Of all of the entertaining characters on The Andy Griffith Show, were there any that made you laugh harder than Barney Fife? Don Knotts made the bumbling deputy one of the most beloved characters in all of Mayberry, North Carolina, and fans loved following along with his love story with onscreen sweetheart Thelma Lou, portrayed by Betty Lynn. What has the actress been up to since the sitcom ended decades ago?
Betty Lynn grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. When she was 17, she auditioned for the United Service Organizations and ended up touring with the USO tour in the China Burma India Theater the following year. She would sing requested songs for recently released prisoners of war, showing off her mezzo-soprano pipes in order to cheer up the troops.
When she returned to the United States, Lynn got her big break appearing in numerous Broadway productions like Oklahoma! and Park Avenue which led to a contract deal with Hollywood. Starting in the late 40s, Lynn started appearing in multiple major films including Sitting Pretty, June Bride with Bette Davis, Cheaper by the Dozen, Mother Is a Freshman, and Payment on Demand. She also appeared in guest roles in multiple TV shows like Schlitz Playhouse of Stars and The Gale Storm Show.
In an interview with ArtistChronicle, Lynn explained that initially, it really wasn't a set plan to give Barney Fife his own love interest. At the time she first appeared on the popular sitcom in the episode "Cyrano Andy," she was actually under contract with the series Texas John Slaughter. But after that show was canceled, Andy Griffith kept bringing her back occasionally and the love story just seemed to unfold on its own.
"I didn't have any contract," Lynn explained. "They called me in occasionally, and I got to play opposite Don Knotts, who I loved."
Though Lynn only appeared in 26 episodes, her character was honestly a big part of the show, especially for Deputy Fife. The only reason her character was even cut from the show was due to Knotts' decision to leave the series. But she did come back for Return to Mayberry where fans finally got to see Barney and Thelma tie the knot. Lynn hasn't appeared in any acting roles since the 80s, her final appearance being opposite her former co-star Andy Griffith in an episode of his TV series Matlock.
Despite her other acting roles, The Andy Griffith Show was always an incredibly important experience to Lynn. In fact, she regularly appears at the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina to sign autographs for fans. She actually lives in an assisted-living facility right in town so it's no wonder she's so involved! Despite her sweet onscreen romance, in real-life, Lynn was never married. But we'll always get to enjoy her as Thelma Lou in re-runs of the beloved sitcom.