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Andy Samuel Griffith (born June 1, 1926) is an Americanmarker actor, director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, and writer.

He gained prominence in the starring role in director Elia Kazan's epic film A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became better known for his television roles, playing the lead characters in the 1960s situation comedy, The Andy Griffith Show, and in the 1980s-1990s legal drama, Matlock. Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005.

Early life and education

Griffith was born in Mount Airymarker, North Carolinamarker, the only child of Geneva (née Nunn) and Carl Lee Griffith. At a very young age, Griffith had to live with relatives until his parents could afford to get a home of their own. Without a crib or a bed, he slept in drawers for a few months. In 1929, when Griffith was three years old, his father took a job working as a carpenter and was finally able to purchase a home in Mount Airy's "blue-collar" southside.

Like his mother, Griffith grew up listening to music. His father instilled a sense of humor from old family stories. By the time he entered school he was well aware that he was from what many considered the "wrong side of the tracks". He was a shy student, but once he found a way to make his peers laugh, he began to come into his own.

As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school's drama program. A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life. Griffith was raised Baptist and looked up to Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught him to sing and play the trombone. Mickey nurtured Griffith's talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944. Griffith was delighted when he was offered a role in The Lost Colony, a play still performed today in the historic Outer Banksmarker of coastal North Carolina. He performed as a cast member of the play for several years, playing a variety of roles, until he finally landed the role of Sir Walter Raleigh, the namesake of North Carolina's capital.

He began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school's Carolina Play Makers. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillmarker (UNC) in Chapel Hillmarker, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor of music degree in 1949. At UNC he was president of the UNC Men's Glee Club and a member of the Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America's oldest fraternity for men in music.

After graduation, he taught English for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboromarker, North Carolina. He also began to write.

Career

From rising comedian to film star

Griffith's early career was as a monologist, delivering long stories such as What it Was, Was Football, which is told from the point of view of a rural backwoodsman trying to figure out what was going on in a football game. Released as a single in 1953 on the Colonial label, the monologue was a hit for Griffith, reaching number nine on the charts in 1954.

Griffith starred in a one-hour teleplay version of No Time for Sergeants (March 1955) — a story about a country boy in the U.S. Air Force — on the The United States Steel Hour, a television anthology series. He expanded that role in a full-length theatrical version of the same name on Broadwaymarker in New York Citymarker, New Yorkmarker.

Griffith later reprised his role for the film version ; the film also featured Don Knotts, as a corporal in charge of manual-dexterity tests, marking the beginning of a life-long association between Griffith and Knotts. No Time for Sergeants is considered the direct inspiration for the later television situation comedy Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

He also portrayed a U.S. Coast Guard sailor in the feature film Onionhead (1958); it was neither a critical nor a commercial success.

Hits dramatic pinnacle with a A Face in the Crowd (1957)

In 1957 Griffith starred in the film A Face in the Crowd. Although he plays a "country boy", this "country boy" is manipulative and power-hungry, a drifter who becomes a television host and uses his show as a gateway to political power. Co-starring Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa, and Lee Remick (in her film début), this now-classic film showcases Griffith's powerful talents as a dramatic actor and singer.

The film demonstrated, quite early-on, the power that television can have upon the masses. Directed by Kazan, written by Budd Schulberg, and ostensibly based on the alleged on-stage phoniness of Will Rogers and Arthur Godfrey, the prescient film was seldom run on television until the 1990s.

A 2005 DVD reissue of it included a mini-documentary on the film with comments from Schulberg and surviving cast members Griffith, Franciosa, and Neal. Griffith, revered for his wholesome image for decades, revealed a more-complex side of himself in the mini-documentary recalling Kazan prepping him to shoot his first scene with Remick playing a teenage baton twirler and captivating Griffith's character on a trip to Arkansasmarker. Griffith also commented in the documentary his belief that the film was far more popular and respected in more recent decades than it was when originally released.

Television roles

Early television roles

Griffith's first appearance on television had been in 1955 in the one-hour teleplay of No Time for Sergeants on The United States Steel Hour. That was the first of two appearances on that series.

Just before The Andy Griffith Show (see below), Griffith appeared as a county sheriff (who was also a justice of the peace and the editor of the local newspaper) in a 1960 episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas. This episode, in which Thomas's character is stopped for speeding in a little town, served as a backdoor pilot for Griffith's own show. Both shows were produced by Sheldon Leonard.

The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

Beginning in 1960, Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show for the CBS television network alongside other successful 1960s family-oriented situation comedies that dealt with widowhood, such as: My Three Sons, Family Affair, Beulah, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show, Julia, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and, a decade later, The Brady Bunch.

The show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, where Taylor, a widower, was the sheriff and town sage.

From 1960-1965, the show co-starred character actor and comedian — and Griffith's longtime friend — Don Knotts in the role of Deputy Barney Fife, Taylor's best friend and partner. He was also Taylor's cousin in the show. In the series première episode, in a conversation between the two, Fife calls Taylor "Cousin Andy", and Taylor calls Fife "Cousin Barney". The show also starred child actor Ron Howard (then known as Ronny Howard), who played Taylor's only child, Opie Taylor.

It was an immediate hit. Although Griffith never received a writing credit for the show, he worked on the development of every script. While Knotts was frequently lauded and won multiple Emmy Awards for his comedic performances, Griffith was never nominated for an Emmy Award during the show's run.

In 1967, Griffith was under contract with CBS to do one more season of the show. However, he decided to quit the show to pursue a movie career and other projects. The series continued as Mayberry R.F.D., with Ken Berry starring as a widower farmer and many of the regular characters recurring, some regularly and some as guest appearances. Griffith served as executive producer and guest starred in five episodes. He made one final appearance as Taylor in the 1986 reunion television film, Return to Mayberry.

Matlock (1986-1995)

After leaving his still-popular show in 1968, Griffith starred in less-successful television series such as The Headmaster (1970), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971), Salvage 1 (1979), and The Yeagers (1980).

After spending time in rehabilitation for leg paralysis from Guillain-Barré syndrome in 1986, Griffith returned to television as the title character, Ben Matlock, in the legal drama Matlock (1986-1995). Matlock was a country lawyer in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker, who was known for his Southern drawl and for always winning his cases. Matlock also starred unfamiliar actors (both of whom were childhood fans of Andy Griffith) Nancy Stafford as Michelle Thomas and Clarence Gilyard as Conrad McMasters. By the end of its first season it was a ratings powerhouse on Tuesday nights. Although the show was nominated for four Emmy Awards, Griffith once again was never nominated.

During the series' sixth season, he served as director, executive producer and writer of the show.

Other television appearances

Griffith has also made other character appearances through the years on Playhouse 90, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, The Doris Day Show, Here's Lucy, The Bionic Woman, Fantasy Island, among many others. He also reprised his role as Ben Matlock on Diagnosis: Murder in 1997, and his most recent guest-starring role was in 2001 in an episode of Dawson's Creekmarker.

Films (including television films)

For most of the 1970s, Griffith starred or appeared in many television films including The Strangers In 7A (1972), Winter Kill (1974), and Pray for the Wildcats (1974). Griffith received his only Primetime Emmy Award nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor - Miniseries or a Movie for his role in the television film Murder In Texas (1981) and won further acclaim for his role as a homicidal villain in the television film Murder in Coweta County (1983), co-starring music legend Johnny Cash as the sheriff. Griffith appeared again as a bad guy in Savages (1974), a television film based on the novel Deathwatch (1972) by Robb White. He also proved to be a good character actor and appeared in several television mini-series, including the television version of From Here to Eternity (1979), Roots: The Next Generations (1979), and the Watergate scandal-inspired Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977).

Two television films in 1977, The Girl in The Empty Grave and Deadly Game, were attempts for Griffith to launch a new series featuring him as Police Chief Abel Marsh; both were unsuccessful.

During this period, Griffith also appeared in two feature films, both of which flopped at the box office. He co-starred with Jeff Bridges as a 1930s western actor in the comedy Hearts of the West (1975), and he appeared alongside Tom Berenger as a villainous colonel and cattle baron in the western comedy Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985). He also appeared as a comical villain in the feature film Spy Hard (1996) starring Leslie Nielsen.

Griffith stunned many unfamiliar with his A Face in the Crowd work in the television film Crime of Innocence (1985), where he portrayed a callous judge who routinely sentenced juveniles to hard prison time. In the television film A Holiday Romance (1999), Griffith played the role of "Jake Peterson." In the film Daddy and Them (2001), Griffith portrayed a patriarch of a dysfunctional southern family.

In the feature film Waitress (2007), Griffith played a crusty diner owner who takes a shine to Keri Russell's character. His latest appearance is in the romantic comedy feature film Play The Game (2009) as a lonely, widowed grandfather re-entering the dating world after a 60-year hiatus.

Singing and recording career

Griffith sang as part of some of his acting roles, most notably in A Face In The Crowd and in many episodes of both The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock. In addition to his recordings of comic monologues in the 1950s, he made an album of upbeat country and gospel tunes during the run of The Andy Griffith Show, which included a version of the show's theme sung by Griffith under the title "The Fishin' Hole". In recent years, he has recorded successful albums of classic Christian hymns for Sparrow Records.

Griffith appeared in country singer Brad Paisley's music video "Waitin' on a Woman" (2008).

Hallmarks

Griffith's hallmark are driving two separate Ford automobiles: (a Galaxie on The Andy Griffith Show, and a Crown Victoria on Matlock), his Southern drawl, wearing his gray suit (on Matlock), and playing characters who have a folksy, friendly personality.

Name dispute

William Harold Fenrick of Plattevillemarker, Wisconsinmarker, legally changed his name to Andrew Jackson Griffith and ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Grant Countymarker in November 2006. Subsequently, actor Griffith filed a lawsuit against Griffith/Fenrick, asserting that he violated trademark, copyright, and privacy laws by changing his name for the "sole purpose of taking advantage of Griffith's notoriety in an attempt to gain votes". On May 4, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge John C. Shabaz ruled that Griffith/Fenrick did not violate federal trademark law because he did not use the Griffith name in a commercial transaction but instead strove "to seek elective office, fundamental First Amendment protected speech."

Association with R.G. Armstrong, Don Knotts, and Ron Howard

R.G. Armstrong

The longest association Griffith has had began in 1949 with a then-unknown actor, R.G. Armstrong. They met when Armstrong was one of Griffith's and his first wife's students at UNC, where Armstrong majored in drama. After graduating from college, Armstrong went on to became a versatile character actor while attending The Actors Studiomarker in New York City.

In the 1960s, they were reunited in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, with Armstrong playing a farmer who was the father of a tomboy. In the 1980s, Armstrong made a guest appearance in a two-part episode of Matlock, which was filmed in Wilmingtonmarker, North Carolina (Griffith's place of residence), playing the role of a sheriff who introduces Matlock to a young, hotshot private investigator. Griffith and Armstrong keep in contact.

Don Knotts

Griffith's relationship with Knotts began in 1955, when they co-starred in the Broadway play No Time for Sergeants. Several years later, Knotts had a regular role on The Andy Griffith Show for five seasons. Knotts left the series in 1965 but periodically returned for guest appearances. He appeared in the pilot for Griffith's subsequent short-lived series, The New Andy Griffith Show, and he had a recurring role on Matlock, from 1988 to 1992.

They kept in contact until Knotts's death in early 2006. Griffith traveled from his Manteomarker, North Carolina, home to Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker, to visit a terminally ill Knotts in the hospital just before Knotts died from complications of lung cancer.

Ron Howard

Griffith's friendship with Howard began in 1960, when they guest-starred in the episode of Make Room For Daddy that led to the formation of The Andy Griffith Show that same year. For eight seasons they shared a unique father-son relationship on the set. They guest-starred together in its spin-off series, Mayberry R.F.D., in an episode where Griffith's character married his long-time girlfriend. They also appeared in an episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., in which Howard's character, Opie, runs away from home and attempts to enlist in the U.S. Marines. They costarred in the television special Return to Mayberry (1986), in which the now-adult Opie is about to become a father, and they later appeared together in CBS reunion specials in 1993 and 2003.

Griffith made a surprise appearance as the ghost of Andy Taylor when Howard hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982. Howard did not make any cameo appearances on Matlock, but his mother, Jean Speegle Howard, had a small role in one episode. Howard attended the People's Choice Awards in 1987, where Griffith was honored.

Howard and Griffith keep in contact sharing news about family and personal activities. Howard and his family attended Waitress (2007), which they reportedly enjoyed. To this day, Griffith still calls Howard by his childhood nickname, "Ronny".

In October 2008, Griffith and Howard briefly reprised their Mayberry roles in an online video Ron Howard’s Call to Action. It was posted to comedy video website Funny or Die. The video encouraged people to vote and endorsed Democratic Party U.S. presidential candidate, Barack Obama, and U.S. vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

Personal life

Marriage and family

Griffith and Barbara Bray Edwards were married on August 22, 1949, and they adopted a son, Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr. (born in 1957 and known as Sam Griffith), a real-estate developer, and a daughter, Dixie Nan. They were divorced in 1972. Sam died in 1996 after years of alcoholism.

In 1975 Griffith and Solica Cassuto were married; they were divorced in 1981.

He and Cindi Knight were married on April 2, 1983.

Political activities

In addition to his online video with Howard in 2008, in politics Griffith has favored Democrats and recorded television commercial endorsing North Carolina Governors Mike Easley and Bev Perdue. He spoke at the inauguration ceremonies of both. In 1984, he declined an offer by Democratic party officials to run against Jesse Helms, a U.S. Senator from North Carolina,.

Health

Griffith's first serious health problem was in April 1983, when he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome and could not walk for seven months because of paralysis from the knees down.

On May 9, 2000, he underwent quadruple heart-bypass surgery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospitalmarker in Norfolkmarker, Virginiamarker.

After a fall, Griffith underwent hip surgery on September 5, 2007, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Albums

  • What it Was, Was Football (as Deacon Andy Griffith) on Capitol Records - EAP 1-498, (1953)
  • Just for Laughs (1958)
  • Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs (1959) (album includes a guest appearance by bluesmen Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry).
  • American Originals (1993)
  • I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (1996)
  • Somebody Bigger Than You and I (1996)
  • Sings Favorite Old-Time Songs (1997)


  • Just as I Am: 30 Favorite Old Time Hymns (1998)
  • Wit & Wisdom of Andy Griffith (1998)
  • Favorite Old Time Songs (2000)
  • Absolutely the Best (remastered) (2002)
  • Back to Back Hits (2003)
  • The Christmas Guest (2003)
  • Bound for the Promised Land: The Best of Andy Griffith Hymns (2005)
  • The Collection (2005)
  • Pickin' and Grinnin': The Best of Andy Griffith (2005)


Filmography

Features





Short subjects

  • Rowan & Martin at the Movies (1968)
  • What It Was, Was Football (1997)




Television work





Honors

Statue in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
(October 2006)
Mount Airy annually celebrates Griffith and his eponymous television series with "Mayberry Days", named after the fictional community of Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show.

A statue of the Mayberry characters, Andy and Opie, was constructed in Pullen Parkmarker in Raleighmarker, North Carolina, and at the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy.

C.F. Martin & Company, guitar manufacturers, offers an Andy Griffith signature model guitar.

Griffith received a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for I Love to Tell the Story — 25 Timeless Hymns in 1997.

In 1999 Griffith was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame with fellow artists Lulu Roman, Barbara Mandrell, David L. Cook, Gary S. Paxton, Jimmy Snow, Loretta Lynn, and Jody Miller.

In October 2002, an stretch of U.S. Highway 52 that passes through Mount Airy was dedicated as the Andy Griffith Parkway.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush on November 9, 2005.

A few weeks earlier, he had helped preside over the reopening of UNC's Memorial Hall and donated a substantial amount of memorabilia from his career to the university.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

References

  1. Press release, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Griffith's alma mater.
  2. Andy Griffith Biography (1926-)
  3. http://www.archive.org/stream/playeraprofileof002609mbp/playeraprofileof002609mbp_djvu.txt
  4. CarolinaFan.com - What It Was, Was Football
  5. http://dmdb.org/cgi-bin/plinfo_view.pl?SYN053537
  6. Internet Broadway Database: No Time for Sergeants Production Credits
  7. http://www.answers.com/topic/no-time-for-sergeants-1
  8. "Mayberry R.F.D." (1968) - Full cast and crew
  9. http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/la-na-donknotts-obit,0,1063977.story?page=1
  10. online video
  11. Van Derbeken, Jaxon. Andy Griffith's Son Dies after Battling Alcoholism Los Angeles Daily News / TheFreeLibrary.com. January 18, 1996.
  12. newsobserver.com | 'Preciating Andy
  13. http://www.mikeeasley.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/video/andy/andy_low.wmv
  14. Andy Griffith | newsobserver.com projects
  15. News & Observer: Yes, Andy will be there
  16. News & Observer: Oh, the Places You'll Govern
  17. mayberry days, autumn leaves festival, dining, lodging in mount airy nc north Carolina
  18. Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame
  19. 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.
  20. The Christian Music Hall of Fame Inductees, retrieved April 26, 2009.


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