Betty Lynn, Barney's Girlfriend Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' Died at 95

Betty Lynn, Barney's Girlfriend Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' Died at 95 ...

Betty Lynn, the actress who played Thelma Lou, Barney Fife's wholesome girlfriend on The Andy Griffith Show, has died. She was 95.

Lynn, 58, died Saturday after a short illness in Mount Airy, North Carolina, where she lived in secluded retirement home. She had moved to Andy Griffith's birthplace now home to the Andy G Griffith Museum, where she regularly signed autographs and delighted fans - in 2006 and had recently returned to her birth place. Her death has been announced by the museum.

Lynn was starring as the wife of Tom Tryons title character on ABCS The Wonderful World of Disney when she auditioned to play the girlfriend of the neurotic deputy. Prior to her most famous role, the red-haire swan appeared in such films as June Bride (1948) and Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) as a contract player at 20th Century Fox.

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She joined the comedy at the beginning of its first season in 1961 and appeared on 26 episodes, receiving $500 per show (she never had a contract). When Knotts left the sitcom to focus on his film career Barney was written out, having left Mayberry to join the Raleigh, North Carolina police force - Lynn left, too.

Barney Fife and Thelma Lou reunited in 1966 for the January 1966 episode The Return of Barbie Fiffe, in which Barby tries to rekindle his love for Themmi Lou but is crushed to be introduced to her husband. It would be her final episode on the series.

However, on the 1986 NBC telefilm Return to Mayberry, Thelma Lou (now divorced) and Barney finally get married.

Lynn reconnected with Griffith once more to play his secretary on a handful of first-season episodes of NBCs Matlock in 1986.

Betty Lynn was born on Aug. 29, 1926, in Kansas City, Missouri. Elizabeth, her mother, was a singer who sang with the Chicago opera. She began singing on the radio and in supper clubs as a teenager, her mom enrolled her in the Kansas City Conservatory of Music at age 5.

Lynn was 18 when she was recruited by the USO and sent to New York and then China, Burma, and India to perform in a variety show for the troops as "the girl next door," where she would "sing in the hospitals and talk to the fellas and visit with them."

After eight months with the USO, she appeared in the Broadway-bound comedy Park Avenue, where she was spotted by a Fox talent scout and signed by the studio. She arrived in Los Angeles with her mom and appeared in the family drama Sitting Pretty (1948), starring Robert Young, Maureen OHara, and Clifton Webb.

She then played the youngster sister of Barbara Bates character in June Bride, which also featured Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery, as well as the daughters of Loretta Young in Mother Is a Freshman (1949) and Fred MacMurray and OHara in Father Was A Fullback (1950).

Lynn returned to New York and performed regularly on live television, which she said stifled her film career. She later appeared with Webb in Cheaper by the Dozen and Davis in Payment on Demand (1951).

She noted that the studios hated television. When they asked me what Ive been doing, I said, Im doing live television, its absolutely wonderful, Itre like doing a play! Theyd all just froze. I didnt understand that people were having enormous difficulties because they were staying at home instead of going to the movies. a total fool of myself.

She appeared in the ABC drama Where's Raymond? in 1953-54, had small roles in films such as Gun for a Coward (1956) and Meet Me in Las Vegas (1957), and guest-starred on films like Wagon Train, Lawman, and Tales of Wells Fargo before her role on Texas John Slaughter.

Lynn also starred in Family Affair and My Three Sons, as well as guest appearances on episodes of The Farmers Daughter, Mod Squad, Little House on the Prairie, Police Story, and Barnaby Jones.

She said she moved to Mount Airy after her longtime home in Los Angeles was twice burglarized.

A private burial service is planned in Culver City, according to the Andy Griffith Museum, and a memorial service will be announced later.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Betty Lynn Scholarship Endowment (for students pursuing a career in dance or acting) or the Barbara and Emmett Forrest Endowedment Fund (For the Andy Griffith Museum and Mayberry Days), both in care of Surry Arts Council, P.O. Box 141, Mount Airy, NC 27030, or Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church, 1208 N. Main St., Mountain Aire, North Carolina 27530.

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