When I heard that Andy Griffith passed away on July 3, 2012, I felt the urge to blog about it because I always liked him. I remembered him first and foremost from the Andy Griffith show that I watched along with my grandparents when I visited their apartment as a young child. Afternoons of beans and wieners followed by the iconic whistling intro, were fondly remembered, with the image of the even tempered Andy walking along a road with an exited child actor running along beside him named Ron Howard, as Opie. It always seemed a wholesome bit of TV, so from that point on, I always equated Andy with wholesomeness.
Upon Andy’s death, I did a little bit of looking into his old roles. Many of his shows I had not seen, although there was some more reminiscing when I came across Matlock again, which I occasionally watched with my family, and vague recollections of watching the Waitress and Spy Hard. Since I can’t seem to stay away from my local library, I also managed to dig up some other movies by Andy, such as No Time for Sergeants, an old black and white from ’58 that showed Andy as a bumbling farm boy flexing his comedic chops in the air force. His dopy, yet endearing, character was just so fun to watch. There was even a short role in the film for Don Knotts, Andy’s eventual Mayberry sidekick, which is all the more fun because this film actually predates the Andy Griffith Show by 2 years.
I may have watched one of his more powerful performances when I found Andy’s portrayal of Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhoads in his very first movie, A Face in the Crowd, from 1957. This was the first time I’d seen Andy play such a vibrantly charismatic jerk, with his leering cockiness and spontaneously rebellious, and fairly well played, songs. There was something about his amazing crazy eyed intensity I found captivating, perhaps simply because it’s in such stark contrast to the Andy characters I always thought I knew. The plot was one I’d seen before, generally about how power and fame corrupts, but this was a film set way before its time, and it accurately depicts some of what we have going on in media and entertainment today, 55 years later. With a young Walter Mathau with some classic and insightful lines and Patricia Neal doing a smart, dedicated-to-a-fault, supporting female lead, this movie really was fantastic. The trailer doesn’t really do it justice, but you can find it below, along with a short clip from No Time for Sergeants and a little Andy Griffith show for good measure.
Andy was a talented actor, a treasure that touched the lives of many in Hollywood and around the world. This fatherly icon showed people, through his Mayberry character, what characteristics fathers could and should embody. That they could be strong, funny, wholesome, fair and kind. I miss that in television, and I’ll miss Andy Griffith.