Sixty years ago, actor Andy Griffith truly came to the attention of the American public with The Andy Griffith Show, the gentle family sitcom set in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina that remains beloved all these years later. In it, he plays Sheriff Andy Taylor and led an ensemble of characters and actors that the audience never forgot. Among them, of course, were Ron Howard (who would go on to star in Happy Days and enjoy a successful career as a producer and director) as Andy’s son, Opie; the always-brilliant Don Knotts as Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife, Frances Bavier as the Taylors’ Aunt Bee, Jim Nabors and George Lindsay as mechanics Gomer and Goober Pyle and Howard McNear as Floyd the Barber. All told, it remains one of the greatest examples of Classic TV ever produced.
Following the conclusion of The Andy Griffith Show, the actor starred in a couple of other short-lived series, feature films and TV movies, but it was 26 years after that show’s debut that he once again achieved small-screen success with the gentle (there’s that word again) legal drama Matlock, which ran for nine seasons. Bookends to a career that seemed to suggest he moved from one success to the other, but the truth is that in between those two shows, Andy struggled in his career, attempting one project after another that just failed to appeal to the audience. Along the way he actively tried to change his image from the “aw shucks” persona he made famous as Andy Taylor — and he did indeed manage some dark and somewhat disturbing performances along the way — and doing his best to stay active in Hollywood, which became more difficult to do than one might suspect.
What follows is our look back at the life and times of one of TV’s most beloved actors, revealing how he pursued his dreams in the first place, and all the ups and downs of his career that you might not be aware of. Until now, that is.
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