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."

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 PM & 8:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets

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.

SEE MORE: 11 other little details you might have missed in The Andy Griffith Show

Discover the disappearing beauty shops and upside-down maps of Mayberry. READ MORE

Save with
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

21 Comments

Post a comment
Wiseguy 14 days ago
#3: It's possible at some point for some reason (or no reason) the opening credits were replaced by the opening credits of another episode. Otherwise, it is fairly common for mistakes to be made in credits including misspelling of actors' names (Bee Benadaret on Burns and Allen, Dezi Arnaz on I Love Lucy (in the closing music credits of one season), etc.) When the 90-minute pilot of the Rockford Files was re-edited into a two-part episode for reruns, Stuart Margolin's (Angel) name was left out.

#6 This is easily explained by the fact that Andy reading the card and the close-up of the card was filmed separately maybe even on separate days. Either the card was printed after the line was filmed and the wrong words were printed or the wrong words were in the script.

#7: Old calendars are often used (with the year hidden or removed). I think The Golden Girls used the same calendar for seven years.

#9 Frank Tarloff also wrote episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show under the assumed name.
ETristanBooth 14 days ago
It's not often that MeTV teaches me something new about TAGS, but I never realized that the Muggins girl was also Iris (#5).
gawida11 14 days ago
Barney was incompetent, but the episodes with him are my favorites.
Jhh 17 days ago
in a employee and boss relashionship could any one of us - is any episode get away with barneys bullshit..barney shoul have been fired when he locked up the whole town
gawida11 Jhh 14 days ago
He definitely would have been fired. He was a goof up. The sheriff always covered for him
Diane Jhh 12 days ago
Plus he kept allowing prisoner's to escape over & over again !! I would've fired him on the spot ! Andy was way too lenient with him ! While I do feel the show wouldn't have been the same without him, I also wish they hadn't added so many stupid actions from him. Made Andy look bad also ! 😏
Diane Jhh 12 days ago
This one fact is wrong: Ben Weaver did not insist on the family being locked up ! In fact, he was against them being together at all ! And Andy asks each of the family if they'd known the dad was making moonshine to sell, and they all nodded yes. As if it would be an acceptable practice to toss an entire family, minors & all, in jail ! lol
Jhh 17 days ago
andy was an idiot for not elbowing barney just once - watch gilligans island (at least the skipper gave gilligan and rap on the noggin) - barney was insolent ; incompetent ; insubortantent - but they were cousins - that explains it all - and virgil was right there also
rjcload 17 days ago
Just imagine how different the show may have been had Ms. Donahue stayed on. Some of my favorite episodes involving Barney trying to set Andy up with dates wouldn't have happened.
gawida11 rjcload 14 days ago
He was an idiot and never listened to Andy, ended up looking stupid, but Andy always pulled him out and saved face for him.
Pacificsun 18 days ago
From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elinor_Donahue

"She was featured in 12 episodes of CBS's The Andy Griffith Show as lady pharmacist Ellie Walker, even getting a mention in the opening credits. The character was intended to be a love interest for Sheriff Andy Taylor, but after one season (1960–1961), Donahue decided to ask for a release from her three-year contract.[6]"

Actually, it can be a stronger point of "billing" recognition (contractwise) to be credited before the show, rather than after. Star Trek is a good example.
AGfan62 18 days ago
Joy Ellison also played a part in "The Beauty Contest". She shows up at Floyd's with Opie, who claims she should have won the beauty contest. She is then crowned with an upside down hat as Floyd once again sings "Miss Mayberry".
harlow1313 AGfan62 17 days ago
She also cuts the rug and falls in love with Gomer Pyle.
Wiseguy AGfan62 14 days ago
She's also in the classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Bang! You're Dead" which starred Billy Mumy of Lost in Space and directed by Hitchcock himself.
MarkEd 18 days ago
Weren't the Mulligans, that were locked up, also the same family that Ben Weaver wanted Andy to evict in a later episode?
MrsPhilHarris MarkEd 18 days ago
I was thinking the same thing.
rjcload MarkEd 17 days ago
Yep. Same family. Mr. Weaver ends up hiring Mr. Mulligan so he can pay off his mortgage.
Jhh MrsPhilHarris 17 days ago
it was the scobees - gees
MrsPhilHarris Jhh 17 days ago
Ahhh the Scobees. I should have known. I watched this episode at our cabin over the weekend.
Tony Jhh 14 days ago
Yes, they changed their last names and ditched the boy.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?