'Matlock': Why Andy Griffith's Love Interest Julie Sommars Disappeared From the Legal Drama Without an Explanation03/23/2021
The 1980s and ’90s legal drama Matlock was the second biggest series of actor Andy Griffith’s career. His first, The Andy Griffith Show, has aged well and remains after over 60 years one of the most beloved television comedies of all time.
The common denominator in both series? Griffith’s love interests’ seeming disappearance from the screen, with no clarification to viewers.
There were quite a few flames of Andy Taylor’s that vanished out of Mayberry and on Matlock, it was the legal eagle’s one and only love interest, Julie March, who was there one season and gone the next.
Griffith admitted he didn’t write well for women during ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
In Richard Kelly’s 1981 book, The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith spoke with the author about the show’s female characters and about his own issues writing for them.
“We never knew how to write for women,” Griffith admitted. “We never did know, and because of my peculiar nature, and my personal relationship with women, and the difficulty that I’ve always had with them – it became even more difficult for us to write for women.”
Griffith touched on Andy Taylor’s first girlfriend on the show played by Elinor Donahue of Father Knows Best fame.
“Elinor Donahue was a regular in the company before we ever started, and we were so lucky to get her, we thought,” he said. “Well, she didn’t work out at all. It wasn’t her fault. It was our fault. And it starts with me. She asked to be relieved from duty after that first season.”
The show’s writers and Griffith himself gave up trying to fit the show’s star with a girlfriend or wife.
The ones that got away from Andy Taylor
It wasn’t just Donahue who didn’t work out for Sheriff Andy Taylor on the classic comedy.
Following Donahue’s unexplained exit was “Mary the county nurse,” played by two actors: Julie Adams in the episode titled “The County Nurse” and Sue Ane Langdon in “Three’s a Crowd,” both airing in the show’s second season.
Finally another nurse, Peggy McMillan played by Joanna Moore, captured Andy Taylor’s interest and seemed likely to stay but only made it to four episodes in the third season.
All these sweethearts of Sheriff Taylor’s eventually were not invited back to the show nor was their absence ever acknowledged.
The lasting love interest that finally worked for the Griffith Show was that of schoolteacher Helen Crump played by Aneta Corsaut who remained on the show for five seasons.
Why Sommars left – and the show couldn’t be bothered to explain why
Sommars portrayed Assistant District Attorney Julie March on Matlock from its second season in 1987 until 1994. Griffith and the actor provided romantic tension between legendary defense attorney Ben Matlock and his ADA nemesis March – in the courtroom only.
By 1992 the series was canceled by NBC, where it had been since its 1986 debut. ABC picked up Matlock right away, where it stayed until its cancellation there in 1995.
To accommodate Griffith, when the series moved to ABC, it also moved – literally – to his home state of North Carolina. But in the shuffle, the show lost Sommars who did not want to venture far from her family in California. She left Matlock in 1992 – and acting entirely – after her single and final appearance on the show in 1994.
In an interview with Life (via MeTV), Sommars spoke on the home life she loved so much: “I mean, my house, to me, represents the beauty of life. I have a little tree in my front yard in bloom. It’s pink. And when I come home, it always makes me smile because I have a pink tree in my front yard. Then the other day, I made a chocolate cake and it turned out moist instead of dry. I haven’t stopped talking about it since.”
Still, not even a goodbye scene between Sommars and Griffith? Some ends just won’t be tied up to viewers’ satisfaction it seems.
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