Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Andy Samuel Griffith (born June 1, 1926)
Andy Samuel Griffith (born June 1, 1926) is an American 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.
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, Petticoat Junction, 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 to 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 (as did Frances Bavier in 1967), 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 (according to Griffith, he came in once a week to review the week's scripts and give input) and guest starred in five episodes (the pilot episode involved his marriage to Helen Crump). He made one final appearance as Taylor in the 1986 reunion television film, Return to Mayberry, and appeared in two reunion specials, in 1993 and 2003, respectively.
After leaving his still-popular show in 1968, and starting his own production company (Andy Griffith Enterprises) in 1972, Griffith starred in less-successful television series such as The Headmaster (1970), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971), Adams of Eagle Lake (1975) 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 Atlanta, Georgia, 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. He did, however, win a People's Choice Award in 1987 for his work as Matlock.
During the series' sixth season, he served as unofficial director, executive producer and writer of the show.