Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

For eight years, he was the gentle voice of reason in a small North Carolina town that became just as much of an icon as he was. His next series took him back to a former vocation, but viewers didn't take too well. A career rebound would see him become the most unpredictable lawyer this side of Perry Mason. To think, then, that it all started with a modest school teacher turned comedian turned Broadway star whose humble, folksy charm made him a legend.

It has just come across the wires that actor-comedian-singer Andy Griffith has passed away at 86. Griffith first came to prominence in 1955 on the US Steel Hour in a production of "No Time For Sergeants", which would later be adapted into a feature film just 3 years later. In between, Griffith appeared on Broadway in an adaptation of "Destry Rides Again", and in the film, "A Face in the Crowd".

In 1960, Danny Thomas cast Griffith in an episode of Make Room For Daddy that served as a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which went on to enjoy an 8-year run on CBS.

Following is a video montage of clips, set to the beat of Griffith performing his show's theme song, the Earle Hagen-penned "Fishing Hole":

After the series' spinoff, Mayberry RFD, ended its run, Griffith returned in The Headmaster, which harkened back to his teaching days. The series bombed, however, and was later rebooted as The New Andy Griffith Show, but that failed to click as well. In 1975, Griffith moved to ABC, and shifted from comedy to drama. The crime drama, Adams of Eagle Lake, and the subsequent sci-fi adventure series, Salvage 1, were also failures.

On the heels of a reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry", Griffith was given one more series, this time as a genial, often unpredictable Southern lawyer, in Matlock, which ran for 9 seasons (1986-95). Griffith won a People's Choice Award for his work as attorney Ben Matlock. Griffith returned to movies, appearing in the comedy-adventure "Spy Hard", opposite Leslie Nielsen, and his last film was 2009's "Play The Game", which featured Rance & Clint Howard. Rance had appeared frequently on The Andy Griffith Show in small roles while son Ron played Andy's son, Opie. Clint (ex-Gentle Ben) had a recurring part as well, usually offering ice cream or peanut butter sandwiches.

As fans of both Matlock & The Andy Griffith Show know, Griffith would also pick up a guitar and play on occasion. He even recorded a version of "The Fishin' Hole", the theme to The Andy Griffith Show, as part of a country-gospel album released sometime in the 60's. Post-Matlock, Griffith went back into the studio, this time to record gospel albums, and guest-starred in country singer Brad Paisley's video for "Waitin' on a Woman" (2008). The video comes from Paisley's VEVO channel:

And SpudTV offers up the theme from Matlock.

Rest in peace, Andy. You will be missed.

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