Andy Griffith’s famous as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith’s Show and as attorney Ben Matlock in the Matlock.
While the actor put on performances that delighted fans for decades, his female co-stars didn’t get such a great ride.
In both shows, it is common for actresses playing Griffith’s love interests to disappear from the production with no explanation. They disappear and no resolution of the character’s storylines.
It wasn’t just Andy Griffith’s characters who were unlucky himself. The actor himself struggled to make relationships work, even the ones he had with his on-screen sweethearts.
But what was it about the beloved actor that made it so hard for him to get along with women?
Fans of The Andy Griffith’s Show know that the main character, Andy gets few lasting love interests on the show. Several women did come into his life but none of them seemed to stick around.
The trouble started with his very first onscreen girlfriend, Ellie Walker, played by Elinor Donahue.
According to Griffith, they were lucky to get her on the show.
She gets the part and met with the producers, she knows that she’ll be on the Andy Griffith show. Andy had no idea what the part would be like. Excited and nervous, wanting to do a good job to follow up on her successful role on Father Knows Best.
Griffith introduces to the show as a young woman who moves to Mayberry to take over the town’s pharmacy. She supposes to stir up romantic tension with Sheriff Taylor.
Even though she had signed a three-year contract with the show, things just didn’t work out. She left after just 11 episodes. Donahue asks to leave her contract after the first season, citing personal problems and feeling “undermined” in her performance.
Griffith blamed himself for her decision.
Donahue Talks About the Griffith lines
Donahue will recall that Griffith takes lines that intend for her character and give them to other male actors. Especially to his wacky on-screen sidekick Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.
He claims that it’ll be funnier, but takes the reallocation of lines as a sign that her performance is underwhelming. Why else would they take away the depth and richness of her character?
Years later, the two actors would meet again, with Donahue apologizing for leaving the show the way she did. Griffith’s words were kind but, Donahue felt, his demeanor was cold.
Interviewed by Richard Kelly, the author of The Andy Griffith’s Show, Andy blamed his “peculiar nature” for his struggles with women.
He said that his difficult relationships with women made it difficult for him to write parts for them. He didn’t know how they thought and felt, what they ought to say and do.
Griffith also admitted that he failed to ignite passion with his love interests in the show.
According to Andy Griffith’s manager, Dick Linke, it was Griffith’s real-life personality that caused his on-screen troubles, leading to him never sharing a real kiss with a woman on camera.
The struggles continued on into season two of the show, with Taylor getting involved with Mary, the county nurse. Mary ended up being played by two different characters in that one season, first by Julie Adams and then by Sue Ane Langdon, but neither seemed able to sustain the role alongside Griffith.
Griffith and the other writers nearly gave up trying to set up Taylor with a long-standing girlfriend or wife.
Griffith’s trouble with women was persistent and didn’t just affect his fictional romances.
The way he appeared in the show — rarely showing physical affection — is the way he was in real life. He didn’t know how to behave around women nor how they should behave around him.
Who was Andy’s Successful Relationship ?
One of his character’s more successful relationships was with doe-eyed Mayberry school teacher, Helen Crump, played by Aneta Corsaut.
According to Richard Kelly, Corsaut effectively saved the show. After years of struggling to find a stable romantic interest for Andy Taylor, Corsaut stepped in and made it work. She possessed an elegance, poise and innocence that made her the perfect companion for the awkward and in some ways insensitive Griffith.
While pharmacist Ellie Walker was too aggressive and Nurse Peggy too sexual, Corsaut was able to portray a platonic affection which put Andy at ease.
“She could have been his sister,’ says Kelly.
Andy Taylor’s future wife shows up in the third season of the show. As their on-screen romance blossomed, Griffith started to have feelings for Corsaut.
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Griffith’s real life marriage didn’t stop him from pursuing his colleague. Even though the couple tried to keep their affair a secret, the pair’s dalliances soon became common knowledge on the set.
The crew members even played a prank on Andy and Aneta. One of the crew dressed as a waiter and delivered food to the hotel room where the couple were snuggled up together, infuriating Griffith.
Andy Taylor and Helen Crump ended up getting married in the spin-off series Mayberry R.F.D.. But unlike Taylor, Griffith did not have the help of a script to win over the real-life lady.
Despite already being married, Griffith desperately wanted Corsaut, proposing to her on a number of occasions over the years. She turned him down every time. Corsaut herself never married.
Many fans of the show weren’t too disappointed, preferring Taylor’s short fling with the Nurse Peggy rather than his steady romance with Helen Crump.
It seems like the audience noticed the natural chemistry between Peggy and Taylor, a spark which ignited a real-life romance between Griffith’s and nurse Peggy’s actress, Joanna Moore.
The reality of their affair only emerged years later. While Griffith’s affair with Anita Corsaut was public knowledge even at the time, his romance with Moore only came out decades later in 2015.
Don Knotts Affair Revelation
Don Knotts revealed the affair to journalist Daniel de Visé who published about it in his book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.
Joanna Moore didn’t have any bitterness towards the show or her fellow cast-members after the affair ended. Speaking in a 1962 interview she recalled the refreshing honesty of everyone on the show and how cast and crew alike were able to simply communicate and resolve any problems that came up. It was shocking to her looking back.
Griffith’s however didn’t find it so smooth. During the years of the show, he found it hard to separate between the two Andy’s, feeling like his on-screen persona was starting to create real-life expectations.
After punching through a wall on set, Griffith’s went to seek professional help on the advice of the show’s producer.
Even after The Andy Griffith’s Show, the actor’s trouble with women persisted.
The revolving door of on-screen love interests continued to puzzle viewers on Griffith’s second biggest series, Matlock.
Assistant District Attorney Julie March, played by Julie Sommars, acted as the adversary to defense attorney Ben Matlock, portrayed by Griffith. However, the tension between the two was limited to the courtroom and never seemed to find its way into the bedroom.
Sommars stayed with the show from its second season until 1992 when it was canceled by NBC. Even though Matlock was immediately picked up by ABC there were still hurdles to overcome before Matlock would once again reappear on viewers screens.
Griffith was starting to get fed up. The two-hour movies that the studio wanted from him would take up too much of his time. Griffith’s agent told him to just forget the whole thing.
Desperate to keep the show alive, ABC came back with a counter-offer — they would relocate the whole show closer to Griffith to make things more convenient for him. They even agreed to rent him a house.
So, Matlock didn’t just move studios but also locations, relocating to Griffith’s home state of North Carolina to accommodate the show’s star.
Unwilling to move from her idyllic home, Sommars refused to move along with the show and left acting entirely with the exception of one last appearance across from Matlock in 1994.
Sommars Talk About her Dreamy California House
In an interview with Life magazine, Sommars recalled how she couldn’t leave behind her dreamy California house, which represented “the beauty of life” to her.
According to Sommars, acting was something she just couldn’t fake. She needed to feel everything for real and she needed the support of her friends, family and carefully cultivated home environment on the West coast.
Fans were shocked that after 6 straight seasons of being a staple in Matlock’s life that Julie March could simply disappear without so much as a goodbye scene or even a nostalgic reminiscence from Matlock.
Now it’s time to hear from you.
Which was your favorite of Andy Griffith’s romances? His electric affair with Joanne Moore aka Nurse Peggy or his steady burn with Aneta Corsaut as Helen Crump?
Let us know in the comment section below.
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