Margaret Kerry has come to Mount Airy for Mayberry Days four or five times, but this year for the first time, she will be doing an hour-long show today at the Andy Griffith Museum.
In “Tinker Bell meets Andy Griffith” Kerry will speak of her long career in show business, beginning with “Our Gang” comedies when she was only 4 years old to the present day, but focusing on the two roles that have brought her the most lasting fame and that still resonate with viewers to this day.
During a career which has included 36 motion pictures, 600 voice-overs for cartoons, and countless television shows, she found time to be the original animator’s reference model for Tinker Bell in Walt Disney’s Peter Pan as well as do two episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” in its first season.
In 1953, Marc Davis, one of Disney Studio’s “Nine Old Men” hired her for the animated film “Peter Pan.” Along with Tinker Bell, Davis was responsible for some of Disney’s most iconic characters, including Cruella deVil and The Haunted Mansion. Kerry’s job was to pantomime all of Tinker Bell’s scenes in the movie which would then be used as a reference by the animators.
She clinched the job by doing a pantomime at her audition of a 9-year-old boy making his own breakfast, complete with dropping eggs on the floor.
Kerry was unaware for many years of the Hollywood rumor that Tinker Bell had been modeled on Marilyn Monroe, but now she is quick to put those rumors to rest.
She said, “I’ve worked with Marilyn, and I adored her, but one of the reasons she couldn’t have done it was because she wasn’t a dancer. If you look at Tinker Bell, the way she does her walk is like a ballet dancer’s walk. I’m a dancer.”
Few things in Hollywood have the shelf life of a Disney cartoon but Kerry may have found something else that does when she guest-starred on two episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
She played Bess Muggins in episode 11, “Christmas Show” and then Helen Scobey in episode 28, “Andy Forecloses.” In both episodes, she was married to actor Sam Edwards and faced trouble caused by Will Wright, a wealthy Mayberry curmudgeon.
Kerry says that she and Edwards were supposed to be playing the same characters in both episodes but “no one looked up the names” when they came back for the second show. Wright also morphed from a store owner/businessman to a banker between the episodes.
Like all of the actors who guest-starred on The Andy Griffith Show,” Kerry remembers its inclusiveness. “On ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ it was a family. And you became a part of the family when you worked there. How wonderful that was.”
In an industry where a lot of female actors have trouble landing work after they turn 40, Margaret Kerry is still going strong at twice that age. Her home in Glendale, California, was chosen because of its proximity to Disney Studios where she continues to work.
Also, when she is not on the road, she can watch “The Andy Griffith Show” twice a day, at noon and at six p.m. Clearly still an Andy Griffith fan, she adds, “We get a ‘Matlock,’ too.”
Some 55 years after working with Andy Griffith on his show, she concludes an interview with a quote from her old friend, “As Andy Griffith said, ‘I think we got her made, if she don’t kick.’”
Hear more about Margaret Kerry’s show biz career, including her life as the real-life Tinker Bell and her experiences on “The Andy Griffith Show” when she debuts her book, “Tinker Bell Talks! Tales of a Pixie-Dusted Life” at The Andy Griffith Museum (lower level) today at 4:30 p.m.
The 400-page book has been 13 years in the making and includes 160 photos. Attendees at Mayberry Days will be among the first to have an opportunity to purchase the book.
It is literally the book of a lifetime.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.