Andy Griffith, one of TV’s greatest legendary actors has died at the age of 86. For many years some incarnation of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW seemed to play in first runs and in later syndication offering folksy small time town laughs and a cast of very lovable characters played by comic character actors such as Don Knotts, George Lindsay and Jim Nabors, lead by Andy Griffith as their straight man foil. Griffith was also a very deeply religious man who was also a Grammy Award winning gospel music singer and even produced some hilarious spoken comedy records such as his side-splitittingly funny description of a football game that once became a hit novelty single that was also a fan favorite on the Dr. Demento syndicated radio comedy music show in later years. “What It Was, Was Football”, became a #9 chart hit in 1953 for Andy Griffith.
Andy Griffith was born into a poor North Carolina family, and often slept in a drawer as a baby for a family too poor to afford a crib or bed for their only child to sleep in. In later years, young Andy Griffith studied to be a Moravian Baptist minister, but later changed his major to music studies. For a short time, Andy Griffith became an English teacher, but his comedy writing soon led to a comedy career which also soon led to acting as well.
Andy Griffith starred in two versions of, NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS, one one hour TV play in 1955 and a later 1958 movie with Don Knotts that helped to spur the later spin-off of the Gomer Pyle character from the MAYBERRY shows into GOMER PYLE,USMC. But, 1957’s A FACE IN THE CROWD was considered to be his first dramatic role in a film, as Andy Griffith sometimes ventured out of comedy into serious and dramatic acting.
In 1960, Andy Griffith played a comic role of a small town sheriff who stops Danny Thomas for speeding near a small town in an episode of the hit comedy, MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY. This guest role seemed to launch THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW later that year that lasted until 1968. Andy Griffith wanted to do movies and wanted to leave the series after 1967, so plans were made to continue the series as MAYBERRY R.F.D., but with main characters such as Andy Griffith and Don Knotts gone, the show just lacked the magic of the original series. But the old show did manage one later TV movie, RETURN TO MAYBERRY as well a couple of specials because it was considered to be such classic TV.
Part of what made the Sheriff Andy Taylor role so great for Andy Griffith, was that he seemed to have infinite wisdom compared to the goofy residents who had absurd and silly problems. Compared to these people, Andy Taylor seemed much like the infinitely wise King Solomon of The Bible.
Andy Griffith’s next big TV role in his later years was as MATLOCK, a very clever aging Southern lawyer who would always out-think his rivals to win every case. This fine drama lasted from 1986-1995. Andy Griffith continued to guest star in TV shows and movies for many years, including as a comedy version of a James Bond-type villain in the Leslie Nielsen 1996 spy spoof, SPY HARD, which had the title song sung by Weird Al Yankovic.
Although Andy Griffith was a Southern-styled Baptist, he actually tended to support democrats and was even once urged to run for the U.S. Senate as a democrat, but had no political ambitions of his own.
In his later years, Andy Griffith began to fall into a number of health issues, but still managed to make as many cameo or guest appearances as he possibly could as one of the small screen’s greatest legends ever.
A life well lived. Now, he goes back to the Lord he loved. From his early path to becoming a Baptist minister and gospel singer to his legendary characters as Sheriff Andy Taylor or as clever lawyer Ben Matlock, Andy Griffith was one of TV’s greatest legends. A very great actor and entertainer.
Somewhere in our hearts and minds, there’s still the sleepy little town of Mayberry, where Sheriff Andy Taylor wisely keeps order, and goofy residents like Barney Fife and Goober and Gomer Pyle reside.