SANTA BARBARA, CA – Mary Grace Canfield, mother of Phoebe Alexiades who ran Plaka in Santa Monica, CA for years, and is most famously known for her role as “Ralph” on Green Acres, has died at age 89.
Canfield was a character actress who played roles of “plain-looking” women, such as Mary Grace Gossage (her own name, “Mary Grace” was used for the role) in a 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show, in which she was a blind date for Gomer Pyle, a goofy recurring character on the show played by Jim Nabors. In the touching episode, Barney Fife’s (Don Knotts) girlfriend, Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) will not go to the big dance with him unless he can find a date for her plain cousin, Mary Grace, visiting from out of town. Gomer seems like the answer until he disappears. Barney and Andy Taylor (Griffith) think he’s shunned her because of her looks, but he darted out only because he had forgotten to bring her a corsage! Gomer and Mary Grace then dance the night away.
Canfield enjoyed her greatest role, though, two years later, when she was cast on Green Acres as Ralph Monroe, one half of the bumbling Monroe siblings – the other half her brother, Alf, played by Sid Melton – who often botched home improvement jobs at the Hooterville country shack/home of New York lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Douglas (Eddie Albert) and his glamorous, city-loving Hungarian-born wife, Lisa (Eva Gabor).
Canfield died of lung cancer, said her daughter, Phoebe Alexiades, a Santa Barbara realtor who ran the heralded Plaka restaurant in that same community for years. Inspired by the famous Athenian neighborhood, the Plaka featured live music and bellydancing to complement the food and drink.
With Canfield’s passing, the only surviving regular cast member of Green Acres – which ran from 1965 to 1971 and was in Nielsen’s top-20 rated shows for each of its first four seasons – is Tom Lester. He played the Douglases’ zany farmhand, Eb. Lester, an actor-turned evangelist, is a real life farmer, living with his wife on a 250-acre family farm, considerably larger than the one to which he tended for Oliver and Lisa Douglas on the classic sitcom.