9 little details you never noticed in the Andy Griffith Show episode ''Christmas Story''
Tinkerbell was behind bars?!
Watch "Christmas Story" on Sunday, December 22, at 5PM | 4C as part of A Very Merry MeTV!
It remains one of the greatest Christmas episodes in television history. Surprisingly, "Christmas Story" was the only holiday episode in the historic run of The Andy Griffith Show. But when you perfect the form on the first try — and, remember, this was just the 11th episode of the series — why mess with perfection?
Even if you have seen this heartwarming story several times, we think there are some things that might surprise you.
Here are nine curious little details from "Christmas Story."
1. Will Wright played a different mean old businessman in the pilot.
Every classic Christmas tale needs its Scrooge. The mean and miserly Mr. Potter stands in the way of good cheer in It's a Wonderful Life. Mayberry had the similarly wealthy and crotchety Ben Weaver, played with perfect bite by Will Wright. It was not his first time portraying such a character in Mayberry. Remember, this series kicked off as an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, "Danny Meets Andy Griffith." It's a quite different town. In that, Wright played Mr. Johnson, a store owner who is charging poor Henrietta Perkins 50¢ a day for renting a suit that was buried with her husband. Oh, and Mrs. Perkins? That was Frances Bavier, who was not yet Aunt Bee!
2. Ellie and the actress share the same first name.
American audiences knew Elinor Donahue best from Father Knows Best, which had ended months earlier in 1960. She only stayed in Mayberry for one season as Andy's love interest, Ellie Walker. Up until this episode, everyone in town called her "Ellie." But in the middle of "Christmas Story," Aunt Bee calls her "Elinor." It might seem like an error, as if Frances Bavier is using the actress' name instead of the character's name. But, no! Elinor Walker is Ellie's real name. We see it printed on her diploma in her debut episode, "Ellie Comes to Town."
3. Elinor Donahue did not receive credit for the episode.
Ever wonder why Elinor Donahue did not stick around for longer than one season? Well, not receiving credit for her work might have had something to do with it. She sings a lovely rendition of "Away in a Manger" with Andy… and yet her name is not listed in the closing credits nor stated by the announcer in the opening credits. The only reference to her in the credits is "Miss Donahue's Fashions - Mr. Burt of Encino." Even Margaret Kerry gets a credit! Speaking of whom…
4. Tinkerbell is behind bars.
Old Man Weaver demands that moonshiner Sam Muggins and his family be put in the slammer for the holidays. Margaret Kerry plays the wife, Bess Muggins. You might not recognize her face, but you know her work. She performed as the live-action model for Tinkerbell in the 1953 Disney production of Peter Pan. Kerry acted out scenes with giant scissors and keyholes to give animators a reference. You can see some fascinating photos of her at work here. She was also a voice on Clutch Cargo!
5. The little girl shows up years later as Opie's classmate.
Let's stay in the slammer for a minute. The incarcerated Muggins clan also includes a little girl named Effie. She is played by Joy Ellison. This would not be the only time we see Ellison on the show. Seven years later, in the season eight premiere, "Opie's First Love," she appears as Iris, a friend of Mary Alice Carter.
6. Andy misreads the Christmas card from the Hubacher brothers.
Early in the episode, Andy and Barney sit in the police station and open Christmas cards. The Hubachers, a trio of brothers locked up in state prison, send one to the cops. Andy reads it aloud. "Merry Christmas from state prison," he says. There's just one problem. The insert shot of the card says, "Greetings from state prison."
7. The calendars in the station are a year old.
The episode first aired in December 1960. Christmas was on a Sunday that year. However, you can see that these calendars on the walls behind Barney show the 25th as falling on a Friday. They must have been calendars from 1959, when Christmas landed on a Friday.
8. A crew member left his initials in the jail cell.
As the camera pans up the jail cell (past a pin-up model) to Ben Weaver singing in the window, you can spot the initials "R.S." carved into the wall. That would be Reggie Smith, the propmaster on The Andy Griffith Show, who left his mark on the set!
9. That is not a real writer. The real writer won an Oscar.
The episode credits "David Adler" as the screenwriter. This was a pseudonym. The writer's true name was Frank Tarloff. Tarloff had been blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953 during the era of McCarthyism. Tarloff wrote nine total episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. He also won an Oscar for the film Father Goose a few years later.
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