When Andy Griffith passed away this morning, America lost its favorite “Sheriff”. Andy and the wonderful cast of actors on the Andy Griffith show made Mayberry come alive. It was a friendly town where everyone felt at home and looked out for each other. As viewers, we wished we could live there too.
In memory of Andy Griffith, I found an interview he did in 1962. It appeared in a San Diego paper exactly fifty years ago today.
Photo from The Andy Griffith Show. In this episode, Barney gets his gun stuck on his finger, September 23, 1960, Credit: Wikipedia
The San Diego Union, Tuesday, July 3, 1962, Page Twenty-Three, Courtesy of Genealogy Bank
A Worrier Named Andy Griffith
By Donald Freeman
The San Diego Union’s Radio-TV Editor
Andy Griffith’s Promo Tour, Circa 1950s, Credit: State Archives of North Carolina via Flickr
Ten years ago, Andy Griffith who was then teaching school in his native North Carolina, borrowed $1,000 from two friends as a stake to keep afloat while he tried his luck in show business. And now, as the result of his popular CBS television series, not to mention his movies, Broadway shows and recordings, Andy Griffith is an important star, known everywhere.
“Why, I’ll be wanderin’ around,” Mr. Griffith was saying the other day, “between shows at the San Diego County Fair, and I’ll see these people point to me and say right out loud, Hey, lookee, there’s Andy Williams.”
That’s fame, I agreed.
“But I still appreciate it,” said Mr. Griffith speaking pure North Carolina mountain Tarheel. “I’m a fella’s done all right on a very limited talent, know it? Folks around home in Mt. Airy never expected I’d do more than maybe get a job in the local furniture factory. We were real poor, the Griffiths – oh, my yes, we were poorer than Job’s turkey.”
Griffith reflected a moment, “Fact is, I’m a worrier,” he said. “I get if from my maw. When I was a small un, she’d say, ‘Andy don’t you pet that dawg. It’s got germs.’ So I worry, too. I worried myself sick about playing this fair.”
“Fella said to me a little while back, Andy about that place you’ll be working in down to the fair, he said, ‘you know, it’s positively GIGANTIC!’ I just gulped. Then he said, ‘Andy did you know that last year Tennessee Ernie Ford was there and set a new record? I just gulped again. Then this fella looks at me real close and he says to me, ‘Say, what do you do, anyway?’
“Oh my, is that a way to talk to a worrier?”
It’s Just A TV Show
In his TV series, Griffith plays a sheriff who operates in the fictional town of Mayberry, a warm, charming and slightly wacky place. His attitude toward the show and its place in the universe is refreshingly candid.
“It’s just a TV show, is all,” Griffith said. “It’s not a world-shakin’ event. Someday it’ll be gone. But while it’s on we’re goin’ to tell some nice stories about a town where people would like to go there and live. We know that from the mail we get.”
“We’ve got some wild people in our town, but they’s a love of love and affection there. In Mayberry, you’ll notice, people are forever doin’ something for someone they think a lot of. Want to know something else? Folks assume that Mayberry’s in North Carolina, but it’s not.”
As one of the folks who had made that very assumption, I was startled. If Mayberry isn’t in North Carolina, well then where is it?
“Fact is,” Griffith explained, “when we started out someone high up gave us an order, ‘Don’t be too regional.’ Beats me why. So we do everything but come out and say Mayberry’s in North Carolina. Sometimes we’ll say on the show, ‘Oh he’s over to Raleigh.’ Or Macon. Or Chattanooga. We hint, know it? But the way I feel, in my own mind, I KNOW Mayberry’s in North Carolina.”
Andy Griffith & Julie Adams as the new county nurse from The Andy Griffith Show, March 2, 1962, Credit: Wikipedia
“As the sheriff, I tend to be the anchor, sort of, in this funny town. And in a way I’m playin’ me – Andy Griffith. But this character I play – Andy Taylor – he’s much nicer than I am. More outgoing and easy going. I get mad easy. I got this violent temper. I just wish I could be more like Andy Taylor….”
Play Becomes Reality
“Sometimes,” Griffith went on, “maybe it happens just once a week, I’ll be playin’ a scene with Don Knotts, who’s just tremendous, and Don’s so intent that he really becomes Barney Fife, the deputy and because of Don’s bein’ so intent. I really become Andy Taylor and, for that moment, there really is a Mayberry and oh, my I get so tickled.”
Andy Griffith & Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show. In this episode, Barney becomes extremely stressed when he and Andy have to deal with a goat that has eaten dynamite, November 1, 1963, Credit: Wikipedia
“People want to know when all this is happen’n and we just never quite say. You’ll notice we dress modern and we drive 1962 cars. But for a scene one time the producer asked the prop man to supply some toys for li’l Opie and he came back with toy soldiers from World War I, meaning it could be in the 1920s or ‘30s,which was fine. He did it on his own, with no instructions from anybody.”
“It’s this sense of nostalgia we create know it?” “It’s this feeling we all have that Mayberry is timeless.”
When Andy returns from a trip, he finds that Barney has managed to put all of Mayberry’s citizens behind bars in the town jail, January 5, 1961, Credit: Wikimedia
Mayberry will always be timeless to me. When I watch the show, it’s like visiting old friends. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite lines from the show:
“You beat everything Barney, you know that?” – Andy to Barney
“Nip it! Nip it in the bud!” – Deputy Barney Fife
“Citizen’s arr-ay-est!, citizen’s arr-ay-est!, citizen’s arr-ay-est!” — Said by Gomer Pyle to Barney Fife in the episode titled “Citizen’s Arrest.”
“It’s me, it’s me. It’s Ernest T.!” – Ernest T. Bass
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