Elinor Donohue played love interest Ellie Walker on “The Andy Griffith Show” for one season, but there’s one episode that stands out.
Donohue and Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the CBS sitcom, ended up having a duet together during a Christmas episode. She talks about that experience during an interview with the Archive of American Television.
“It was scary and I really, I knew I had to do it, but I kind of didn’t want to have to do it,” she said. “And my mother said, ‘I don’t know why you are so afraid of it. You’ve sung that song a million times at Christmas and at church. You certainly know it.’”
The song Donohue is referring to is “Away In A Manger” for “The Andy Griffith Show” episode.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Admits to Being Terrified About Singing
“But I was terrified,” she said. “I had this thing about not being able to sing. And so we went to the recording studio after shooting during the day. Andy Griffith was there with his guitar. And our line producer was also there. They had microphones all over the studio.”
Donohue, who had earlier TV success on “Father Knows Best,” said Griffith told her that they’d work on getting a key that both could agree upon for the song.
“So he kind of noodled around,” she said. “He found a key and we started to rehearse and my voice was shaking.”
Griffith Helps Donohue Through The Song By Calming Her Down A Bit
“He said, ‘You know, why don’t we just sit down here on the floor,’” Donohue said. “There’s a little riser and we sat on it and he said, ‘I’m just going to play some chords and you hum. When you feel real comfortable, come in and I’ll just pick it up.’”
What happened? Griffith started playing the chords, Donohue starts humming and it’s the melody to “Away In A Manger.” Then she starts to sing the song with Griffith playing.
“After the song, he said, ‘OK I’ll see you tomorrow morning,’” Donohue said. “I said, ‘Aren’t we going to record it?’” Donohue then winks and said Griffith told her, “We did.”
Donohue originally had signed a three-year contract to play Ellie on the show, but she left after one year on the deal.
Griffith’s character would ultimately find a love interest in schoolteacher Helen Crump, played by Aneta Corsault. But this tender moment between Griffith and Donohue is quite special to fans of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
It’s a must-see episode each Christmas for them and the song and theme of “The Christmas Story” are fitting for the holiday.