(WGHP) – The death of actress Betty Lynn, who played beloved Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and her subsequent Mount Airy real estate sale have recently garnered a lot of attention.
But it’s Christmas week, so let’s turn our attention to an episode of this beloved comedy series that aired before Lynn’s character joined the show.
This would be the episode we know as “Christmas story.” It was the only Christmas-related episode of the 249 produced in the series and was # 11, which aired on December 19, 1960. Thelma Lou did not meet MP Barney Fife until the following March, in Episode 22, “Cyrano Andy.”
“Christmas Story” is among the most popular among fans of “The Andy Griffith Show”.
You probably remember the plot: Crisp businessman Ben Weaver insists Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Fife jail Sam Muggins for selling moonlight. Despite Andy’s best plans, Weaver insists, until Andy gives in, incarcerates the Muggins, and brings Noel to jail. The show has a touch of “A Christmas Carol”.
But what else do you know about those venerable 26 minutes of humanity and comedy?
We bet you didn’t know these five things:
1. He wasn’t really that old
Will Wright, who played Ben Weaver, has made a career out of playing generally old and somewhat mean guys in about 100 movies and many TV shows. But he really wasn’t as old as he looked. Wright, who had been a journalist before becoming an actor, was 66 when the Christmas episode aired. Sadly, less than two years later, in June 1962, Wright died of cancer, just three months after it appeared in “The Mayberry Merchant”, on March 5, 1962, to complain to Sheriff Taylor that a street vendor had set up a stand on a lot near the Weaver Department Store.
2. If they sound familiar to you …
Actors Sam Edwards and Margaret Kerry played Sam Muggins, the Moon Accused, and his wife, Bess, the couple Sheriff Taylor is taking into custody on Christmas Eve at Weaver’s insistence. But Wright, Edwards, Kerry and Joy Ellison, who played the uncredited roles of their daughter Effie Muggins, also appeared as the Scobey family in Episode 26, “Andy excludes” which aired about four months later. You may recall that Ben Weaver had become irascible again and wanted Scobeys kicked out of a house he owned because they were behind in paying their rent. Andy’s creative problem-solving saved them again, of course. Perhaps the repeat casting was due to the fact that Edwards was a true Southerner, born in Macon, Georgia. Wouldn’t it have been much easier to keep the names of the characters as well?
3. Sing a sweet song
A highlight of “Christmas Story” was a duet sung by Andy Griffith and Elinor Donahue, who played pharmacist Ellie Walker – they sometimes called her “the drug addict” – who was Andy Taylor’s first girlfriend on the series. Their relationship only lasted for the first season, after which Ellie disappeared and a variety of women then tried to gain the affection of widower Andy before teacher Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut) succeeded. On Christmas Eve, however, Donahue sang lead on “Away In A Manger” while Andy played guitar and joined in harmoniously. The two later claimed that Donahue really sang herself.
4. they are always with us
Lynn was almost the last of the main cast of “The Andy Griffith Show” to die, leaving Ron Howard as the sole survivor. Donahue and the episode’s three children, Howard, Ellison, and actor Kelly Flynn, who played Billy Muggins, are still alive. But also Kerry, who is 92 years old and even wrote his own biography on IMBD.com. Kerry didn’t have a lot of lines in her two appearances with Andy and the Gang, but she has served as a voice over artist for over 600 roles. She also had another behind-the-scenes star turn: a dancer by training, she was chosen by Walt Disney to create the Tinkerbell dance moves for the animators. So when you saw Tink cut some moves in “Peter Pan,” you were actually watching the woman who spent Christmas Eve in jail in Mayberry.
5. They also had careers
Ron Howard’s legacy as an actor and director is legendary, but these two other child actors from “Christmas Story” have had interesting careers as well. Kelly Flynn starred in two high-profile 1960s films – “A Touch of Blue” and “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte” – but he also played a referee on “Valentine’s Day” in 2010. It was the set from director Garry Marshall. film that starred a host of stars including Oscar winners Shirley MacLaine, Jamie Foxx and Julia Roberts. Joy Ellison, who played Effie Muggins, didn’t get credit for the role, but she did play credited roles in six other episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show,” including as Mary Scobey and Iris, the daughter. who rejected Opie Taylor on their date for a party at “Opie’s first love.” Joy Ellison has had a long career as a dialect consultant in dozens of leading movies and TV series, including the recent “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. She also contributed to the famous “Life of Pi”, worked twice with Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Chicago” and “The Mark of Zorro”) and was part of several episodes of the famous television series “Mad Men”.
Suggest a correction