagnasty evil Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor, who is just one of the many characters we visit each week on TDOY’s Mayberry Mondays.

Before embarking on an acting career in vaudeville and the Broadway stage, Bavier attended both Columbia University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts—and the then twenty-three-year-old thesp made her debut in April 1925 with The Poor Nut.  Among the other productions she appeared in was Point of No Return, which starred Stacia fave Henry Fonda, in 1951.  That was also the year that she appeared in a high-profile part in the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Mrs. Barley); her other films include Bend of the River, Horizons West, The Stooge, Man in the Attic and It Started With a Kiss.

It’s also interesting to note that before appearing weekly on television screens as Aunt Bee, Bavier had a regular role as Mrs. Amy Morgan on the sitcom It’s a Great Life (1954-56), a series that used to crop up now and again on the GoodLife TV Network—“the place where old TV shows go to die.”  She also played Eve Arden’s mother on that actress’ self-titled sitcom in 1957.  Bavier was cast in the Danny Thomas Show episode that became a pilot for The Andy Griffith Show as townsperson Henrietta Perkins, and the producers remembered her when casting the part of Sheriff Andy’s Taylor aunt and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer.  She was the only original TAGS cast member to appear in the Mayberry R.F.D. spin-off but she left that show at the end of its second season and save for an appearance in the 1974 film Benji retired from the business, settling down in the real-life Siler City in North Carolina.

I’ve joked a couple of times in the Mayberry Mondays installments about how there seems to be some noticeable tension between the Andy and Aunt Bee characters when the former star of TAGS, Andy Griffith, came back for guest appearances—but there’s a little seriousness behind the ribbing.  Contrary to her genial Aunt Bee character, actress Bavier was, by several accounts with the individuals who worked with her on TAGS, a bit of a pill; Griffith even once observed: “There was just something about me she did not like.”  (I’m guessing it’s because she paid good money to see Onionhead [1958].)  He later related on a 1998 appearance on Larry King’s show that Frances had phoned him about four months before her death in December 1989 to apologize for all the misery she caused him; this sort of made me think of that quip from Bill Cosby’s routines: “She’s an old person now, and she’s trying to get into Heaven.”

Actress Elyse Knox, who was an ingénue at Universal Studios in the 1940s with roles in such films as The Mummy’s Tomb, Hit the Ice, Follow the Boys and the serial Don Winslow of the Coast Guard, is also in our birthday spotlight today—she turns ninety-three, having been born Elsie Lillian Kornbrath on this date in Hartford, CT.  Knox is probably best known as Anne Howe, girlfriend to boxer Joe Palooka in the Monogram movie series based on the popular comic strip; she appeared in six of the twelve films that also starred Joe Kirkwood, Jr. and TDOY comic fave Leon Errol.  Her last feature film appearance was in 1949’s There’s a Girl in My Heart, after which she retired from show business.

As they used to say in the first season of Gilligan’s Island—“and the rest…”

Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus) (1503-1566) – Physician, apothecary and scary prophecy guy

Lillian Randolph (1898-1980) – Stage, screen, radio and television character actress best known as Birdie Lee Coggins on the radio, film and TV versions of The Great Gildersleeve; can also be glimpsed in It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, That’s My Boy and The Onion Field

Dick Mack (1901-1967) – Radio and television director-writer-producer who worked on the shows of Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Edgar Bergen, Joan Davis, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and Rudy Vallee

Laurence Naismith (1908-1992) – English stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include Abandon Ship!, A Night to Remember, Village of the Damned, Jason and the Argonauts, Diamonds are Forever and TV’s The Persuaders and Oh, Father!

Morey Amsterdam (1908-1996) – Stage, screen, radio and television comic actor who lives on in the hearts of TDOY as comedy writer Maurice B. “Buddy” Sorrell on the sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show

Spike Jones (1911-1965) – Bandleader/musician whose musical aggregation, the City Slickers, specialized in novelty songs and comic parodies; starred in the 1954 film comedy Fireman, Save My Child with Buddy Hackett and Hugh O’Brian


Dan Dailey (1913-1978) – Stage, screen and television actor-singer-dancer whose vehicles include Lady Be Good, Panama Hattie, Mother Wore Tights, You’re My Everything, A Ticket to Tomahawk, It’s Always Fair Weather and TV’s The Governor and J.J.

Jack Cole (1914-1958) – Comic book artist and cartoonist whom I remember as the creator of Plastic Man…while my father is more familiar with Cole’s work for Playboy in the 1950s

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) – Author best known for her chilling short story “The Lottery” and the novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle

June Taylor (1917-2004) – Emmy Award-winning choreographer whose “June Taylor Dancers” were prominently featured on the comedy-variety shows of Jackie Gleason

James T. Aubrey (1918-1994) – CBS Television president who was known during his tenure (1959-64) as “the Smiling Cobra”—a polite way of saying he was un dickhead formidable*

Michael Bilton (1919-1993) – English stage, screen and television actor best remembered here at TDOY for his roles on such Britcoms as To the Manor Born, Grace and Favour and Waiting for God

Don Hewitt (1922-2009) – Peabody Award-winning radio and television news producer and executive best known for creating the successful news magazine 60 Minutes

Joe Brooks (1923-2007) – Stage, screen and television character actor best remembered as the blind-as-a-bat Trooper Vanderbilt on TV’s F Troop

Joe Baker (1928-2001) – English comic and impressionist who turned up on many variety shows in the 60s/70s, known for his first-rate impersonations of Lou Costello, John Garfield and James Cagney

Marge Redmond (1930-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actress best known as Sister Jacqueline on TV’s The Flying Nun; also hawked Cool Whip as innkeeper Sarah Tucker in that product’s 1970s TV commercials

Charlie Rich (1932-1995) – Grammy Award-winning singer-musician who rock ‘n’ rolled in the 1960s before settling down as a successful country music artist in the 70s/80s


Abbe Lane (1932-     ) – Stage, screen and television singer-actress whose vehicles include Wings of the Hawk, Ride Clear of Diablo, Chicago Syndicate and Twilight Zone: The Movie; was at one time married to bandleader Xavier Cugat

George Furth (1932-2008) – Stage, screen and television character actor-director whose vehicles include The Boston Strangler, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Blazing Saddles, The Cannonball Run and The Man With Two Brains

Lanny Rees (1933-     ) – Stage, screen and television moppet actor best known as Chester Riley, Jr. in the 1949 film and Jackie Gleason TV versions of The Life of Riley

Lee Remick (1935-1991) – TDOY actress goddess whose vehicles include A Face in the Crowd, Anatomy of a Murder, Wild River, Experiment in Terror, Days of Wine and Roses and No Way to Treat a Lady

Lewis Arquette (1935-2001) – Stage, screen and television character actor (son of Cliff “Charley Weaver” Arquette) whose vehicles include The China Syndrome, Big Business and TV’s The Waltons—but is perhaps best known as the dad of Alexis, David, Patricia, Richmond and Rosanna

Hal Williams (1938-     ) – TDOY character actor fave best known for his roles on such TV series as Sanford and Son, On the Rocks, The Waltons, Private Benjamin and 227

Janette Scott (1938-     ) – English stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include No Highway in the Sky, The Magic Box, The Devil’s Disciple, The Day of the Triffids and The Old Dark House; daughter of Thora Hird

Frank Allen (1943-     ) – Bass guitarist for the Searchers, a job he continues to hold as of this post


James Sutorius (1944-     ) – Stage, screen and television character actor whose vehicles include I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can, Windy City and TV’s Dynasty; you probably know him better as the voiceover for the Ragu commercials (“Now that’s Italian!”)

Joyce Vincent Wilson (1946-     ) – Pop music vocalist who, along with Telma Hopkins, compromised the “Dawn” portion of the trio Tony Orlando & Dawn


Patty Duke (1948-     ) – Academy Award-winning stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Miracle Worker, Billie, Valley of the Dolls, Me, Natalie, You’ll Like My Mother and (of course) TV’s The Patty Duke Show


Dee Wallace (1949-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The Stepford Wives, The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Cujo and TV’s The New Lassie

Vicki Michelle (1950-     ) – English stage, screen and television actress beloved here at TDOY for her portrayal of waitress Yvette Carte-Blanche (ooh la la!) in the Britcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Celia Weston (1951-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress best known as Jolene Hunnicutt on the TV sitcom Alice; can also be glimpsed in such vehicles as Little Man Tate, Dead Man Walking, Flirting with Disaster and TV’s Memphis Beat

John Lurie (1952-     ) – Actor-musician whose vehicles include Paris, Texas, Desperately Seeking Susan, Stranger Than Paradise, The Last Temptation of Christ and TV’s Oz and Fishing with John

Ginger Lynn Allen (1962-     ) – Cult movie icon whose work fluctuates back and forth from porn to B-pictures like Vice Academy, Young Guns II, The Devil’s Rejects and TV’s Super Force

Ted Raimi (1965-     ) – Actor brother of writer-director Sam best known as Lt. Tim O’Neill on TV’s Seaquest DSV and Joxer the Mighty on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

*An article in Variety in 2004 described Aubrey thusly: “Picture Machiavelli and Karl Rove at a University of Colorado football recruiting party…”  This is, I suppose, a bit more charitable than what I called him.


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3 comments:

quizshowbob said...

I loved Lee Remick as Amy Irving's piano teacher in "The Competition".

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I loved Lee Remick as Amy Irving's piano teacher in "The Competition".

Yeah, but that film also has a post-Oscar Richard Dreyfuss in it, and if I'm going to watch I will need a few Seabreezes first.

Stacia said...

which starred Stacia fave Henry Fonda, in 1951

BaZING! I probably deserve that.

"The Competition" was weird because Remick was SO GOOD in it, while Irving was kind of irritating, and Dreyfus stunk on toast, as he is wont to do. I'm so ambivalent about him. I re-watched the live "Fail-Safe" a couple months ago and he was really good. I like him in "Jaws". But if you want to torture me -- and you will -- make me watch "Mr Holland's Opus".

Also also and, I love Morey Amsterdam with the white-hot passion of a thousand supernova suns.