R.I.P. Andy Griffith

The actor Andy Griffith died yesterday at the age of 86. He is best known for his portrayal of a quintessential and relentlessly likable American character.

As Sheriff Andy Taylor, Griffith was one of the last adult males to appear in a TV comedy who wasn’t painted as a nerd, a numbskull, a no-goodnik, or a nut job. His “brand” was quiet wisdom and abiding decency – try that in a major series today and see how well it goes over.

There will be tributes, of course. Many will indulge in the popular assumption that Andy Griffith and Andy Taylor were the same. Maybe they were, though some of the most thoughtful obits say Griffith was infinitely more complex.

But it is so easy to think of Griffith as Andy Taylor personified. Why shouldn’t he be? Somebody should! There was a tidbit in the excellent New York Times obit that shed some light on Griffith’s more nuanced personality when it described him doing something, I think it’s fair to say, most of us simply could not do – surrender control.

“Mr. Griffith’s fans may have imagined him as a happy bumpkin, but he enjoyed life in Hollywood and knew his way around a wine list. His career was controlled by a personal manager, Richard O. Linke, who forbade Mr. Griffith to solicit advice from anyone else, even his wife.

‘If there is ever a question about something, I will do what he wants me to do,” Mr. Griffith said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 1970. “Had it not been for him, I would have gone down the toilet.’”

The Times article says Griffith and Linke got together after Linke, who worked for Capitol Records, heard a recording of the then 27 year old actor giving a humorous talk to a convention at Standard Life Insurance Company in Greensboro. The bit became a hit on local radio – that’s how Linke heard it. One can fairly assume that without this bit of whimsey, none of the rest would have followed. What a fortunate convergence! You’ll note in this recording that Griffith’s voice goes a might heavy on the southern syrup.

Hard to believe something so innocuous launched Andy Griffith’s memorable career. Even if Sheriff Andy Taylor did not reflect Griffith’s true personality, it led to lots of laughs and many pleasant memories for hundreds of millions.

What sort of TV character are you best suited to play?

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66 thoughts on “R.I.P. Andy Griffith”

  1. Good morning. It is hard for me to come up with any kind of role that I would play on TV because I have never done any acting. I’m sure I wouldn’t be good as a leading character. Probably some supporting role would be best. I might be able to play the part of a robot or maybe an alien from space. Of course there is no telling what I might be able to do because I have never tried acting. Do you think I might have some hidden talent and maybe I would have been a big star on TV if I had given that a try or had been discovered by some guy as was the case with Andy?

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  2. Well now take down your fishing pole, and meet me at the fishing hole. We may not get a bite all day, but don’t you rush away. What a great place to rest your bones, and mighty fine for skipping stones. You’ll feel fresh as a lemonade, just sitting in the shade. RIP Andy.

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  3. William Shakespeare – All the world’s a stage (from As You Like It 2/7)

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players:
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
    Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
    And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
    And shining morning face, creeping like snail
    Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
    Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
    Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
    Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
    Seeking the bubble reputation
    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
    In fair round belly with good capon lined,
    With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
    Full of wise saws and modern instances;
    And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
    Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
    With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
    His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
    For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
    Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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    1. Okay, on the great stage of life I am one of the actors. I’m afraid I may be close to reaching the sixth stage. Well, I guess I’m probably already there.

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  4. as i raised my family and helped them to find their ways in the world i came up with lots of stuff to plug into the repertoire of life. one of our favorites has always been that if you are channel surfing on the tv and you run across an andy griffith episode you must stop there and watch it. andy and leave it to beaver. the moral that is presented and the gentle wonderful characters that presented them were the stuff you can build around as a parent and as a society. my mom was an art teacher and one of her film friends noted once that every frame in every episode was considered for balance and composition. look at the shadows and the placement of the furniture in the room the books on the shelf the places where people were placed. and the stories , the heart , the tribute to the art of storytelling. andy opie aunt bea barney floyd otis ernest t bass the darlings gomer goober, a pretty straight forward offering of down home stories has never been topped.

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  5. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    There are not many characters on TV that I can even relate to now, so I can’t imagine playing any of them. However, with last season’s addition of Harry’s Law, maybe the Kathy Bates character would do–aging, irritable, put upon by young blades obsessed with sex and power, and experienced in the ways of the world.

    RIP Andy. He had a great career. However, I don’t think it is ever safe to assume that any on-air media personality is equivalent to the actor or person the public sees or hears.

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  6. I think I might be a passable extra-perhaps 3rd woman on the left would be within by skill set.

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  7. Morning–
    I can’t come up with a TV character I’d like to be… I’ll think on that.

    My favorite Andy memory: I saw an old TV movie w/ Andy as a minister arriving with his wife and kids at a new church. ‘Angel in my Pocket’, a poorly rated movie that Netflix hasn’t heard of.
    I remember a scene w/ the church’s caretaker, (Parker Fennelly, if that means anything to anybody) meeting Andy and family at the steps and saying some thing to the effect of “I expected you two days ago and you didn’t show up. So I expected you yesterday and you weren’t here. And then I expected you today and here you are, just as I expected.” *

    *Memory; proceed w/ caution.

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    1. there is some good stuff in movies that get bad ratings. i loved good bye mr chips with peter o toole and petula clark, then i found there was on old one with greer garson and robert donat, wel when i went to lok it up and do a little research the rvue said the old one with donat and garson was great and the one with o toole and pet clark was crap. well i was offended and when i went to watch it again the next time i saw waht they were talking about. it was a little hokey and the musical parts put in for pet clark were a bit staged but it was wonderful and is still one of my favorite peter o toole roles and the only pet clark role i know of and i love her. the robert donat film may have been better but so was citizen cane. you dont always need better sometimes a film with a memory and a hot button is all we need. andy hit my hot buttons time and time again. his no time for sargents and the one with the dusty rhodes character and the mayberry years, all do it everytime i watch. a true cornerstone of the 1960′s state of the world when things moved at a different pace and peopel took time to chat and smile and remember. i miss those times and now one of their favorite sons. 86 isnt old i heard someone say. god we are getting old.

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  8. To be honest, I don’t even know what is on TV these days. We watch the NewsHour, NOVA, American Experience, stuff like that. The sitcoms we watch are on disc from the library.

    If I could be one of the scientists or historians on PBS, that would be cool. Wouldn’t especially want to be one of the interviewers like on History Detectives, I want to spend my time scrounging in old libraries and travelling to exotic historic sites. I think Michael Woods has a good job, but I’d rather be an on-sight research assistant for him-one of those people sitting around the campfire with the tribesmen while he talks.

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    1. I say in my post below that I’m too old for much lust these days, but then you had to mention History Detectives. When Elise Luray is on, I’m paying rapt attention but not thinking about history.

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      1. and that is why I have no interest in doing her job…..

        I would want people to expect me to know something, not be something for them to look at.

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        1. i have gotten so used to being a sex object that i dont even think abvout it any more. its hard at first… oh well never mind.

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      2. See, I’m a Tufuku Zuberi kinda gal. I’d have a blast doing what he does (it’s the anthropology major in me). Plus that thing that Steve has for Elise, yeah, I’m kinda like that with Tufuku… :)

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  9. After racking my brain, I just don’t find a good match. I wanted to say “Mr. Peepers” to make a show of how old I am, but I’m not much like the Wally Cox character, and only Clyde would have recognized the name. When I was younger I identified with a movie character who became a TV figure: Wiley E. Coyote. Wiley was a quivering tower of avarice wrapped in incompetence and self-delusion. But gee, I’m too old for that much lusting now. Actually, the Andy Taylor figure is one of the best fits for me: folksy, relaxed and loving. While I identify more than a little with Kermit from The Muppets, the best match for me on that show (as it was for Jim Henson) is with Rowlf, the reflective pianist and raconteur.

    Have a wonderful 4th, baboons. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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    1. how about andy devine the side kick of all sidekicks. happy and supportive but concerned . i think you could do or…….

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  10. Very true about Andy Griffith and his place in the hearts of Americans. He had said that everything that was good in him came out through Andy Taylor and that he, as a man, wasn’t as good as his character was. He was a bit more crusty however I think he worked to protect his privacy. He’ll be missed but we’re so lucky to be able to see him everyday or anytime we want! He filled a gap in my life and I’ll be forever thankful for Andy Griffith.

    Now, what character am I best suited to play? It would have to be a combination of 2-3 folks: Gregory House (House) for his acidic crassness, wandering mind and cutting commentary; Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld) for his aloofness and ADD; Neal Caffery (White Collar) for his ability to read people and situations, the ability to think a few steps ahead as well as being a schemer.

    Have an enjoyable and safe 4th of July!

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    1. Hi Scott! I’m trying to imagine a comibnation of Neal Caffery and House – quite a mind-bender. Where in St. Louis are you? (I grew up there….) And welcome to the trail!

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      1. From south StL County in Oakville better known as the Mojave Desert this month!

        Yeah, Caffery & House…slick talker who has numerous thoughts and topics running at once (and is somewhat crabby!).

        Thanks!

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        1. You’re really close to my mom’s house – she’s just off Reavis Barracks and 55!

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  11. Steve, I’ll see your Mr. Peepers and raise you a Harry Von Zell. He was the announcer on the old Burns & Allen Show and appeared pretty much as himself, as did George and Gracie. Harry would drop in once and a while and have a conversation which would further the story and he would also appear within the story or at the end as a shill for the sponsor. I know from experience that I am hopeless impersonating any character that isn’t essentially me.
    My choices in the public sphere are generally colored by my overriding inclination toward anonymity (so far so good), which makes it difficult to imagine myself as a television character. The closest I can come is the neighbor, Wilson, from the show “Home Improvement”, who dispenses information and helpful advice but who we never completely see.

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    1. You presume, Bill, to tell me who Harry Von Zell was? He and I used to play marbles. Well, not really, but I remember him and the show well! And I remember Wilson well, too. He went on to have a starring role in a Tom Hanks movie.

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    2. Harry’s most famous moment in the words of Wikipiedia:
      As a young announcer, von Zell made a memorable verbal slip in 1931 when he referred to U.S. President Herbert Hoover as “Hoobert Heever” during a live tribute on Hoover’s birthday. Hoover was not present at this tribute. Von Zell’s blooper came at the end of a lengthy coverage of Hoover’s career in which he had correctly pronounced the President’s name several times. Some mistakenly believe Hoover was present when the incident happened because of a re-enactment fabricated by Kermit Schaefer for his Pardon My Blooper record album.

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  12. I think I could play Miss Kitty, the dance hall owner from Gunsmoke. I think her character probably would have a lot of fun and she got to wear nifty headdresses with feathers and was in on all the gossip. .

    My daughter and best friend have squandered all their tips and extra cash from the last week on an arsenal of fireworks that they intend to set off tonight in the driveway. Fireworks are legally sold in our town but not legally set off, but everyone sets them off anyway. When we came home from Duluth the girls had been lighting fireworks and “experimenting” blowing up a variety of containers. Thank goodness they weren’t injured. We have decided the two of them are just like Calvin and Hobbes.

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    1. Miss Kitty is very interesting isn’t she. Kind of a flusie/floosie (how is that spelled?) yet in the 60′s that could not be openly acknowleged for fear of bringing any whiff of sex onto the small screen. Could she really have been a madam?

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    2. Minneapolis announced that residents need not call 911 to report fireworks because police will not be responding to those calls. Sounds like open season here. Just keep the hose ready.

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  13. At this very moment, I cannot think of any role other than an older woman sitting directly in front of an air-conditioner. She could be off scene or in a background shot. She’d not have any action unless someone tried to step between her and the cool air. Then, she’d turn surly.

    Just in from watering the garden and trying to do a few things out there—it is too hot!!! I picked a few peas and my first string beans of the season. A baby rabbit hung out with me. I’m sure he is thirsty so I filled 2 water dishes for him along the path I see him use and watered some of the volunteer lettuce in the paths.

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      1. : ) It is so hot out there and he can’t reach the bird bath. Usually the rabbits hide when I go out.

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  14. Happy Fourth All! Just got home from the neighborhood parade (huge crowd despite the heat) and getting cooled down before we head out for the Richfield parade.

    I would have to the helpful sidekick. Maybe Alfred in Batman or any of the Heather Burns characters in “Two Weeks Notice”, “Miss Congeniality” or “You’ve Got Mail.” Responsibility coupled with limelight isn’t the best mix for me!

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  15. I no longer have a backyard. Several years ago the tree in back dropped about a fourth of its bulk, a branch big enough to cover my neighbor’s roof and most of mine. Last night the same tree dropped a branch that was about a third of what remained . . . and it STILL is one of the largest trees in Saint Paul. The dropped branch fills my yard and that of the neighbor on the west (not the lawn fanatic, thank God!). My internet cable is stretched like a rubber band (in case you wondered why my voice is so high pitched today) but has not broken.

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      1. Thanks, Krista. I tried once to measure the hackberry for possible inclusion on Minnesota’s big tree register and gave up, for some reason. This time the branch that fell filled my neighbor’s yard and mine, but hit no homes.

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        1. tim, I need way beyond chain saw assistance! Jeff and I need a crew of arborists. The last time this tree dropped a branch, the crew that showed up had a crane bigger than my house to help them manage things.

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        2. There was a branch like that down in one of the yards where I work yesterday, too – a big willow branch that took out a few branches from a smaller maple on its way down. No damage to the house, thankfully, but a lot of plants got flattened.

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  16. I’d probably be best sticking with supporting roles. I’ve always really wanted to be a back-up singer because I love harmony so much. The only other character that comes to mind is Lily Tomlin, “Is this the party to whom I am speaking????”

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      1. Holly, I tried to post a smiley face but WordPress told me I’ve already smiled today and won’t allow me to do it again… consider this post to be a big grin!

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  17. If I had my druthers I’d be in the cast of the Carol Burnett show. Any of ‘em. When I was a kid I wanted to be Carol Burnett when I grew up. To be that witty and silly and get paid for it – heaven! Or Rhoda Morgenstern from “Mary Tyler Moore” (no comment on whether I’m flaky enough for the role…it was the job and the clothes I loved). It’d have been fun to be the first lady on “West Wing” when that was on, or the CJ role (though I don’t know I’m smart enough for that one). Shows on now? Oh heck, I dunno…I’d probably wind up as Mrs. Hudson on the new BBC “Sherlock” – supportive, a little frumpy, prone to worrying, quite useful about the place (hiding cell phones as needed), and the opportunity to have Benedict Cumberbatch upstairs…

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  18. the beauty of the stage is that you can be whatever you’d like if they let you. jim neighbors never got to do anything but gomer pyle. he said he was hapy to have had the opportunity but he might have chosen a different guy to be his personna, costello of abbot and costello and curley shemp and all those guys who got the roles that paid the bills but left them feeling like groundhog day doing the same bit with different words over and over til death do you part. remember when trapper john and colonel blake left mash before they got typecast? i can see being captain kangaroo or mr green jeans, hawkeye pierce or klinger, andy or barney,mr rodgers, i always liked the old movies. i used to stay up late watching movies on the weekends when i was a kid. belonged to movie clubs because the tv offerings were so lame in 1970 pre cable. you needed to be a mobile person or get locked into the crap they offer on the networks so i learned who i liked, jimmy stewart picked good roles, gary cooper put me to sleep but i liked some of the stories he played, bogart was good, spencer tracy, paul muni, orson wellshyr and then all the genres. i liked the film noir and all the hitchcock stuff then you start learning the quirky people you enjoy and it may be robert altman or martin schorsese rather than the star of the film that is the attraction. i have seen richard ignatowski and richard oohms play 100 roles each at the guthrie and around town over the years and it is interesting that the roles they champion sometines bear so little resemblance to anything they have done before. so if i could avoid darrin on bewitched or darlys other brother daryl i would appreciate it but you gotta go with it and see where it leads. i remember fred mcmurray saying he didnt know how it happened. he was a saxaphone player and then one day someone asked him to act and he did whatever they gave him forever. he was good opposite barbara stanwick and forgetable in everything else he ever did. a tribute to showing up for work. he memorized the lines in my three sons and stayed through the second set of three sons when mike left and ernie moved in uncle charlie replacing fred mertz as the caring uncle, then on to robbie having triplets so the 3 thing could be continued. poor fred mcmurray he just smoked his pipe and petted tramp read the most boring dialog ever written. would you rather be ray walston or bill bixby in my favorite martian. who cares bring it on. im in show business. as long as they dont need goats eh trail? without barb we have no one to handle the goat end of the deal. happy 4th baboons off to dinner and fireworks. played 18 holes this morning and it was a bit warm. bet fireworks wil be too. we will see.

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  19. Steves comment about loony tunes reminded me I could always relate to Yosemite Sam; I could play him.
    Or maybe a voice like Edward Everett Horton.

    I believe I’ve mentioned my lust for Jaclyn Smith before… ;-)

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