Andy Griffith’s hometown hosts Barbara Eden this week in a rare nod to a role she had before the 1960s sitcom that made her famous, “I Dream of Jeannie.”
In the second season of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Eden played manicurist Ellen Brown who visited Mayberry and set up in Floyd’s Barbershop. Mayberry wives didn’t like the way their husbands suddenly needed their nails done by the sweet Southern belle bombshell.
“I don’t know whether you know this or not, but, uh ... nature’s been good to you,” Sheriff Andy Taylor told her. “I mean real, real, real good. I can’t remember when I’ve seen nature spend so much time on any one person.”
That episode aired in January 1962. Three years later, Eden landed the title role in “Jeannie,” which aired from 1965 to 1970.
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Eden, now 84, will be a headliner at Mount Airy’s annual “Mayberry Days” festival this weekend. Griffith borrowed much from his foothills hometown in creating the mythical Mayberry, including the name of the barber shop.
Barney getting a manicure: Barney: Well, be extra careful with that one. That’s my trigger finger. You damage that and I might as well quit the business. Ellen: Well, all right. I’ll only do nine.
Mount Airy, 90 miles north of Charlotte on Interstate 77, has in turn capitalized on Mayberry, turning itself into a tourist attraction for those who love the show that debuted 55 years ago this fall and ran for eight years on CBS. It is still seen in repeats on MyTV.
Festival organizer Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, says that based on reservations and inquiries, she expects this year’s festival to be the biggest yet, largely because of Eden’s presence. About 50,000 people generally come to the Mayberry weekend.
Others with Mayberry connections scheduled to appear include Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou and now lives in Mount Airy; Maggie Peterson, who played Charlene Darling; Morgan Brittany, who was Opie’s girlfriend Mary Alice Carter; Ron Howard’s brother Clint Howard, who appeared in several episodes; and George Lindsey Jr., the son of the late George “Goober” Lindsey. Rodney Dillard, one of the Darling Boys, will play a bluegrass concert.
Also appearing will be Bruce Bilson, assistant director of “The Andy Griffith Show” who also directed Eden in the movie “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Eden was one of a few unknown actors to appear on the show who went on to stardom. Another was a young man who played a holdout juror in a 1967 episode featuring Aunt Bea.
You know him today as Jack Nicholson.