'The Andy Griffith Show: Ron Howard's Dad Played an Important Role in the Wedding of Barney Fife and Thelma Lou

If the most dedicated Andy Griffith Show fan blinked, they would have missed it: The wedding of Barney Fife portrayed by Don Knotts and his longtime girlfriend Thelma Lou played by Betty Lynn.

Most of Mayberry was in attendance to see the couple tie the knot and Ron Howard’s dad, Rance, played an important part in the proceedings.

Here’s how the happy nuptials took place.

Betty Lynn and Don Knotts left ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ around the same time

When The Andy Griffith Show had reached its fifth season, Knotts decided to leave the show and pursue a film career. He made clear he was leaving mostly because the show’s star had repeatedly told him the series would not go past Season 5.

“[Leaving the show] was a tough time for me,” Knotts said in 1999 to the Television Academy Foundation, “because I enjoyed the Griffith show so much. I hated to leave.”

In his 2015 book, Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, author – and Don Knotts’ brother-in-law – Daniel de Visé revealed Betty Lynn’s reaction at hearing that Knotts would be exiting the show.

“I was really stunned,” she said, “because I knew that would be the end of me, too.”

Lynn in total appeared in 26 episodes between 1961 to 1966.

‘Return to Mayberry’ saw almost all the cast reunited

Andy Griffith started reaching out to the Griffith Show cast for the Return to Mayberry reunion television movie special in 1986. Everyone was available to appear, except for Aunt Bee actor Frances Bavier, as well as “Floyd the barber” actor Howard McNear who died in 1969.

As de Visé reported, “In February 1986, the Griffith principals traveled to Southern California wine country to begin shooting Return to Mayberry.

“The exception was Frances Bavier, Aunt Bee. The official explanation was illness, but Frances simply wasn’t interested in returning to Mayberry. She refused to record even a few lines to be played, like a voice-over from beyond, in a scene that had Andy visit her grave,” he continued.

An executive producer of the reunion show, Dean Hargrove, was quoted as saying that the actors and crew “weren’t all that unhappy that she declined.”

‘Return to Mayberry’ saw the characters of Barney Fife and Betty Lynn marry

The TV movie tied up a lot of loose ends in Mayberry from where The Andy Griffith Show had left off in 1968.

Most notably, Opie all grown up, was now in charge of the town newspaper and Otis had stopped drinking and instead sold ice cream from a truck.

But the biggest news, finally, was the wedding between Barney and Thelma Lou: “The story concludes with Barney and Thelma Lou marrying at last, setting right the grave injustice of her character’s wedding another man twenty years earlier in [the episode titled] ‘The Return of Barney Fife.’”

The minister marrying them? It was Ron Howard’s dad, Rance, who also appeared in several episodes of the Griffith Show.

As Griffith expressed in the television movie’s wedding scene toast, “There’s something about Mayberry and Mayberry folk that never leaves you. No matter where life takes you, you always carry in your heart the memories of old times and old friends. So here’s to all of us. Old friends.”

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