Manny P. here…
As we pause to celebrate our nation’s birthday, let me remind you, we lost a big heap of cultural pie on Tuesday. Andy Griffith was a larger-than-life actor who frequently underplayed his characters on the big screen and on television. A product of the South, Andy’s backwoods roots were on display; while living a serene and private life in North Carolina.
His first success came in a vinyl recording of his hillbilly comedic description of the gridiron. What it Was, Was Football reached the Top 10 on the Hit Parade; extremely rare for a spoken-only recording for the time. Will Rogers would have been proud.
He became a iconic movie villain in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd. He starred with Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, and Lee Remick, but stole the picture playing Lonesome Rhodes, a Southern drifter who becomes a media sensation. There were hints about an Oscar nomination for the ferociously strong performance. His followup in No Time For Sergeants, playing a hick who is drafted, solidified his rural image. ANDY GRIFFITH / PATRICIA NEAL –>
Griffith was in demands by all mediums of entertainment. His first appearance on television had been in 1955 in the one-hour teleplay of No Time for Sergeants on The United States Steel Hour. The actor was allowed to flesh out the role in a full-length Broadway version in 1955. Remaining in New York, he accepted the lead in Destry Rides Again.
When he returned to the small screen, he perfected his type as Sheriff Andy Taylor, initially on a 1960 episode of Make Room For Daddy. He developed a savvy relationship with actor / producer Sheldon Leonard. From their cordial collaboration, The Andy Griffith Show was created. Desilu secured the production responsibilities.
Griffith was involved in the casting process, and he was brilliant in this capacity. The inspired benefactors included Francis Bavier, Howard McNear, Hal Smith, George Lindsey, Howard Morris, and especially, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors, and Ron Howard. After the pilot was filmed, Andy realized his surrounding cast was so insanely hilarious, he could play a quintessential straight-man. His instincts were right, and television audiences embraced this subtle situation comedy. The program spawned sequels, and evenutally, inspired a couple of reunion telemovies. A Nielsen study revealed the show was the most popular comedy of the 1960s.
ANDY GRIFFITH / RON HOWARD
Griffith returned to television as the title character in the legal drama Matlock (1986–1995) on NBC and ABC. Both programs are currently in reruns on various cable networks, including TVLand and the Hallmark Channel.
He was inducted in 1992 into the Academy of Television Arts Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005. Andy won a Grammy, and was a multiple Tony Award nominee. In 2002, an 11-mile stretch of US Highway 52 passing through Mount Airy, North Carolina was officially dedicated as the Andy Griffith Parkway. He was a proud favorite son of the state.
Andy Griffith was 86.
Until next time> “never forget”