Andy Griffith 1926-2012
|NEWS - TV NEWS|
Remembering the much-loved comic actor's long life and career...
Yesterday a true entertainment legend passed into the great beyond. Andrew Samuel Griffith, best known as Mayberry’s humble sheriff Andy Taylor, passed away at 7:00 am on July 3, 2012. Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina on June 1, 1926, Andy lived a true working class life. Although a shy student that didn’t immediately fit in, he soon learned how to make his fellow schoolmates laugh. He always had an interest in music, and originally studied to be a preacher at UNC, but changed his major to music and joined a theatre group. His early showbiz experience was as a monologist, his most famous story being “What it Was, Was Football”, told from the point-of-view of a backwoodsman trying to understand the sport. It was released as a single and reached number nine on the charts.
His first television appearance was in “No Time for Sergeants”, a teleplay on The United States Steel Hour, in 1955. Two years later he would star as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes – a country boy schemer – in A Face in the Crowd, a dark part that was quite in contrast to his later well-known persona. While the film received mixed reviews at the time, it has become something of a cult classic, being embraced by film lovers and critics in recent years.
In 1960, Griffith guest starred on an episode of the Danny Thomas sitcom Make Room for Daddy as a county sheriff/justice of the peace/editor of the local newspaper who pulls Thomas over for speeding. The spot worked as a backdoor pilot for his own sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, which co-starred Griffith’s friend Don Knotts as his deputy, best friend and cousin Barney Fife, and child actor and future director Ron Howard as Andy’s only child Opie. He would star in the program until 1967, but did reprise the role in three reunion specials.
After a string of unsuccessful series and serious illness, Griffith returned to television as Ben Matlock on the drama Matlock, which ran from 1986-1995. Matlock was a country lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia known for always winning his cases. He also did a guest spot as the character in an episode of the Dick Van Dyke medical drama Diagnosis: Murder, playing an old friend of Dr. Mark Sloan (Van Dyke) who held a grudge due to losing a fortune on an investment tip from the doctor.
Griffith made several appearances in feature films, most of them flops, and starred in several television movies that were meant to serve as pilots for series, none of which worked out. He received his only Primetime Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Miniseries or a Movie for portraying the father of a murder victim in the 1981 television film Murder in Texas. Although he never got an Emmy, he did win a Grammy in 1997 for a gospel album, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest national honor a civilian can be awarded – in 2005. His last television appearance was on an episode of Dawson’s Creek in 2001. Griffith was politically active, voicing his support for many Democratic candidates over the years. In 2008 he appeared in the online video Ron Howard’s Call to Action, where he and Howard reprised their roles as Andy and Opie Taylor, both voicing support for Obama and Biden (Howard also appeared as Richie Cunningham alongside Henry Winkler, who reprised his role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli).
As per his wishes, Griffith was buried within five hours of his death at his home on Roanoke Island in Dare County, North Carolina. He was 86 years old, and will be missed by many.
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