This mysterious, unidentified Mayberry actress was the stand-in for Don Knotts

Nice Dress Nellie was the true ''Marvel'' of The Andy Griffith Show.

In a small town like Mayberry, everybody knows each other's names. (No offense, Cheers.) From Floyd, Bee and Barney to minors like Leon and Johnny Paul Jason, dozens of familiar faces populated The Andy Griffith Show. This makes it all the more incredible that today, 60 years after it premiered, the sitcom still offers some casting mysteries.

Fans once wondered about the identity of the man in the white Fedora. Turns out, he was played by Tom Jacobs, brother of Danny Thomas. On the other hand, the actor who portrayed "Mr. Schwamp" continues to stump Andy Griffith Show fanatics. You can often spot these Mayberry citizens in the background of crowd scenes, town hall meetings, parades, etc.

Mr. Schwamp enjoys a soda pop in the background of ''Fun Girls.''

"Nice Dress Nellie" is another of these perplexing figures about town. This stylish woman appears throughout the entire run of the series. She made her debut in the second episode, "The Manhunt," in October 1960, and can be seen leaning against the door in the Civic League meeting eight years later in the finale, "Mayberry, R.F.D."

Nellie in the episodes ''The Manhunt'' and ''Mayberry, R.F.D.''

Nellie is dancing by the saxophone player at the Mayberry Union High School reunion in "Class Reunion." She is dancing again, with a bespectacled man, in "Fun Girls." She is sitting at the judges' table during the flower contest in "Only a Rose."

But fans will most likely remember her from a moment in season one. In the episode "Andy Saves Barney's Morale," Barney Fife gets a taste of power. Andy has left him in charge, you see. Barney, in turn, has arrested most of the town — including the Mayor, Aunt Bee and Opie!

Mayberry citizens pack the jail cells. Andy sets the free and greets them as they exit the cell like a clown car.

Our familiar Nellie files past Andy, following Franklin from the bank.

"Hey, Nellie," the sheriff says to her. "That's a nice dress."

Thus, the legend of "Nice Dress Nellie" was born.

Like Mr. Schwamp, Nice Dress Nellie befuddled fans for decades. The actress went uncredited, unnamed and unknown.

However, in 2019, at long last, more clues to the true identity of Nice Dress Nellie arose. We now have some clarity.

Nellie wears a nice blazer in ''Only a Rose.''

Bruce Bilson worked as the assistant director on the earliest seasons of The Andy Griffith Show. The Andy Griffith Show fan podcast Two Chairs, No Waiting featured a meaty interview with Mr. Bilson that was recorded at the Mayberry Days festival in 2015. Bilson had loads of insight into the creation of the beloved show, but none as satisfying as his explanation of Nice Dress Nellie.

"Her name was Marvel," Bilson said of the actress. "She stood in for Don Knotts, if you would believe that." 

Aha! A last name! The Mysterious Mrs. Marvel! Alas, no first name was given, but how fascinating is that? She was the stand-in for Barney Fife himself!

In a film or television production, the stand-ins do the work too menial or boring for stars. As the directors, cinematographers and lighters set up a scene, the stand-ins post on the set, taking the place of the main actors. This allows the cameramen to frame the shot, position the characters, tweak the lighting. Meanwhile, the stars can rehearse lines and eat sandwiches in their trailers. Stand-ins are the same size and shape as the characters they represent. In this case, Mrs. Marvel proved to be the ideal substitute for Don Knotts.

Keep your eyes peeled for her and remember — she was the real fill-in for the deputy!

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JustGeri 18 days ago
Couldn’t MeTV reach out to Ron Howard and ask him ...perhaps Elinor Donahue who played Ellie (I believe she is still alive), too?
Newyorkcitygal 23 days ago
I always thought that lady was Andy's wife in real life. I forgot who but someone told me she was his wife. It is nice to actually get that cleared up. Andy Griffith show is my favorite show off all time. I still watch reruns everyday on ME TV and TV Land.
Andy's real wife appears as a member of the choir. She's the brunette in the front row, just to the left of center ( as you're looking at the stage from the audience. I believe it's the episode in which John first accepts Barney into the choir.
RobertCload RobertCload 17 days ago
Check that. It's in season four when Gomer is chosen by John to do the tenor solo instead of Barney.
Jermyn 23 days ago
I searched IMDB for someone named "Marvel" (first or last) and the only possible one I came up with was a "Marvel Lawrence" who was an actress with one credit for appearing as a store clerk in The Danny Thomas Show (a.k.a. Make Room for Daddy) in 1961 in Season 9, Episode 3, Love Letters. I realize it's a long shot, but it's of the right era and MRFD was a Desilu production. Does anyone have access to this episode and can look to see if it's Nice Dress Nellie?
cperrynaples Jermyn 23 days ago
See, I knew Marvel was a first name! Take that, MeTV posters!
RickBox 24 days ago
It would be interesting to see the original script - if that line were ad-libbed, it's entirely possible her first name really was "Nellie."
Ceecee 24 days ago
I always want to know who the black woman was. She's been spotted in at lease 4 episodes. She is the spitting image of my aunt back in the day. I always wondered if it was her.
harlow1313 24 days ago
In a few episodes, or maybe only one, there is a heavy set black woman standing in the crowd. I sometimes wonder about her.
Grygrhm64 harlow1313 24 days ago
She was in the episode where Barney captures the escaped con named Brooks on the street. She is in the background as Andy is explaining what happened to Thelma Lou.
MaryMitch 24 days ago
Her story reminds me of Betty Endicott, who was Pernell Roberts' stand-in on Bonanza. She also played miscellaneous background roles - saloon girl, townswoman, homesteader. She only occasionally got a screen credit for saying a few lines. It's always fun to play "spot Betty" when you're watching Bonanza.
Gregory 24 days ago
Oddly, the IMDB complete cast has over a hundred names, and at the top of the list it states, "Series Cast verified as complete". But neither the name "Nellie" nor "Marvel" are in that list. I guess it's really not complete.
cperrynaples Gregory 23 days ago
Basically, IMDB does not list extras without dialog unless the producers confirm it. Therefore, this woman fell through the cracks!
Connie 24 days ago
In the jail release scene in "The Manhunt," when Andy commented on her dress, was this the only time anyone spoke to her? I can't think of another time.
Connie 24 days ago
Mysterious? That's putting it mildly! I have been searching, literally for years, for the identity of this actress who appeared in SO MANY episodes without saying a word. I could cite many more appearances in addition to the ones you mention here. cperrynaples has a good point; Marvel COULD be her first name. At any rate, this article makes my day! (I'd still love to know more about her.)
randalllong100 25 days ago
How is it that nobody knows Mr Shwumps real name?
Jeffrey 25 days ago
That's very interesting information. Thank you.
ncadams27 25 days ago
In addition to TAGS, dozens of shows were filmed at Desilu, such as The Dick Van Dyke Show and My Three Sons. I suspect these extras appeared on multiple shows. Did you know that Don Knotts appeared as Barney Fife (in uniform in color, no less) on The Joey Bishop Show?
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Pacificsun cperrynaples 22 days ago
Well Joey Bishop was a stand-up comedian (appearing in Las Vegas, I believe). So his delivery would be similar to Rodney Dangerfield who just kept the jokes flying! Wasn't JB also a member of the Rat Pack. Anyway, Dick Van Dyke (while very funny) just didn't do that kind of work. Yet Danny Thomas was also a stand-up comedian but (again) his style was very different, more into setting up a joke with story-telling. These executives need to let the artists be who they are, whether or not in a series. You can't ask from them what they're not comfortable in delivering!
Okay cperrynaples. I get the Danny Thomas angle from the network's view, he was a giant star at the time, probably one of the 10 most beloved Americans, what with his charity work etc. so
trying out Rusty as a possible add on made sense, plus Rusty was an excellent kid actor. Also, some script recycling from Thomas's show occurred, I presume because Danny also owned Bishop's show?
CBS strangely, after seasons 2 and 3, went back to broadcasting the show in black and white. Though a few episodes were in color!
I haven't found an explanation for that anywhere.
OK Mike, I do know that CBS picked up Joey Bishop as a favor to Danny Thomas after he left Make Room for Daddy! However,a CBS executive named James Aubrey made decisions that destroyed the show! For example, he wouldn't allow color until 1965, because he resented that the system used for it was made by RCA, then the parent company of NBC! On top of that, he put TJBS on against Bonanza! He added insult to injury by giving him My Living Doll as lead-in instead of Ed Sullivan!
cperrynaples, Thanks for the info, pal. I enjoy your posts, most informative. If MeTV ever did it's own version of Jeopardy, I'd hate to draw you as an opponent.
On another subject - I see MeTV is again showing Barnaby Jones from episode 1 on. Whomever is behind these machinations is fit to be a super villain on Batman. BJ is cookie cutter crud at it's worst, Ebsen had no interest in it and sleep walked thru every episode. Bring back 77 Sunset Strip, please.
cperrynaples 26 days ago
How do we know Marvel wasn't her first name? After all, wasn't there a TAGS actress named Cheerio...LOL!
Josie92 cperrynaples 26 days ago
Good Point!
cperrynaples Josie92 26 days ago
Fun Fact: Cheerio Meredith was usually billed as Emma Brand, but in her last episode she was Emma Watson! Perhaps she was the grandmother of the girl from Harry Potter...LOL!!
Josie92 cperrynaples 25 days ago
Thanks for the chuckles today!
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