Andy Griffith


Actor
Andy Griffith

About

Also Known As
Andrew Samuel Griffith
Birth Place
Mount Airy, North Carolina, USA
Born
June 01, 1926
Died
July 03, 2012
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

With his folksy, down-to-earth charm and winning smile, actor Andy Griffith brought a warm sincerity to his most popular roles - small-town Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68) and the crafty southern lawyer Ben Matlock on "Matlock" (NBC/ABC, 1986-1995). Prior to becoming a friendly face in many American living rooms, Griffith was a talented musician with early ...

Family & Companions

Barbara Griffith
Wife
Cindi Griffith
Wife
Married c. 1983.

Notes

Received the Outstanding TV Personality of the Year award from the Advertising Club of Baltimore in 1968.

Inducted in the TV Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1992.

Biography

With his folksy, down-to-earth charm and winning smile, actor Andy Griffith brought a warm sincerity to his most popular roles - small-town Sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68) and the crafty southern lawyer Ben Matlock on "Matlock" (NBC/ABC, 1986-1995). Prior to becoming a friendly face in many American living rooms, Griffith was a talented musician with early aspirations to be an opera singer. But instead he rose to fame as a monologist, delivering a parody of the Johnny Ray song "Please Mr. Sun" and the woodsy "What it Was, Was Football" (1953), one of the most popular recorded monologues of all time. Griffith turned to television with "No Time for Sergeants" (1955) - a role he reprised for the 1958 film of the same name - and made his feature debut with a thunderous dramatic performance as a manipulative, power-hungry grifter who becomes a television host in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd" (1957). He was a regular on "The Steve Allen Show" (1956-1964) before introducing Sheriff Andy Taylor alongside Ron Howard's Opie on the seventh season of "The Danny Thomas Show" (1953-1964). Following several spin-offs of "Andy Griffith" throughout the decades, he reprised his stardom as "Matlock" and made many noted guest appearances well into the new millennium. Meanwhile, over the course of his career, Griffith returned to his first love of music and won a Grammy for a 1997 gospel album. Often exerting strong creative control over his efforts, Griffith brought a sense of realism, charm and honesty to his shows and characters that managed to never stray into caricature, and whose appeal endured for generations of viewers.

Born on June 1, 1926, in Mt. Airy, NC, Griffith developed a strong interest and talent in music at an early age. First hoping to become an opera singer, he shifted gears and set out to become a preacher, enrolling at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina as a pre-divinity student. While in college, his focus turned again to the arts with an emphasis on music and theater, and he eventually earned his degree in 1949. After graduation, he became a music teacher at Goldsboro High School, but still yearned to perform professionally. After three years of teaching, Griffith and his first wife, Barbara Edwards, began developing comedy and music routines that they performed on the road, including a comedy monologue called "What it Was, Was Football," a first-person point of view of a simple farm boy's first bewildering experience watching a football game. The skit was released on a record album in 1953.

Griffith honed the monologue to perfection and performed it in one of his four appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS, 1948-1971). He was soon tapped to play the lead role in the United States Steel Hour presentation of the Ira Levin play, "No Time for Sergeants" (ABC, 1955). He reprised the role on Broadway the following year, earning a Tony nomination for his performance, and was joined onstage by a young comic actor named Don Knotts, with whom Griffith would enjoy a lengthy professional and personal relationship. He soon caught the eye of acclaimed film director Elia Kazan, who cast him in a startling dramatic role in "A Face in the Crowd" (1957). Griffith played Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, an Arkansas drifter who is plucked out of obscurity and finds fame as a television host, but whose friendly, folksy charm is cover for scheming ambition for political power. Written by "On the Waterfront" (1954) screenwriter Budd Schulberg, the film was based on the alleged onstage phoniness of Will Rogers and Arthur Godfrey. In his first film role, Griffith arguably never again turned in such a powerful performance playing such a dark character.

Griffith returned to comedy with a feature film version of "No Time for Sergeants" (1958), working again with Knotts, then returned to the stage and earned another Tony nomination for his performance in the musical "Destry Rides Again" (1960). After a series of occasional guest appearances on "The Steve Allen Show" (NBC, 1956-1960), Griffith landed an episode on the Danny Thomas show, "Make Room for Daddy," (ABC, CBS, 1953-1965), making his first appearance as the no-nonsense, down-home Sheriff Andy Taylor. The episode served as the inspiration for "The Andy Griffith Show," which debuted on CBS in 1960, where he expanded his character into one of the most beloved television series of all time. Set in the fictional town of Mayberry, the show centered on Taylor, a widower living with his son Opie (Ron Howard) and his Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier), who worked alongside his earnest, but high-strung deputy, Barney Fife (Knotts). The town itself was populated by an array of quirky townspeople, including Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), a dim-witted but well-meaning mechanic; his equally dull cousin Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), gossipy Floyd the barber (Howard McNear), and a rock-throwing town clown named Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris). Part of the show's appeal was avoiding the stereotype that Mayberry's locals were irreproachably moral - the citizenry, including Andy himself, were just as petty, judgmental or selfish as the outsiders who passed through town.

Throughout the years, Griffith made subtle adjustments to his performance. For the second season, he began to rein in some of his wide-eyed, "gee whiz" qualities, and became more of a straight man to comic foil, Knotts. The show was also remarkable for its portrayal of Taylor as a single father going through the dating process; first with Mayberry's pharmacy clerk Ellie Wakler (Elinor Donahue), then Opie's schoolteacher, Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut). Initially, Griffith and Knotts figured on the show running just five years and signed contracts accordingly. But when the first five years were up, Knotts left the series, while Griffith chose to remain until the show finished its run in 1968 after eight seasons. The series remained a ratings success and finished number one in the ratings in its last season. Griffith stepped into an executive producer role for the spin-off, "Mayberry R.F.D." (CBS, 1968-1971), though he did appear in the pilot episode. Despite setting a ratings record for a new show, the spin-off was nonetheless cancelled when the network elected to rid itself of rural-themed shows.

Griffith went on to occasionally star in movies, but it was mostly forgettable fare like "Angel in My Pocket," (1969) and "Hearts of the West" (1975). On television, he tried to recapture some of his down-home appeal with the short-lived "The New Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1971), a confusing program on which Griffith played Andy Sawyer, a man who made good and left his small rural hometown, only to return to fill in as a replacement mayor. Regarded as distinctly inferior to the original, "The New Andy Griffith Show" was cancelled after a few months on air. Meanwhile, Griffith continued appearing in guest spots on shows like "The Mod Squad" (ABC, 1968-1973), "Hawaii Five-0" (CBS, 1968-1980), "Here's Lucy" (CBS, 1968-1974) and "The Bionic Woman" (ABC/NBC, 1976-78). Griffith had a leading role in the television movie "Salvage" (ABC, 1979) and its subsequent series, "Salvage 1," (ABC, 1978-1980), playing Harry Broderick, an ordinary junk dealer who creates a working rocket ship to fly to the moon to retrieve spare parts left behind by NASA astronauts.

After a string of guest spots and the disappointing ratings of "Salvage 1," Griffith turned in an Emmy-nominated performance as the suspicious father of a woman believed to have been murdered by her plastic surgeon husband in the TV movie-of-the-week "Murder in Texas" (NBC, 1981). He then appeared in the James Burrows-produced old west sitcom "Best of the West" (ABC, 1981-82), before turning in a cameo in a 1982 episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). But in 1983, his acting career was put on hold when he became stricken with Guillen-Barre syndrome, a muscular disease that left him partially paralyzed for several months. But in a few years, he made a triumphant return, joining co-stars Don Knotts, Ron Howard and others for a reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry," (CBS, 1986). That same year, Griffith made a significant return to series television with the courtroom drama, "Matlock" (NBC, ABC, 1986-1995). His portrayal of lawyer Ben Matlock, whose country charm and simple mannerisms belied a sharp, cunning mind, struck a chord with millions of viewers - many of them older and likely fans of his previous work as a Sheriff Taylor. Griffith also served as executive producer on the show and appeared in all 180 episodes. After the long-running series left the airwaves, he reprised the role in a special guest appearance for two-part storyline on "Diagnosis Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001).

Of all the characters he played over the years, Griffith remarked that Matlock was his favorite. During the show's run, he played the character in several well-received movies-of-the-week, including "Matlock: The Vacation" (ABC, 1992), "Matlock: The Legacy" (ABC, 1992) and "Matlock: The Heist" (ABC, 1995). Griffith continued working even after the show, playing a villain in the Leslie Nielsen espionage spoof "Spy Hard" (1996), while appearing on episodes of "Dawson's Creek" (The WB, 1998-2003) and "Family Law" (CBS, 1999-2002). He also recorded a series of Christmas and gospel albums, including I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns which won a Grammy Award in 1997. Griffith made frequent appearances on television after the death of his old co-star Don Knotts in early 2006, including a tribute to his friend on "Larry King Live" (CNN, 1985-2010). As the years piled on, the aging star appeared less frequently on screen, while several health issues began to take prominence. In 2000, he underwent a successful quadruple bypass surgery. After receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, Griffith re-emerged for a return to the big screen in the independent romance, "Waitress" (2007), playing Old Joe, a wise patron of a small town diner where an unhappy waitress (Keri Russell) works. Only two months after his "Andy Griffith Show" co-star George Lindsey died, the beloved television star passed away from a heart attack on July 3, 2012 at age 86. Ron Howard released a statement, saying "His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations and shaped my life. I'm forever grateful. RIP Andy."

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Play the Game (2009)
Christmas is Here Again (2008)
Voice
Waitress (2007)
Daddy and Them (2001)
A Holiday Romance (1999)
Jake Peterson
Scattering Dad (1998)
Hiram
Spy Hard (1996)
Matlock: The Heist (1995)
Gramps (1995)
Matlock: The Scam (1995)
The Gift of Love (1994)
Matlock: The Vacation (1992)
Matlock: Diary of a Perfect Murder (1992)
Matlock: The Legacy (1992)
Under the Influence (1986)
Return to Mayberry (1986)
Rustler's Rhapsody (1985)
Crime Of Innocence (1985)
Murder in Coweta County (1983)
John Wallace
The Demon Murder Case (1983)
For Lovers Only (1982)
Vernon Bliss
Salvage (1979)
Harry Broderick
Deadly Game (1977)
The Girl in the Empty Grave (1977)
Street Killing (1976)
Gus Brenner
Hearts of the West (1975)
Howard Pike
Pray For The Wildcats (1974)
Sam Farragut
Winter Kill (1974)
Savages (1974)
Go Ask Alice (1973)
Priest
The Strangers in 7A (1972)
Angel in My Pocket (1969)
Sam
The Second Time Around (1961)
Pat Collins
Onionhead (1958)
Alvin Woods
No Time for Sergeants (1958)
Will Stockdale
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes

Producer (Feature Film)

Matlock: The Scam (1995)
Executive Producer
Matlock: The Heist (1995)
Executive Producer
Matlock: The Vacation (1992)
Executive Producer
Matlock: The Legacy (1992)
Executive Producer
Return to Mayberry (1986)
Executive Producer

Cast (Special)

TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV (2004)
The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (2003)
Host
Andy of Mayberry: The E! True Hollywood Story (2000)
Don Knotts: Nervous Laughter (2000)
Ron Howard: Hollywood's Favorite Son (1999)
Roddy McDowall: Hollywood's Best Friend (1998)
Andy Griffith: Hollywood's Homespun Hero (1997)
Ralph Emery: On the Record With Andy Griffith (1996)
Interviewee
The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (1993)
A Celebration of Eddy Arnold (1992)
The All-Star Salute to Our Troops (1991)
Tennessee Ernie Ford: 50 Golden Years (1990)
The 14th Annual People's Choice Awards (1988)
Performer
The Nashville Palace (1980)
Celebration: The American Spirit (1976)
Mitzi and a Hundred Guys (1975)
Dinah in Search of the Ideal Man (1973)
The Jud Strunk Show (1972)
City vs. Country (1971)
Andy Griffith's Uptown-Downtown Show (1967)
Friends and Nabors (1966)
The Andy Griffith-Don Knotts-Jim Nabors Show (1965)
Host
Opening Night (1962)
The Andy Griffith Show (1960)
Andy Taylor
No Time For Sergeants (1955)

Writer (Special)

The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (2003)
Writer

Producer (Special)

The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (2003)
Executive Producer
The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (1993)
Executive Producer

Special Thanks (Special)

The Andy Griffith Show Reunion (2003)
Writer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Fatal Vision (1984)
Victor Worheide
Murder In Texas (1981)
From Here to Eternity (1979)
Roots: The Next Generations (1979)
Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977)
Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976)
Narrator

Life Events

1953

Recorded "What It Was Was Football," one of the most popular comedic monologues of all time

1954

Read Mac Hayman's novel <i>No Time for Sergeants</i> and later found out that the Theatre Guild was presenting it as a play on TV, which was bound for Broadway; auditioned and won the role of Will Stockdale, playing it on TV's "U.S. Steel Hour" (ABC, CBS)

1954

Made TV debut guesting on an episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS)

1955

Made Broadway debut in "No Time for Sergeants"; received Tony nomination

1956

Appeared as a regular on the NBC variety series "The Steve Allen Show"

1957

Made feature film debut with a leading role in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"

1959

Returned to Broadway in the lead of the musicalized "Destry Rides Again"; received Tony nomination for Actor in a Musical

1960

Starred as folksy sheriff and single father Andy Taylor on the popular CBS sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show"

1965

Co-hosted his first TV variety special "The Andy Griffith-Don Knotts-Jim Nabors Show"

1968

First TV producing credit, as executive producer of the "The Andy Griffith Show" spin-off "Mayberry R.F.D." (CBS)

1969

First TV writing credit, "Looking Back", a nostalgic look at young people growing up during the 1930s

1970

Starred as elite private school headmaster Andy Thompson on the CBS comedy-drama series "Headmaster"

1971

Starred as Mayor Andy Sawyer on the CBS sitcom "The New Andy Griffith Show"

1972

Former production company Andy Griffith Enterprises

1972

TV-movie acting debut, "The Strangers in 7A" (CBS)

1974

First TV production of Andy Griffith Enterprises, the TV-movie "Winter Kill" (ABC), also starred

1975

Starred as Sheriff Sam Adams on the short-lived ABC crime drama series "Adams of Eagle Lake," which was produced by Andy Griffith Enterprises

1975

Last leading role in a feature, "Hearts of the West"; took second billing to Jeff Bridges

1977

Acted in first TV miniseries, "Washington: Behind Closed Doors" (ABC)

1979

Starred as Harry Broderick on the ABC adventure series "Salvage 1"

1980

Played Carroll Yeager on the short-lived ABC drama series "The Yeagers"

1981

First supporting role on a TV series, the Western comedy "Best of the West" (ABC)

1986

Played the title role of Benjamin L. Matlock on the courtroom drama series "Matlock" (NBC, 1986-1993; ABC, 1993-95), also co-executive produced

1986

Executive produced and reprised Andy Taylor role in the TV-movie "Return to Mayberry" (NBC), the highest rated TV-movie of its season

1993

Executive produced and hosted the CBS comedy compilation special "The Andy Griffith Show Reunion," which reunited cast members and included clips from the series

2001

Landed supporting role in "Daddy and Them," starring Billy Bob Thornton, Laura Dern, and Diane Ladd

2001

Guest starred on The WB's hit teen drama "Dawson's Creek"

2007

Appeared as 'Old Joe,' the diner owner in the indie feature "Waitress"

2009

Made final film appearance in the romantic comedy "Play the Game"

Photo Collections

A Face in the Crowd - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from A Face in the Crowd (1957). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Face In The Crowd, A (1957) - Vitajex! His new self-appointed manager Tony Franciosa helping with the pitch, crazed TV personality Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith) performs and outlandish commercial, as imagined by screenwriter Budd Schulberg and director Elia Kazan, a famous scene from A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face in the Crowd, A (1957) - Lonesome Rhodes Small-time Arkansas radio hostess Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) is doing her man-on-the-street show from the jail, where she meets prickly inmate Rhodes (Andy Griffith), and invents his name, early in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Face In The Crowd, A (1957) - You're My Idol! Lust in the heart of Andy Griffith, as now nationally famous media freak Lonesome Rhodes, back in Arkansas to judge a baton-twirling contest, won hands-down by Betty Lou (Lee Remick, in her first movie), in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Hearts Of The West (1975) - No One Quite Like The Kid On the run from correspondence-course con-men, aspiring Western writer Lewis (Jeff Bridges) meets cowboys led by Pike (Andy Griffith), then Miss Trout (Blythe Danner), in director Howard Zieff's Hearts Of The West, 1975.
Hearts Of The West (1975) - You've Got Your Man! Director Kessler (Alan Arkin) pitches a difficult idea to his stunt cowboys and Lewis (Jeff Bridges), not yet hip to the biz, volunteers, later consoled by Pike (Andy Griffith) et al, in Hearts Of The West, 1975.
Hearts Of The West (1975) - Open, Real Rugged Gunfighter Smile Opening with Jeff Bridges as Lewis in a screen test, Alan Arkin the voice of the director, which won’t make sense until later in the movie, then with his brothers and Frank Cady his cranky dad, in director Howard Zieff’s Hearts Of The West, 1975, also starring Andy Griffith and Blythe Danner.
No Time For Sergeants (1958) - Sleepin' With The Hogs Ben (Nick Adams) and Will (Andy Griffith) are in a friendly spat over bunks when Blanchard (Murray Hamilton) leads a gang into a larger fight, alarming Sergeant King (Myron McCormick), in No Time For Sergeants, 1958.
No Time For Sergeants (1958) - Manual Dexterity Sergeant King (Myron McCormick) conducts Will (Andy Griffith) to his encounter with screwy Corporal Brown (Don Knotts) as they proceed through Air Force classification, in No Time For Sergeants, 1958.
No Time For Sergeants (1958) - Permanent Latrine Orderly Big snafu as the captain (Bartlett Robinson) receives a detailed report from Will (Andy Griffith) on his latrine duty, Sergeant King (Myron McCormick) cringing, in No Time For Sergeants, 1958.
No Time For Sergeants (1958) - Be Christian To Him! Having just proved that Will (Andy Griffith) can read, Pa (William Fawcett) reluctantly concedes to letting him leave with the draft board man (Dub Taylor), early in No Time For Sergeants, 1958.
Face in the Crowd, A (1957) - Cold Fish Respectable Girls Marcia (Patricia Neal), discoverer of radio phenom Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), introduces a Memphis agent (Henry Sharp), then follows him through a broadcast, a gag on her station-manager father, and an on-air negotiation, in Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd, 1957.
Onionhead (1958) - Put Your Back Into It! A social failure on his Oklahoma college campus, Andy Griffith as title character Alvin Woods decides on a career in the services, into a perhaps obligatory training sequence, meeting fellow recruits O’Neal and Berger (Joe Mantell, Tige Andrews) early in director Norman Taurog’s Onionhead, 1958.

Trailer

Promo

Family

Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr
Son
Real estate developer. Born c. 1957; died January 17, 1996.
Dixie Griffith
Daughter
Nan Griffith
Daughter

Companions

Barbara Griffith
Wife
Cindi Griffith
Wife
Married c. 1983.

Bibliography

Notes

Received the Outstanding TV Personality of the Year award from the Advertising Club of Baltimore in 1968.

Inducted in the TV Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1992.

Griffith suffered a heart attack in June 2000 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery.