Andy Griffith: 5 Career Highlights (Video)
The industry is mourning the loss of Andy Griffith, a beloved actor best known for playing Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show and a crafty defense attorney on Matlock.
The actor, who was 86, died at about 7 a.m. Tuesday morning at his home in Dare County, N.C., according to North Carolina’s WITN-TV. Emergency medical crews had responded to a call for help, but no cause of death was given.
Here are five highlights of his career:
A Face in the Crowd
Griffith made his film debut in Elia Kazan's 1957 drama, playing Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a manipulative country boy who goes power-mad as he becomes a national singing phenomenon. The classic, which satirized the perils of national advertising, was penned by Budd Schulberg, who also wrote Kazan's On the Waterfront.
What It Was, Was Football
Griffith came up with the idea for the 1953 comedy album while he was headed to speak before a civic group, which his wife had mistakenly booked twice. On the 75-mile drive, he decided to come up with some new material, which caught the attention of a record executive, and Griffith was then signed to do comedy albums. A single, “What It Was, Was Football (Parts I & II)," credited to Deacon Andy Griffith, made the top 10 of Billboard’s pre-Hot 100 sales chart in 1954.
The Andy Griffith Show
In his most memorable role, Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor in the classic comedy series, which aired from 1960-68 on CBS. TV producer Sheldon Leonard wooed Griffith for the role of the good-natured widower sheriff of the fictional small town of Mayberry, N.C.. Griffith appeared as a county sheriff in an episode of Leonard's Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas, in 1960; that serviced as the backdoor piilot for The Andy Griffith Show, which also starred Don Knotts as his deputy, Ron Howard as his son and Frances Bavier as his Aunt Bee. He quit the show in 1968 after 249 episodes; the series continued as Mayberry R.F.D., with Ken Berry as the star and Griffith exec producing.
Griffith played crafty Atlanta defense attorney Matlock in another memorable role. The legal drama aired from 1986-95, first on NBC and then on ABC. Griffith also served as executive producer on the show and admitted it was his all-time favorite role after he won a People's Choice Award in 1987.
Murder in Texas
Surprisingly, Griffith earned his only Emmy nomination for his portrayal of the father of a murder victim in the 1981 NBC telefilm. (No clips featuring Griffith were available of this movie, which also starred Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott and Farrah Fawcett.)