The first time I heard of Andy Griffith was when he appeared in the movie No Time For Sergeants. He played Will Stockdale a mountain boy, who is drafted into the U.S. Army. He had already played the part in the Broadway play by the same name three years, before the 1958 movie was released.
The funniest scene of the movie to me was when he was named PLO (Permanent Latrine Orderly). He rigged the toilet seats to stand up all at once, which shocked the inspecting officer to say the least. However, this scene of him being tested by a corporal for manual dexterity may be even funnier. Don Knotts plays the corporal, who is utterly frustrated by the way Andy’s character Will Stockdale puts the two links together. Don Knotts appears at about the 1:15 mark.
I hadn’t even known Andy Griffith had appeared in A Face in the Crowd in 1957, in a dramatic role unlike the Andy Griffith I had known in No Time For Sergeants and on the Andy Griffith show.
Andy received top billing in the movie portraying an Arkansas hobo Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes who becomes rich overnight. This is a scene from A Face In The Crowd:
Made Television Debut On U.S. Steel Hour
Andy had made his television debut on the U.S. Steel Hour when he played Will Stockdale on television. He played the role on Broadway, on television and in the movies, which probably has not been done very often, by any actor in the same role.
He also made the movie Onionhead in 1958, so it was a very busy year for him.
Danny Thomas Show Role As Sheriff
Andy got a big break when he appeared on a Danny Thomas episode in 1960, where Danny is given a ticket, by a small-town sheriff. Andy is perplexed when he finds out that Andy is not only the sheriff, but also the justice of the peace.
The Danny Thomas episode led to the formation of the Andy Griffith show which was shown that same year, on the CBS television network. 249 episodes later the Andy Griffith show would complete its run.
He appeared on Mayberry RFD for two years, then had two series fail in short order, when Headmaster lasted 13 episodes in 1970, followed by the New Andy Griffith show which lasted only 10 episodes. He didn’t return to another series until 1979 when Salvage One only last 19 episodes. He had appeared in three series since leaving Mayberry RFD, but only 42 shows were made of those three series combined.
Seven years later Andy tried again for a hit series and he struck gold with Matlock which ran from 1986-1995. He appeared in various television series and movies till he made his last acting appearance in Play the Game in 2009 at the age of 83.
Andy non only was an actor, but recorded gospel songs. This is Andy singing How Great Thou Art:
I looked at Andy Griffith and saw a role model, for the right way to live life.
My wife and daughter surprised me in 2006, when we went to Mt. Airy, N.C. to see Andy’s boyhood home. I didn’t know we were going to stay there that night and it was the surprise of my life, when I found out we were actually spending the night there. Hampton Inn rents out the home to tourists and it was something I will never forget. I even played baseball with my grandson in Andy’s backyard.
Andy had also made some comedy records early in his career. I had the record that has him giving his impression of seeing his first football game. He said in his monologue that 5 or 6 convicts were running up and down the field blowing whistles. The game was played in a cow pasture and Andy concludes saying that the object of the game must be to keep from being knocked down or stepping in something.
The only remaining actors still alive from Andy Griffith are Jim “Gomer Pyle” Nabors and Betty “Thelma Lou” Lynn.
I was 15 when the first Andy Griffith show was televised in 1960 and was 23 when the last show aired, so have been watching Andy Griffith during the first eight original years and in 44 years of re-runs.
Andy, Thanks for the memories and RIP.