Wednesday, 4 July 2012


My obituary of Andy Griffith is up at the Guardian website, you can link to it here, and with any luck it will be in the paper paper tomorrow (Thursday). The most interesting thing I discovered was that the great character actor R.G. Armstrong was originally a student of his, though other sources that say he was a classmate, which seems more likely. They remained friends all their lives, but I didn't see anything they did together on the screen.

I have to say that in my youth I never warmed to The Andy Griffith Show, and I still feel suspicious of Ron Howard because of Opie. While writing the obit, it occured to me that Griffith first made his name playing a hick, but found his role as the shrewdly wise folksy good ol'boy, and he was smart enough to leave the pure hick stuff to Jim Nabors (and the broad comedy to Don Knotts). One of the great anomalies of TAGS was Knotts, who was so obviously not southern at all, and didn't really try to be (the same was true of Judy Norton on The Waltons, her nasal California voice belieing everyone else trying to sound southern--in fact thinking about it wasn't Richard Thomas kind of the thinking goober's Opie?).

But from the first time I saw A Face In The Crowd I had the greatest respect for Griffith's talents--the pity is they were stretched so little. Hearts Of The West is a much under-appreciated movie, and he is excellent in it--he virtually reprised the role ten years later opposite Tom Berenger in Rustler's Rhapsody. Think of the kind of roles James Garner played in Twilight, or Slim Pickens in Rancho Deluxe and they would have been perfect for Griffith as well.

I liked the way he returned to Roanoke Island, where he had played Sir Walter Raleigh every summer with his first wife, and lived his life there and got engaged in North Carolina (and national) politics in what seems to be a good way. He even moved Matlock to Wilmington, NC, probably to be closer to home, but also in a sign of loyalty to his home state.

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