In case you don’t know, as an actress Morgan Brittany played “Opie’s first girlfriend” on the Andy Griffith Show. Each year, Morgan attends “Mayberry Days” in North Carolina, which is a celebration of all-things-Andy Griffith and is taking place this weekend.
This year’s Mayberry Days is not just the 25th anniversary of the festival — it will also be a reunion of sorts when Joy Ellison and Morgan Brittany get a chance to catch up on the almost 50 years that have passed since they last met as child actors on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.
The two actresses guest starred on the iconic show in the 196th episode; the season eight opener, “Opie’s First Love.”
Brittany may be known as the girl who broke Opie’s heart, but had no idea at the time her role would be remembered.
“Honestly, back in the day, I had no idea of the impact that being on that show would have. One week, I was Opie’s girlfriend and the next week I’d be Chip’s girlfriend on “My Three Sons.”
By the time Brittany appeared in the eighth season of “The Andy Griffith Show,” she had already had quite a career as an actress. Notable among her many credits was her role as Baby June in the original film version of “Gypsy” with Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell.
Did she think that a guest appearance on one television show out of the literally dozens that she appeared on would still be affecting her life all these years later? “I had no idea what the impact would be. None of us did. We didn’t think of it as classic TV. It was just a job. We were kids but we had a job. We were expected to perform. We were expected to go to school on the set.”
Like many child actors, Brittany went through a period where she was no longer wanted as an actor.
“When a child actor turns 13, 14, 15, the career is over,” she said. “You’re just not that cute little kid anymore. Even Ronny (Howard) didn’t act very much after ‘Happy Days.’ My agent lost interest in me and finally cut me loose. I went through a really dark period of not knowing what to do.
She said to stay grounded, there are two things that can get a person through a transition like this — either great family support or a great faith foundation. “In my case, I turned to faith and God. That’s what got me through it and gave me the courage to reinvent myself as an adult performer.”
Brittany reignited her acting career as an adult and then did what is arguably her most memorable work, playing on the popular prime time soap, “Dallas” as Katherine Wentworth, Pam Ewing’s stepsister. Her dark-haired, delicate beauty also led to her playing iconic actress Vivian Leigh three different times.
Both Brittany and Ellison ultimately left acting behind to focus on other careers. They were joined in this move by their Andy Griffith co-star, Ron Howard, whom they both charmingly still refer to as Ronny. Ron Howard graduated from acting to become one of America’s most successful directors, Ellison is one of the most sought after dialect coaches in the entertainment business and Brittany has morphed into a writer who focuses about conservative causes and appearing on talk shows in support of them.
Brittany’s first book, “What Women Really Want,” co-authored with Ann-Marie Murrell and Dr. Gina Loudon, has just been released. She notes that it is going really well and sales exploded after her appearance on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show. Brittany’s conservative viewpoint makes her a novelty in Hollywood, a town noted for its liberal leanings. But she insists she is not as much of a rarity as one would assume.
Morgan Brittany will be meeting fans, signing pictures and autographing copies of her new book at The Andy Griffith Museum, 218 Rockford Street, Wednesday from 4-5:30 p.m., Thursday from 2-3:30p.m., Friday from 12-5 p.m. and Saturday after the parade.