8 Things You Didn’t Know About The Andy Griffith Show
The Andy Griffith Show ran on CBS from October 3, 1960 to April 1, 1968 and starred Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts and Frances Bavier. The show was a huge success, never placing lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings and winning six primetime Emmy Awards during its eight season run. It even spawned one spinoff, Gomer Pyle, and a reunion telemovie, Return to Mayberry, and after the eighth season ended was renamed Mayberry, RFD and continued on for another three seasons. There’s still a lot people don’t know about this ‘60s classic, so check out these 8 things you didn’t know about The Andy Griffith Show:
8. The Concept
The producer of The Danny Thomas Show, Sheldon Leonard, and Danny Thomas hired veteran comedy writer Arthur Stander to create a pilot for Andy Griffith that featured the actor as justice of the peace and newspaper editor in a small town. At the time, Griffith was interested in taking on a television role and the William Morris Agency believed that the actor’s rural background and previous rustic characterizations made him well suited to the part. On February 15, 1960, Griffith appeared on The Danny Thomas Show episode “Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” playing a fictional sheriff who arrests Danny Williams for running a stop sign. Future actors on The Andy Griffith Show, Frances Bavier and Ron Howard, appeared in the episode as townspeople Henrietta Perkins and Opie Taylor, and General Foods, sponsor of The Danny Thomas Show committed to the new show immediately. On October 3, 1960, at 9:30 pm, The Andy Griffith Show made its debut on CBS.
7. Griffith’s Portrayal of Andy Taylor
While Griffith initially played Andy Taylor as a heavy-handed country bumpkin, he gradually abandoned that shtick and instead made the character more serious and thoughtful. Once Griffith dropped the character’s more unsophisticated traits and mannerisms, he no longer created his own problems like other sitcom characters such as Lucy in I Love Lucy or Archie Bunker in All in the Family, so the characters around him became the ones who created the problems and Taylor would be the one to step in as problem solver, mediator, advisor, disciplinarian and counselor.
6. On Set Feud
As a serious New York actress, Frances Bavier had a love-hate relationship with her role and often felt that her dramatic talents were overlooked. On set, she was easily offended, so the production staff took a very cautious approach when communicating with her. Griffith has admitted that he and Bavier often clashed during the series’ eight season run because he ran the show like it was a family picnic and often joined his cast-mates in song, dance and laughter when the cameras weren’t running, which she was never a part of. Four months before she died, she called him and apologized to him for being “difficult” during the show’s run.
5. The Show’s Theme Song
The show’s theme song was titled “The Fishin’ Hole.” There were lyrics for the song which were written by Everett Sloane, but producers decided that whistling the tune would set the tone for the show, so the lyrics were dropped. The whistling was performed by Earle Hagen, and was used in the opening sequence, as well the closing credits sequence.
4. Gone with the Wind
The show was filmed at Desilu Studios in Culver City, California, on the same soundstage as Gone with the Wind. The fictional town of Mayberry was created out of the old Atlanta set from the movie. Griffith’s house sat next to Aunt Pittypat’s house and, in many of the episodes, if you were to walk out of the courthouse and look to the right at the end of the street, you’d see the old Atlanta train station from the film.
3. Barney Wasn’t Supposed to be the Comedic Lead
Don Knotts – who played the deputy Barney Fife – was supposed to play the straight man on the show while Griffith was intended as the comedic lead; however, it quickly became apparent to Griffith that the show was funnier with Knotts as the main comedic figure, so their roles were reversed.
2. Barney Fife’s Departure
Griffith originally told Knotts that he only wanted to do five seasons of the show, so they both signed five year contracts. During the show’s fifth season, he began looking for other work and signed a five-year film contract with Universal Studios. When Griffith announced that the show would continue after the fifth season and Knotts’ was offered a new contract, he was bound by his contract with Universal and had to leave the show. The show explained Barney Fife’s absence as him moving to Raleigh, North Carolina, to join their Police Department.
1. Griffith’s Trouble with Women
Actresses Elinor Donahue and Sue Ane Langdon were brought on the show during its first few years in an attempt to give Griffith a romantic dimension, but none of them worked successfully with the actor. Other actresses were brought in as well, but they lasted an even shorter time. It turns out that Griffith just wasn’t a lady’s man. He didn’t know how to hug and kiss on-screen romantically and as a result the relationships didn’t appear believable. The only exception to this was Aneta Corsaut (who played Helen Crump). She and Griffith had an affectionate relationship and would often run off together alone on set even though he was married at the time.