Monday, June 24, 2019

Seven Things to Know About Andy Griffith

Andy in No Time for Sergeants.
1. Andy Griffith's first major success was a comic monologue called "What It Was, Was Football," in which a country preacher accidentally attends an American football game--having never seen one--and tries to describe it. It became a regional hit and was picked up for national distribution by Capitol Records. The single reached No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. Andy is credited as Deacon Andy Griffith on the single's label; the "B" side is his countrified version of Romeo and Juliet.

2. In 1955, he appeared in "No Time for Sergeants," a one-hour episode of The U.S. Steel Hour adapted by Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby) from Mac Hyman's novel. Levin expanded his teleplay into a stage success that also starred Griffith, who received a Tony nomination. The Broadway cast also included Don Knotts! When Warner Bros. decided to turn No Time for Sergeants into a film, Griffith and Knotts retained their roles.

The serious side in A Face in the Crowd.
3. To convince Elia Kazan that he was the right actor to play Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd (1957), Griffith did an impersonation of Oral Roberts conducting a healing. Kazan hired him the next day.

4. Andy Griffith first appeared as Andy Taylor, sheriff of Mayberry, in an episode of The Danny Thomas Show that aired in the show's seventh season in 1960. It was titled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith" and served as a "backdoor pilot" for The Andy Griffith Show. Andy's new show debuted later that year. During its first season, Andy portrayed a variation of his country bumpkin from No Time for Sergeants. That changed in the second season when he became the straight man and other Mayberry characters, such as Don Knott's Barney's Fife, provided the comedy.

5. After leaving Mayberry behind, Andy Griffith tried several times to launch a new TV series as a serious small town sheriff. His first attempt was Winter Kill, a 1970 ABC Movie of the Week which cast Andy as Sheriff Sam McNeill. The plot concerned a sniper killing the residents of a small resort town. It doubled as a pilot for TV series. Although it didn't result in a regular show, Andy did play a different sheriff of a small resort town in the 1975 TV series Adams of Eagle Lake. It only lasted two episodes. In 1977, he played Abel Marsh, the police chief of another small town, in two telefilms: The Girl in the Empty Grave and Deadly Game. If the character's name sounds familiar, that's because James Garner played Abel Marsh in the 1972 theatrical film They Only Kill Their Masters.

With Rob Reiner in Headmaster.
6. It's easy to forget that Andy's post-Mayberry career included two other short-lived TV series. In Headmaster (1970), he played the head of a private school in California. It lasted for 14 episodes on CBS. In January 1971, its time slot was taken by The New Andy Griffith Show, in which Andy starred as a big city guy who moved his family to small town to become its mayor. Lee Meriwether portrayed his wife. It lasted just ten episodes. Of course, as we all know, he eventually found great television success again with Matlock (1986-95).

7. In a 2018 interview, Karen Knotts, Don's daughter, spoke about Andy Griffith: "He was very friendly to me; he was like an uncle. He had different sides. You could see that sometimes he would be intense and other times very, very warm and endearing. One thing I will tell you, and one thing that is different from what has been written in books, was that Andy was never jealous of my dad. He was his biggest fan and mentor. Everything later he was in, he wanted to get my dad in, too. He was in my dad’s corner."


  1. An interesting man and performer. However, I've never been able to really get into any of his shows, the hits or misses. Well, you can't watch everything.

  2. In re #6:

    Make that three (3) short-lived post-Mayberry series.

    In January of 1979, ABC picked up Salvage-1, a TV-movie followed up by a 13-week hour series.
    This was the one where Andy Griffith played a junk dealer who built a rocket ship out of spare parts and took a young crew to the moon to recover NASA's leftovers; they subsequently took up as adventurers, traveling around the world and out of town, in search of various things and such.
    Actually, ABC picked up Salvage-1 for a second season, and a new two-parter aired later that fall, but there was a regime change at the net, and at least four more episodes didn't get on.
    (I've got a crappy bootleg DVD of the whole series - unseen shows included - but I still hold out hope for an MOD release …)
    Just so you know …

    1. Mike, thanks for the info on SALVAGE-1. I was not a big fan...which may explain why I inadvertently didn't mention it :)

  3. Three other highlights of Andy's in the 70s were the TV movies, 1 Pray for the Wildcats and 2 Savages...which were both way against type roles that he did quite well. He was also very good in the mini-series Centennial as the James Michener fill-in.

    1. I remember his performance in PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS quite well. That may be the first time I saw him as a villain.

  4. Just a quick mention of his role in "Spy Hard" (1996) as General Rancor. AG, among other things, was an excellent comedic villain.

  5. What a nice remark from Karen Knotts. Rick, did you watch "Angel in My Pocket" with Andy Griffith? He made that in 1969 and it seemed to me like it was a little bit of a nod to The Andy Griffith Show with the small-town setting.

    1. I haven't seen that movie in a long time, but I do recall it had a Mayberryesque vibe.

  6. I really don't know much about Any Griffith's career. I love his performance in "A Face in the Crowd", and I have seen a few episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show", but you've shown me there's much more to explore.