Griffith is one of television's most personable and enduring star
performers. He is perhaps best known as Andy Taylor, the central
character in The Andy Griffith Show, which aired on CBS from
1960-1968 and consistently ranked among the top ten shows in each
of its eight seasons. As a "down home" attorney in the even longer
running Matlock, Griffith continued to make a unique contribution
to television Americana.
Andy Griffith Show began as a "star vehicle" for Griffith, who
had achieved his initial success with recordings of humorous monologues
based on a "hillbilly" persona ("What It Was Was Football," "Romeo
and Juliet"), which led to an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
He next played the leading role in the Broadway production of No
Time For Sergeants as well as in the film and TV versions. His
film debut was in the critically-acclaimed A Face In the Crowd
(1957), directed by Elia Kazan, followed by Onionhead and the film
version of Sergeants (both in 1958).
informed the William Morris Agency that he was ready to try television,
Griffith was put in contact with Sheldon Leonard, producer of The
Danny Thomas Show. A Danny Thomas episode was built around Thomas
getting stopped for speeding by Griffith, and this show served as
the pilot episode for the Griffith show. Astutely, Griffith
negotiated for 50% ownership of the new program, which enabled him
to be a major player in the program's creative development. Griffith's
creative vision took a very different approach to TV comedy, in
which place, pace and character were equal and essential contributors
to the overall effect. Scenes were allowed to play out with almost
leisurely timing, with character development occurring alongside
the humor. Another key element to the program's success was the
casting of Don Knotts as deputy Barney Fife. As the inept but lovable
sidekick, Knotts took on the key comic role, enabling Griffith to
play a more interesting and useful "straight-man" role. In this
capacity Griffith's "Lincolnesque" character was allowed to develop--a
character more appropriate to the role of single-parent father,
and by extension, father to the small town of Mayberry. The Griffith-Knotts
team became the driving comic relationship of the show, and the
writers built most of the humorous situations around it.
left the show in 1968, feeling that he had contributed all he could
to the character of Andy Taylor. Ironically, the program reached
the number one position that year. The show's sponsor, General Foods,
was not ready to relinquish the successful vehicle however, and
a transitional program aired introducing a new lead character and
a new name: Mayberry, RFD. Griffith remained as a producer,
and the ratings strength continued as several of the supporting
characters stayed on. The program was canceled in 1971, however,
when CBS decided to abandon its rural programming for more "relevant"
shows targeted at younger viewers.
career subsequently stalled. Two series attempts, The Headmaster
and The New Andy Griffith Show did not make it past their
initial runs. A number of made-for-TV movies followed, many of which
involved crime scenarios (and some in which he even played the villain).
In 1981 Griffith received an Emmy nomination for Murder in Texas,
in which he played a father who presses a court case against the
son-in-law accused of murdering his daughter. Griffith played a
prosecuting attorney in the miniseries Fatal Vision (1984),
a performance which so impressed NBC's Brandon Tartikoff that a
series was proposed utilizing an attorney as the main character.
A pilot film for the show, Diary of a Perfect Murder, aired
on NBC on 3 March 1986, and Matlock began airing in September 1986.
Griffith plays Ben Matlock in the hour crime drama, a criminal defense
lawyer whose folksy demeanor belies his considerable investigative
and courtroom abilities. Many of the regulars from The Andy Griffith
Show make appearances on Matlock, continuing a Mayberry
legacy spanning over thirty years.
Photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science
GRIFFITH. Born Andrew Samuel Griffith in Mount Airy, North Carolina,
U.S.A., 1 June 1926. University of North Carolina, B.A. in music
1949. Married 1) Barbara Edwards, 1949 (divorced); children: Sam,
Dixie Nan; 2) Cindi Knight, 1983. Teacher and variety performer,
1949-51; recorded hit comedy monologue What It Was Was Football,
1953; debuted as monologuist on television's Ed Sullivan Show,
1954; debuted on Broadway in No Time For Sergeants, 1955;
also in the television version and the film version, 1958; films
debut A Face In the Crowd, 1957; appeared in commercials
for Ritz Crackers and AT and T; various television series, guest
appearances, since 1960, including star, The Andy Griffith Show,
1960-68; Matlock, series and made-for-television movies,
since 1986. Recipient: Theater World Award; Tarheel Award, 1961;
Distinguished Salesman's Award, 1962; Advertising Club of Baltimore's
Outstanding TV Personality of the Year, 1968. Address: William Morris
Agency, 151 El Camino, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
The Andy Griffith Show
1968-71 Mayberry, R.F.D. (executive producer)
1970-71 The Headmaster
1970 The New Andy Griffith Show
1979 Salvage One
1977 Washington Behind Closed Doors
1979 From Here to Eternity
1979 Roots: The Next Generations
1984 Fatal Vision
1972 Strangers in 7A
1973 Go Ask Alice
1974 Pray For the Wildcats
1974 Winter Kill
1976 Street Killing
1977 Deadly Game
1981 Murder In Texas
1982 For Lovers Only
1983 Murder In Coweta County
1983 The Demon Murder Case
1985 Crime of Innocence
1986 Diary of a Perfect Murder
1986 Return to Mayberry
1986 Under the Influence
1992 Matlock: The Vacation
1994 Gift of Love
1965 The Andy Griffith-Don Knotts-Jim Nabors Show 1993 The
Andy Griffith Show Reunion
A Face In the Crowd, 1957; No Time For Sergeants, 1958;
Onionhead, 1958; Second Time Around, 1961; Angel
In My Pocket, 1969; Adams of Eagle Lake, 1975; The
Treasure Chest Murder, 1975; Hearts of the West, 1975;
The Girl In the Empty Grave, 1977; Rustler's Rhapsody,
1985; Spy Hard, 1996
Time For Sergeants, 1955; Destry Rides Again, 1959-60
Castleman, Harry, and Walter J. Podrazik. Watching TV: Four Decades
of American Television. New York: McGraw Hill, 1982
Marc. American Television. Garden City, New York: Anchor
Darrell. Nervous Laughter. New York: Praeger, 1989.
Richard. The Andy Griffith Show. Winston-Salem, North Carolina:
John F. Blair, 1981; revised, 1993.
Alex. Total Television. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Thomas. The Emmys. New York: Penguin, 1992.
David. America on the Rerun. New York: Citadel, 1993.
Michael. Television. New York: Random House, 1988.
Griffith Show; Comedy,
Domestic Settings; Family