Sheriff Andy Taylor [played by Andy Griffith], to new Mayberry manicurist Ellen Brown [played by Barbara Eden]: “Nature's been good to you. I mean real, real, real good. I—I can't remember when I've seen nature spend as much time on any one person.”— The Andy Griffith Show, Season 2, Episode 16, “The Manicurist,” original air date Jan. 22, 1962, teleplay by Charles Stewart and Jack Elinson, directed by Bob Sweeney
When I have turned on the evening news after my commute home from work, the acrimony and inertia of the political scene invariably, to borrow a phrase from pitching legend Satchel Paige, “angries up the blood.” Frequently, in search of relief, I have sought out The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV. Though I hardly ever caught the show in its original Sixties run or even in reruns in the subsequent half century, I now take refuge in its many pleasures.
One unexpected delight of the series a few minutes ago was discovering a star in embryo: Barbara Eden, in a guest appearance, before she shot to fame a few years later in I Dream of Jeannie.
In this episode, Ms. Eden, who—I am still trying to wrap my brain around this concept!—celebrates her 88th birthday today, played an out-of-town manicurist in flight from her no-good fiancé. She spots a sign promoting Mayberry’s “friendly” reputation and promptly decides to get off the bus and stay.
In no time, she finds how friendly the locals can be. In reality, the friendly ones are only half the population—the menfolk—and the correct word to describe their attitude in the orbit of this lissome young blonde is not “friendly” but “goofy.” (To my way of thinking, Deputy Barney Fyfe may be the goofiest guy—but contrary to what you may think, it’s by no means a runaway contest.)
Meanwhile, the women of Mayberry are highly annoyed by the inordinate attention their menfolk are paying Ellen Brown, and they express their disapproval in all sorts of not-very-subtle ways. Once again, the unenviable task of keeping order falls to Sheriff Andy, who must explain to the young woman why it might be best for all concerned if she left town.
Andy segues into that unpleasant chore with the above quote, nervously, even circuitously. But there’s another way to say those words—with that syrup-on-waffles smile that eventually won the heart of son Opie’s teacher, Helen Crump.
But back to Ms. Eden…In this episode, she was already, in a sense, molding the fantasy figure who would keep popping out of the bottle to astronaut Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie.
Tony would find her so lovely, so close but painfully unavailable, and so disruptive through most of the five-season run of the Sidney Sheldon-created sitcom, and so, obviously, did the confused but happy men of Mayberry, for an all-too-short time.
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