Most TV watchers of the ‘50s remember Elinor Donahue as Betty “Princess” Anderson on Father Knows Best. In 1960, she joined the cast of The Andy Griffith Show, playing Sheriff Andy Taylor’s love interest Ellie Walker. The character did not return for the sitcom’s second season, leaving fans wondering about the real reason behind her departure. Scroll below to find out what happened to Ellie and the actress who played her.
Why Did Ellie Leave ‘The Andy Griffith Show’?
Father Knows Best ran for six seasons before coming to an end in May 1960. While portraying one of the three Anderson children, Elinor essentially grew up on television before making the transition to adulthood.
The first episode of The Andy Griffith Show aired on CBS in October 1960, just a few months after the Father Knows Best finale. Elinor was a mainstay during the first season of the Emmy-winning series. While fans loved her character, a pharmacist at Walker’s Drugstore in Mayberry, playing Ellie was a challenge for the performer.
“I went pretty much immediately from Father Knows Best into The Andy Griffith Show where I was really playing a grown-up with a profession, and moxie and stuff,” she told Closer in July 2020. “But the truth is, I felt like a bird out of a nest. I didn’t feel like I had all my feathers yet and I didn’t feel capable. It was the strangest feeling.”
Though viewers enjoyed the charming interactions between Andy and Ellie, she disappeared from the show after 12 appearances.
“I had a three-year contract for that show, but at the end of the first year, I asked to be let out of it because I didn’t feel that I was playing the role properly,” Elinor revealed. “I just didn’t feel right about it. In retrospect, from things that people have said to me — very lovely things — I was doing OK. I was just not a happy camper and there was no point in my trying to continue with it.”
Where Is Elinor Donahue Now?
Years after leaving The Andy Griffith Show, Elinor bumped into the program’s leading man, Andy Griffith, at an event. The Mulligan’s Stew alum felt like she owed him an apology for her abrupt departure.
“He was as gracious to me as you could imagine,” she recalled. “He said they just didn’t know how to write for me. That could have been part of it. I didn’t think there was any real chemistry there. They tried a lot of other women periodically, but then Aneta Corsaut came in. I have since read they had a hot and heavy thing going, and in that case, he was able to relate.”
Elinor found her stride starring as Miriam Welby in The Odd Couple from 1972 to 1975. From 1984 to 1986, the Washington native, who is a mom to four sons, appeared in Days of Our Lives. Her most recent acting appearance came with a 2011 character arc in The Young and the Restless.