Mayberry really was the quintessential small town of America's dreams. The Andy Griffith Show remains popular via reruns to this day not only because everyone loves watching Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), but because truly all of the citizens in the fictional town were so charming. Despite all of the characters that we love so much, the show really wouldn't have been the same without schoolteacher Helen Crump who becomes Andy Taylor's sweetheart. Aneta Corsaut brought the character to life and Mayberry's favorite educator would become Corsaut's signature role.
When we're first introduced to Helen Crump, there's a reason she has such an unattractive last name. Opie (Ron Howard) complains about his teacher "Old Lady Crump" to his dad which makes it hilarious when he meets her in person later on and discovers she is actually an attractive young woman.
"The character's comical name suggests that the writer of the episode, John Whedon, thought of her as little more than a schoolmarm," Gustavo Pérez Firmat wrote in A Cuban in Mayberry: Looking Back at America's Hometown.
Helen's character was initially just meant to be a one-off but after producers were impressed with Corsaut's performance as well as her on-screen chemistry with Griffith, she ended up becoming a recurring character throughout the series. She even marries Andy Taylor in the premiere of the spinoff show, Mayberry R.F.D. and appears later on in the TV movie Return to Mayberry.
Similar to Helen Crump, Aneta Louise Corsaut was born in Kansas. After moving to New York City to pursue an acting career, she made her big-screen debut opposite Steve McQueen in The Blob. She went on to appear on various TV shows including the sitcom Mrs. G. Goes to College as well as Bonanza, Robert Montgomery Presents, Producers' Showcase, Valentine's Day, Gunsmoke, The Blue Knight, The Runaways, House Calls as Head Nurse Bradley, Hart to Hart, and more. She even appeared opposite her former co-star Griffith in multiple episodes of his TV series Matlock.
Outside of her acting career, Corsaut never got married or had any children. According to author Daniel de Visé who wrote Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, there was a reason Corsaut and Griffith had such great chemistry on-screen. According to the book, they were having an affair behind the scenes and the entire cast and crew knew about it despite the pair's attempts to keep things under wraps. At the time, Griffith was married to Barbara Bray Edwards.
"Andy couldn't get enough of Aneta...eventually, he proposed, even though he was already married," the author said. "He popped the question at least once and possibly two or three times, as Aneta hinted in later years. She turned him down."
It's widely known that Griffith liked to play pranks on the set of the show and according to the author, as soon as everyone found out about the affair, they decided to try a prank on the star that didn't exactly go over well.
"One evening," de Visé wrote, "members of the Griffith crew unleashed a practical joke on Andy and Aneta: a young crewman donned a waiter's uniform and delivered dinner to the couple's love nest at a Hollywood hotel. Andy was furious."
It's interesting to speculate on how long the alleged affair lasted considering Corsaut made her final on-screen performance as Judge Cynthia Justin on Matlock. She passed away from cancer in 1995 in Los Angeles but we will always remember her as Helen Crump, the woman who stole Sheriff Andy Taylor's heart.