Actor Andy Griffith, who had a long career in film, Broadway and television, including his iconic role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s, died in North Carolina today (July 3). He was 86.
Griffith’s trademark folksy mannerisms were the key to his career, which began when he developed a love of music in high school.
His family was so poor he had to live with relatives for a while growing up until his parents could afford their own house, but he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill an graduated with a degree in music.
Although he’s best known for his television roles, Griffith had a broad entertainment career that spanned movies, the theater and recorded music. His breakthrough role was in a television production of “No Time for Sergeants,” about a country boy who enlists in the Air Force. He later reprised the role in a hit Broadway show.
He also did a film version of the play where he met Don Knotts, who played a corporal. They became fast friends and worked together on other productions including Griffith’s hit 60’s television show. Knotts played deputy Barney Fife.
Perhaps his biggest film role was his collaboration with the legendary director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg in the movie “A Face in the Crowd.” He played an unsophisticated country rube who is manipulative and power hungry. He becomes a television host and leverages it into political power.
The 1957 film,, which also starred Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau, received a luke-warm reception when it was released. But has since been recognized as a classic piece of film-making.
In 1960, he launched “The Andy Griffith Show,” about a small town sheriff who solves life’s problems through the his folksy philosophy and his dedication to non-violence. He was a calm center to his hyperactive deputy Barney Fife, and the comedic tension fueled the show.
After the show ended in 1968, Griffith worked in various shows, none of which matched his success as the sheriff of Mayberry. Then in 1986, when he was 60, he underwent a career renaissance in the hit series “Matlock.” He played a country lawyer who solved crime mysteries. The show ran for nine years.
In later years, he returned to music and recorded a hugely successful 1996 album, I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns. It went platinum, which signifies sales of more than 1 million copies.
Griffith was living in retirement in North Carolina Griffith when he was rushed to a North Carolina hospital Tuesday morning. The actor’s close friend, former UNC President Bill Friday, confirmed his death.
He is survived by wife Cindi and his daughter Dixie. A son Andrew Jr. died in 1996.