R.I.P. Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife's love Thelma Lou
She toured Asia during USO shows, became fast friends with Bette Davis, and retired to the real-life Mayberry.
MeTV will be airing a tribute to Betty Lynn tonight, October 18, starting at 8P | 7C with two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show that spotlight Thelma Lou — "Cyrano Andy" at 8PM | 7C and "Barney Gets His Man" at 8:30PM | 7:30C.
Betty Lynn, known by Mayberry fans for her recurring role as Barney Fife's love interest Thelma Lou, passed away on Saturday, October 16, after a brief illness. The actress was 95.
The news was reported by the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Mount Airy is known as the "real-life Mayberry" due to Griffith basing the fictional town on his small former hometown. Lynn lived in Los Angeles until 2006. After an appearance at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, she fell in love with the place. After her home was burglarized back in L.A., she made the decision to move to the small Carolina town. She remained there until her passing.
Her start to show business was, however, anything but small. As a teenager, she toured Asia with USO shows after spotting an audition notice while singing in her hometown of Kansas City. Soon the 17-year-old found herself bouncing in a Jeep on a road to Mandalay in Myanmar (then called Burma). She slept with a pistol under her pillow after a Marine handed her one for protection.
After the war, Lynn signed a contract with 20th Century Fox. By 1948, she made her film debut in Fox's Sitting Pretty.
It was on the film sets that Lynn made an unlikely friend. After appearing in a couple of films with Bette Davis, notably June Bride (1948) and Payment on Demand (1951), she struck up a friendship with the notoriously prickly star. Davis even affectionately called her "Boo".
She had only seen The Andy Griffith Show twice when she got the role as Thelma Lou. For her 26 episodes, she was paid $500 each (around $4,000 in today's dollars).
Despite her sweet-as-pie love life on the show, she was never married. She was, however, engaged three times to the same man. The third time was not the charm and she broke it off for good only four days before the wedding when her fiancé said he also had feelings for another woman. When she called the church to cancel, the bishop said, "I'm sorry." She replied, "I'm not."
While she left the show shortly after Don Knotts did, she fully embraced Andy Griffith fans for years to come. After moving to Mount Airy, she was known for signing autographs at The Andy Griffith Museum every third Friday of the month for fans that would come from miles around.
"I think God’s blessed me," Lynn said in a 2015 interview with The Associated Press. "He brought me to a sweet town, wonderful people, and just said, 'Now, that’s for you Betty.'"
Lynn had been working on an autobiography at the time of her death that is expected to be released posthumously, the museum reports.