Most folks know Andy Griffith as the star of long-running television hit shows “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock.” But the actor, who died at home in Dare County, North Carolina on July 3, gave several superb dramatic performances as well.
Beginning in 1960 and for the better part of the decade following, Griffith played Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor on his self-titled show (where Ron “Ronny” Howard got his start), which offered a wholesome, “gee whiz” view of rural America. Following Andy Taylor, Griffith went on to star as Matlock, a grittier role.
Born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Griffith and his wife were teachers who performed on the side. Ed Sullivan gave Griffith a chance to showcase his monologues on his network show. He won a role as a military bumpkin in Ira Levin’s 1955 Broadway comedy “No Time for Sergeants” and reprised the role in the 1958 film. Griffith surprised everyone with his edgy performance as a savvy southern celebrity angling for political office in Elia Kazan’s 1957 success d’estime “A Face in the Crowd,” which co-starred Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau.
Griffith also scored in Hollywood satire “Hearts of the West” in 1975, played the bad guy in 1996 spoof “Spy Hard,” a family patriarch in Billy Bob Thornton’s “Daddy and Them” (2001) and was delightful as the sweet owner of the diner in Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film “Waitress.”
Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He is survived by third wife Cindi Knight, to whom he was married since 1983.
TCM will remember Griffith on Wednesday, July 18 with a four-film tribute beginning at 8pm with “A Face in the Crowd,” followed by “No Time for Sergeants” at 10:15pm, “Hearts of the West” at 12:30am, and “Onionhead” (1958) at 2:15am.