Sheriff Andy Taylor was an eligible bachelor; a widower as all single fathers were in classic television land.
His wife was rarely referenced and it appeared in the first season of The Andy Griffith Show that his grieving was long over and Andy was up for grabs.
In the first couple of seasons, Andy had a succession of girlfriends, but none of them stayed around. It was not until season three that Andy settled on school teacher Helen Crump as his steady. She stayed for the remainder of the show’s run and even married Andy at the very end. More on Miss Crump later.
Elinor Donahue was hired in the first season to play Ellie Walker, the new druggist in town, who was perhaps the most independent of his girlfriends. At first, she does not like Andy, but quickly warms up to him through Opie. Ellie had the audacity to run for town council, which caused a riff between her and Andy, until he changed his way of thinking. This was 1960 and the notion of a female running for office was radical. After a few episodes, Donahue asked out of the show, sensing there was not the desired chemistry between their characters. This was after a successful run on Father Knows Best.
In season two, Andy had a connection with county nurse Mary Simpson in two episodes. Interestingly, two different actresses played the character. First, Julia Adams (Creature From the Black Lagoon) played Mary in an episode about convincing a farmer to get a tetanus vaccine. The chemistry between the two was awkward and not very convincing. Later, Sue Ane Langdon (Arnie) played Mary in an episode where Andy’s intentions were more obvious, but Barnie kept getting in the way. Langdon exuded more sex appeal than Adams, her bubbling, vivacious personality was perhaps too much for the character. We never saw Mary Simpson again.
In season three, another nurse tickled Andy’s fancy. Peggy McMillan, played by Joanna Moore, was written into several episodes. Peggy came from money and Andy become convinced that their pairing would never work. Peggy’s domestic instincts also raised Andy’s concerns that she was looking for a husband, instead of just helping two bachelors fend for themselves. The show focused numerous episodes about misguided expectations and male/female roles. Andy was the logical center of the show, but he often misread situations and allowed others to give him bum advice, which often caused him conflict with the female characters.
In one episode, Andy attends his high school reunion and is reunited with a prior girlfriend who moved away after graduation. They begin to rekindle their affection until they discover the reason that they parted in the first place.
Andy had other dates during the early seasons, including a cousin of Thelma Lou, who turned out to be skeet shooting champion who puts Andy in his place during a competition.
Andy and Barney dated the “Fun Girls” in a couple of episodes, although Andy wanted no part of it. Daphne and Skippy were flirtatious and vivacious women from Mount Pilot and their presence always caused problems for Andy. Barney was the one who hooked up with them, often when Andy and Barney were on the outs with Helen and Thelma Lou.
In the third season, Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut) was selected as a continuing love-interest for Andy. She was Opie’s teacher and Andy ran afoul of her over his views on school subjects. At first, Helen is known as “old lady Crump” by Opie. Helen had a temper and it often flared at Andy. Helen was another very independent-minded character paired with Andy. For a show about conservative, small town America, some progressive issues found their way into scripts. Helen is not into cooking, sewing and traditional female sitcom roles. She attended college, studied journalism, entered the teaching profession, has her own thoughts and ideas, and freely expresses them. She is supportive of Andy, but is hardly just a prop girlfriend. Their relationship over the following five seasons has ups and downs, but generally resolved by the end of each episode. Corsaut may be best known as Steve McQueen’s date in The Blob (1958).
In various episodes, Andy is paired with a female guest star where there is a mistaken of intentions, like Barbara Eden as a new manicurist in town, or a visit by Andy’s cousin, who is fresh from a breakup, or even Charlene Darling, the hillbilly who takes an instant like to Andy, despite her father’s objection. These episodes serve to kindle a bit of romance even though it is just a plot device to show Andy’s appeal to the opposite sex.
Andy was an eligible bachelor, but not one to settle down during the eight year run. With Aunt Bea around, he was not looking for a mother for Opie. Enough women were featured in stories to provide some romantic drama, and also spice up the show with lovely guest stars. After Barnie left in season six, Helen Crump played more a central role although some secondary characters also stepped forward. Andy was developed as the straight-man as he played off of the other characters, including the women that passed through the show.
Years later it was learned that Griffith and Corsaut had an off-screen relationship that lasted a number of years.
3 thoughts on “Andy’s Girlfriends”
Great essay, Mike. AGS is one of my favorite classic TV shows. Wow, never knew that Griffith and Corsaut had an off-screen fling! Griffith’s a great guy, but why she left the King of Cool for him is a mystery! I remember most of these TV flames. Didn’t Peggy McMillan have a thick Southern accent?
Peggy did have an accent. Thanks.
A review of “Andy’s Girlfriends” is a review not expected. Ever. A great read!
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