Andy Griffith hid a sweet tribute to his wife in the episode where Opie loves Helen
When Andy tells Opie about his first crush, he's really describing his first wife!
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About five minutes into the fifth season premiere episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Opie asks Andy over breakfast for advice on his new crush, who happens to be older than him.
"I wouldn't let that bother me," Andy says, before launching into a very special flashback you might not realize has connections to his real life in "Opie Loves Helen."
"I remember when I was about your age, I was trying to court a little girl called Barbara Edwards. She was in the upper fifth grade, and I was in the lower. Now, I will admit, there was some talk, but I didn't let it bother me."
Attentive ears have picked up on the fact that "Barbara Edwards" isn't some random name used in the show, but the name of Andy Griffith's real wife at the time the episode aired, Barbara Bray Edwards.
And in case you were wondering, we do know the real story of how Andy courted the real Barbara Edwards, thanks to the meticulous history of Griffith's life kept in Daniel de Visé's 2015 book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.
To set the record straight, Barbara Edwards wasn't older than Griffith, but just a few months younger. He was born in June and she in August of 1926. She went by the nickname Bobby, and when Griffith first saw her, she was wearing a sweater that matched her skirt — and, yes, Bobby's brown hair was cut in a cute bob.
He didn’t approach her the first time he saw her. Like Opie, he was cautious, perhaps a little shy. But when a few days later he saw her again, his interest increased rapidly. Soon after that, he heard how beautifully she sang at a local theater audition, and he was positively smitten.
He waited until she finished singing and then he asked her out for coffee that day, and then just three days later, he asked for her hand in marriage.
When Andy married Barbara Edwards two years later, there was "some talk," as in, a write-up in the local News Observer and Sun in 1949, announcing how beautiful their small wedding was:
"Given in marriage by her father, the bride wore a street-length dress of bronze satin, a bronze beaver hat, and bronze accessories. She carried a bronze gladioli and white asters. Her only ornament was her mother's pearl and diamond lavaliere."
At the time of that article, it was Barbara Edwards who was the acting star — dazzling theater audiences with her clear-as-a-bell voice that made Griffith hear wedding bells — and not yet Griffith.
But by the time "Opie Loves Helen" aired in 1964, Andy had become the TV legend, and he hid a tribute to his supportive wife who helped him get there, tucked away like a romantic present in the poignant dialog of his hit show.