I was sorry to see venerable actor Andy Griffith pass away a few days ago. I always admired his work, especially the original Andy Griffith Show that ran from 1960 to 1968, and now lives on forever in reruns. Once on a long Southern car trip I made my teenage daughters humor me when I just had to detour to see Mount Airy, NC, Griffith’s home town and the acknowledged model for the fictional Mayberry. As adults they claim to still have the emotional scars of that sidetrip. But as Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud!” And I got to see the black & white squad car and Floyds barber shop. So to me it was worth risking the charges of unmitigated emotional abuse.
One thing I
admired about Griffith was how he changed his screen character in the show after
Season 1. In the first season he was a
goofy, backwoods, somewhat naïve character – which is how he started his comedy
career with skits and recording such as the radio classic of the mid 50s, What is Was, Was Football. That record led to a spot on the Ed Sullivan
Season 1 he realized that there were plenty of talented actors that could play
the comic foil and what the series needed was a level-headed, but affable straight
man. So Don Knotts took on a more
pronounced comedic role as eventually did Jim Nabors and George Lindsey, as
well as a host of minor regular or occasional characters. Griffith was then free to play the kind and
wise sheriff figure. The level-headed guy who bailed the others out of the
foolish predicaments they got themselves into. Wise ol’ Andy. I really wonder
if the Andy Griffith Show would have had such a long run, going out at No. 1,
if Griffith hadn’t made that transition. I doubt it. I think the show’s chuckles would have grown
old and not at all endearing after just a few seasons.
I also got a
kick out of the future stars that made appearances on his show: Bob Denver, Jack Nicholson, Gavin MacLeod,
Elinor Donahue, Rob Reiner and others.
And then there was Denver Pyle as Briscoe Darling, leading his pack of
“sons,” The Darling Boys (The actual bluegrass group, The Dillards).
If I get back to Mount Airy, maybe during the annual Mayberry Days, I’m
going to send my daughters postcards so they can see what they’re missing. Then if
they don’t come around to my point of view, I’d be in my legal rights to make a