Maggie Peterson died on May 15 in Colorado, her family said. In the 1960s, she played the sweet-natured and sometimes flirtatious mountain girl Charlene Darling on The Andy Griffith Show.
“It makes us very sad to say that our dear Aunt Maggie passed away yesterday afternoon,” the family wrote on Facebook today. “She died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her family.”
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Even though she only played Charlene in five episodes of the classic rural sitcom. Peterson was one of the show’s most recognizable and memorable recurring cast members. She often sang along with her onscreen family. The Darlings, played by the real-life bluegrass group The Dillards and actor Denver Pyle, who played patriarch Briscoe Darling.
Peterson’s repeated pleas about the emotional impact of crazy-sounding song titles became a catchphrase, as in the following exchange with Pyle’s character:
“How about “Don’t Hit Your Grandma with a Big Stick”?” asked Briscoe.
“No, Paw!” said Charlene. “Oh, that’s so sad!”
“Slimy River Bottom,” “Boil That Cabbage Down,” and “Keep Your Money in Your Shoes and It Won’t Get Wet” are some other songs that made Charlene cry.
In one episode, Charlene, played by Peterson, was betrothed to Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Griffith, even though he didn’t know it. Charlene’s baby daughter was betrothed to Andy’s young son Opie (Ron Howard) in another episode.
By playing Charlene from 1963 to 1966, Peterson became an unofficial member of Griffith’s cast. She went on to play other roles on the sitcom and its spinoffs, Gomer Pyle: USMC and Mayberry R.F.D. She was also in the movies Angel in My Pocket (1969), which starred Griffith, and The Love God? (starring Griffith regular Don Knotts). In 1986, she went back to the Mayberry world and played Charlene again in the TV movie Return to Mayberry.
Peterson, who sometimes went by her married name Maggie Mancuso. Also acted in The Bill Dana Show, which, like Griffith, was a spinoff of The Danny Thomas Show, Love, American Style, Green Acres, The Odd Couple, and the 1969 movie The Over-the-Hill Gang. After a role in The Magical World of Disney in 1987. She stopped acting and went to work for the Nevada Film Commission.
In December, Peterson, who lived in Las Vegas, lost her jazz musician husband of more than 40 years, Gus Mancuso. “Maggie’s health got worse after her husband Gus died,” her family wrote. “We are glad we were able to move her home so she could spend her last days close to family.”
Maggie Peterson, who was born in Colorado, got her start in show business in the 1950s as a singer. With a family group called the Ja-Da Quartet. Griffith’s manager, Dick Linke, heard about the group at a record show. Peterson’s singing skills were later used on the Griffith show when Darlene would join the family sing-alongs. Her version of the bluegrass standard “Salty Dog” was especially well-known.
Peterson often went to Mayberry fan club events. Today, her family wrote to fans: “Even though she was in Las Vegas and away from her family, your love and devotion made her feel like she wasn’t alone. She told us more than once that she couldn’t believe how kind everyone was. You really changed her life for the better and helped her through some very hard times… We hope that during this hard time, you can find comfort in knowing how much you helped Maggie’s life end in a better way because of you.”
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