Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Good-bye Andy

By now you've surely read that Andy Griffith died yesterday at the age of 86.

As a sure sign we are turning into a nation of ill-informed, culturally bankrupt morons, Salon Magazine ran a story the other day entitled "Dumb Tweets of the Day," about people tweeting "who the heck is Andy Griffith?" when news of his death broke.

Who the heck is Andy Griffith indeed? Maybe it's an age thing.

While certainly best known for playing Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictitious hamlet of Mayberry, in the Andy Griffith Show, (1960 to 1968) , my introduction to him came a little earlier. Griffith had first achieved fame in the 1950's as a monologist, and my father had a copy of his recording, What It Was, Was Football. I listened to that thing endlessly as a child. I think it must be a Southern thing.

He also starred in the service comedy (this was only a decade past the end of WW II) named "No Time For Sergeants," in which he was first teamed with Don Knotts. I still remember him spitting in the back of a non-functioning radio to get it to work.

We watched the Andy Griffith Show as a family while I was growing up, of course, along with most of CBS's other rural humor shows (The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction - they went on and on).

I never got into Griffith's other big show, Matlock - that was my parents' thing and they were huge fans.

Despite the folksy characters he's best known for, Griffith was capable of conjuring up a harder side as well. His performance as the crusty old owner of the cafe that Keri Russell works at, in the 2007 film, Waitress, is an unexpected delight.

If all you know of Andy Griffith is from Andy of Mayberry, you owe it to yourself to see Elia Kazan's outstanding film "A Face in the Crowd," which was Griffith's film debut. It's a real lesson in media politics - something to think about next time you're channel surfing. It may well be one of his greatest performances. You'll never see Andy in the same light.

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