Andy Griffith, Dead at 86
July 3, 2012 — Actor Andy Griffith, star of The Andy Griffith Show
, died early today at his North Carolina home. He was 86.
Griffith is perhaps best known to television fans as star of the nostalgic CBS series, The Andy Griffith Show. Griffith played Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff who dispatched justice and genial advice in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The show ran eight seasons, from 1960 to 1968.
Griffith's co-stars included Don Knotts as his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife, and Frances Bavier as Andy's spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee. Andy's young son, Opie, was played by Ron "Ronny" Howard, who would go on to star in another TV classic, Happy Days, before becoming one of Hollywood's premiere filmmakers.
After The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith starred in a string of forgettable series until finding success with Matlock, in which he portrayed a small-town Southern lawyer. The show ran on ABC from 1986 to 1995.
Griffith made his film debut in the 1957 Elia Kazan film, A Face in the Crowd, opposite Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa and Lee Remick.
Griffith graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in music in 1949. He taught high school music for several years, and was an accomplished singer. In 1996 he released his most successful recording, I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns, for which he won a Grammy.
Various TV outlets are remembering Andy Griffith in the coming days. Among the planned (and completely coincidental) programming highlights:
TV Land is presenting some of The Andy Griffith Show's most memorable episodes in back-to-back blocks Wednesday, July 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, and Saturday and Sunday, July 7 and 8, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
The Hallmark Movie Channel is serving up a Matlock marathon on Wednesday, July 4 from 6 a.m. to midnight ET. Matlock also runs weekdays at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET on Hallmark Movie Channel.
Beginning at noon ET on Wednesday, July 4, MeTV presents a great mix of shows guest starring Andy Griffith. First up is a Hawaii Five-O episode ("I'm a Family Crook — Don't Shoot!" Season 5, Episode 13) guest-starring Griffith and Joyce Van Patten as grifters who inadvertently get mixed up with the mob. That's followed at 1 p.m. ET by the Mod Squad episode "Big George" (Season 4, Episode 24); a 2 p.m. ET showing of a 1966 episode of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. — a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show — in which Opie runs away from Mayberry to join the Marines ("Opie joins the Marines," Season 2, Episode 26); and finally, an episode of Make Room for Daddy ("Danny Meets Andy Griffith," Season 7, Episode 20), in which star Danny Thomas gets pulled over for driving through a stop sign by the affable sheriff of a little town called Mayberry, at 2:30 p.m. ET. The episode — which also featured Ron Howard and Frances Bavier (but not as Aunt Bee) — served as the backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show.
On Friday, July 6 at 9 a.m. ET, the Bio Channel presents the one-hour Biography Remembers: Andy Griffith. (Tune in an hour earlier, at 8 a.m. ET, for Biography Remembers: Don Knotts.)
Turner Classic Movies has scheduled a four-film memorial tribute on July 18, starting at 8 p.m. ET with the aforementioned A Face in the Crowd. That's followed at 10:15 p.m. ET by 1958's No Time For Seargeants. (A side note: Andy Griffith first starred in the one-hour, 1955 United States Steel Hour teleplay adaptation of Mac Hyman novel, A Face in the Crowd, and was also cast in the expanded version of the play which debuted on Broadway later that year. It was during the stage adaptation that Griffith met his long-time friend and Andy Griffith Show co-star Don Knotts. The two men — and most of the other Broadway actors — reprised their roles in the 1958 Warner Bros. film adaptation.) At 12:30 a.m. ET, TCM presents 1975's Hearts of the West with Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin and Blythe Danner. The film quartet wraps up at 2:15 a.m. ET with Onionhead, co-starring Walter Matthau and Joey Bishop. A Face in the Crowd is also scheduled to run on TCM Thursday, July 5 (or, if you prefer, the early hours of Friday, July 6) at 1:45 a.m. ET. (Thanks, Mac!)
Finally, here are a few memories worth watching, particularly if you only know Griffith from The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock:
Andy Griffith's 1953 comedy routine, "What it Was, Was Football"
The Andy Griffith Show "The Great Filling Station Robbery" (1963):
Andy Griffith talks about the death of Don Knotts on the Today show (2006):
Andy Griffith in Brad Paisley's "Waitin' on a Woman" (2008):
Ron Howard and Andy Griffith reprise their Andy Griffith Show roles in a 2008 "Funny or Die" skit supporting Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
The trailer for Andy Griffith's final film, the 2009 romantic comedy Play the Game:
Andy Griffith, on his early career:
Andy Griffith performs The Andy Griffith Show theme song, "The Fishin' Hole":