Andy Griffith, an actor whose work spanned the realms of Broadway, comedy, film, music and especially television on The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, has died at the age of 86 at his home on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
Griffith starred as small town sheriff Andy Taylor in the idyllic make-believe Southern town of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, which debuted in 1960. The show never fell out of the top 10 during its eight years on air, and imagined, as the New York Times put it today, “a reassuring world of fishin’ holes, ice cream socials and rock-hard family values during a decade that grew progressively more tumultuous.”
In 1955, Griffith was featured in the Broadway play “No Time for Sergeants,” for which he received a Tony nomination. He later appeared in the film version. Griffith made his film debut in A Face in the Crowd (1957), in which Griffith gave a stunning performance as a mentally unhinged vagrant who goes on to become a TV sensation, only to be undone by his inner darkness.
Surprisingly, Griffith was only nominated for an Emmy once, for his role in the 1981 TV movie Murder in Texas. Meanwhile, his Andy Griffith Show co-star Don Knotts, who played Deputy Barney Fife, won five. Griffith and Knotts remained best friends until Knotts died in 2006.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Griffith starred in a slew of films that often put him in the solving role of many imagined murder stories. He maintained his household-name status as the star of the crime-solving series Matlock, which ran from 1986 to 1995. Griffith was also a producer on the series, and said when he accepted a People’s Choice Award that it was his favorite role.
He continued to take film and television roles well into his 80s, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on Tuesday November 9th, 2005.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968): Griffith’s character Sheriff Taylor often played guitar and sang on the show — a hobby that Griffith kept up through the years.
A Face in the Crowd (1957): Griffith showed his serious acting chops, and dark side, as a popular TV personality who becomes dangerously drunk on his own power.
No Time for Sergeants (1958): Griffith played a country bumpkin who is too dumb to know he is driving everyone around him crazy. He received a Tony nomination for the role, which he played on Broadway three years before the film. It was on this film that Griffith and Knotts first met, and became lifelong friends.
Matlock (1986-1995): Griffith starred as folksy but always effective criminal defense attorney Benjamin Matlock.
Interview (1998): Griffith talked at length about his career in an interview with the Archive of American Television. Click through on this video to see more segments from the interview.
Arrested Development (2005): The FOX comedy played upon Griffith’s iconic role as Matlock, in just one in a running series of jokes about narrator Ron Howard’s past as the character Opie on The Andy Griffith Show.
(Image courtesy of WENN)