Andy Samuel Griffith (born June 1, 1926) is an American actor, producer, writer, director and southern gospel singer. He gained prominence in the starring role of Elia Kazan's epic film A Face in the Crowd before he was better known for his television roles, playing the title characters in the 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, for CBS and in the 1980s and 1990s legal drama, Matlock, on NBC and later ABC. Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on 9 November 2005. According to the Internet Movie Database, he is still acting and has two films in pre-production as of 2008.
At a very young age, Griffith had to live with relatives until his parents could afford to get a home of their own. Without a crib or a bed, Andy slept in drawers for a few months. In 1929, when Griffith was 3, his father took a job working as a carpenter and was finally able to purchase a home. Like his mother, Andy grew up listening to music. By the time he entered school he was well aware that he was from what many considered the "wrong side of the tracks". He was a shy student, but once he found a way to make his peers laugh, he began to come into his own. As a student at Mount Airy High School, Andy cultivated an interest in the arts and he participated in the school's drama program. A growing love of music would change his life. Griffith looked up to Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught Andy to sing and play the trombone. Mickey nurtured Griffith's talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944. Griffith was delighted when he was offered a role in The Lost Colony, a play still performed today in the historic Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina. He performed as a cast member of the play for several years, playing a variety of roles, until he finally landed the role of Sir Walter Raleigh, the namesake of North Carolina's capital.
He began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but changed his major to music. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor's degree in music in 1949. While at UNC, he was president of the UNC Men's Glee Club and was a member of the Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, America's oldest fraternity for men in music. After graduation, he taught English at Goldsboro High School, in Goldsboro, NC, for a few years.
The film demonstrated, quite early-on, the power that television can have upon the masses. Directed by Elia Kazan, written by Budd Schulberg, ostensibly based on the alleged on-stage phoniness of Will Rogers and Arthur Godfrey, the prescient film was seldom run on television until the 1990s. A 2005 DVD reissue came complete with a mini-documentary on the film with comments from Schulberg and surviving cast members Griffith, Franciosa and Neal.
The show took place in Mayberry, where Griffith's character, Andy Taylor, a widower, was the sheriff and town sage. It was an immediate hit. Though Griffith never received a writing credit for the show, he worked on the development of every script. While Knotts was frequently lauded and won multiple Emmy awards for his comedic performances, Griffith was never nominated for an Emmy during the show's run. In 1967, Griffith was under contract with CBS to do one more season of the show. But Griffith decided to quit the show to pursue a movie career and other projects. The series continued as Mayberry R.F.D., for which Griffith served as executive producer and guest starred in five episodes.
After spending time in rehabilitation for leg paralysis due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1986, Griffith came back to work in another popular TV series as the title character Ben Matlock, in Matlock. Griffith's character was a country lawyer in Atlanta, who was known for his southern drawl and always winning his cases. By the end of its first season it was a ratings powerhouse on Tuesday nights. Also starring on Matlock during the first season was familiar actress Linda Purl who played Matlock's younger daughter Charlene Matlock. She had limited appearances with the seasoned actor and was dismissed from the show after 1 season. Purl was replaced by Nancy Stafford, who was a devout Andy Griffith fan since the 1960s, Miss Florida in the Miss Universe Pageant of 1976, an unknown actress at the time, future speaker and best-selling author of Christian books. She was a Wilton Manors native who played the role of Matlock's law partner, aide, and friend, Michelle Thomas (beginning in 1987 to her last appearance in 1992). Well-known character actor and future minister Kene Holliday played Matlock's first private investigator, Tyler Hudson. Despite the fact that he got along with Griffith, he was fired in 1989, due to his long battle with drugs/alcohol which led to his arrest. He was replaced by another young veteran character actor, film star, cowboy, football player, western buff, military brat and college student from the San Bernardino suburb of Rialto, California, Clarence Gilyard, playing the role of Matlock's second private investigator, Conrad McMasters from 1989 to 1993. Compared to the relationships of Griffith's, Holliday's & Stafford's, Clarence's chemistry and on- and off-screen friendship with Andy was an asset to the program, though Andy was proven to be very difficult to work with himself. And also joining the cast of Matlock for the series' seventh season in 1992, was longtime film and character actor, future Nash Bridges star, writer and producer, Daniel Roebuck, as Matlock's assistant Cliff Lewis. Though he didn't appear in every episode during the seventh year, but it was after Gilyard's departure from the show, that gave him a co-starring and stayed with the series until the end. He also had a great deal spending time with Andy, and learning so much from him. Roebuck also appeared on early episodes of Matlock, through various characters. Though the show was nominated for 4 Emmys, Griffith once again was not even nominated. During the series' sixth season, he served as Writer, Executive Producer, and Director of the show. The show ended in 1995. Distributed by Viacom and now CBS Television Distribution, it has seen long-running success in syndication.
Gilyard, who was also a devout fan of Andy Griffith's since the 1960s, had watched his mentor's first highly rated long-running sitcom, based on the real-life values in Mayberry, when the future actor was primarily in grade school. After having the experience learning from Griffith he auditioned for his first prime job replacing the unhappy Holliday. He beat out 3 other actors for the role and said of his idol/friend, "I was doing a lot of stress management that day", With a lesser smile, Gilyard said, "I decided to forget about the audition script and focus on Andy the man. Having grown up with The Andy Griffith Show, adoring the father/son relationship, I just figured to be Opie for a day. Well, I blew it. I was disappointed with myself, thinking I would never work again. But I turned on the TV in the limousine taking me back to the airport that night, and my second episode of Diff'rent Strokes happened to be on. I felt it was a good omen." In addition, Clarence also said before the casting, "There is a God in Heaven, because the character fits me like a glove." Gilyard left the show in 1993, after the show switched networks from NBC to ABC, hence, most of his screen-time on Matlock was reduced. At the same time, he was offered a co-starring role before shooting the pilot for Walker, Texas Ranger on CBS, where he stayed on the show for 9 consecutive seasons, making him a star in his own right. Today, he, along with Stafford & Roebuck are good friends with Griffith.
Roebuck, also a huge fan of Andy Griffith's has said of the show:" Matlock is a show about a lawyer who wears the same suit all the time, and he solves cases and he gets paid lots of money to do it." In addition he also said, "Andy took a great deal of interest in producing, rewriting, always tweaking it. As I said on Matlock, we worked very hard and nobody worked harder than Andy Griffith, who'd be pulling a 12-hour day, you know, when he was in his late 60s, and I don't know a lot of people my age who would do that consistently everyday", said Daniel. "I love the time that we had together on the set; and we had a wonderful, professional relationship. The time that I spent with Andy, as an actor, was some of the best times I had, as an actor." The final thing that Roebuck said of Griffith's career (as a singer): "He loved music so much, it was something else that Andy brought to the show, it wasn't just the humor, it was the music. Anybody who watches Matlock consistently will remember that there's music, throughout the show." Today, Roebuck is also on good terms with Griffith.
Griffith, revered for his wholesome image for decades, revealed a more complex side of himself in the A Face in the Crowd DVD documentary, where he recalled director Kazan prepping him to shoot his first scene with Lee Remick. Remick played a teenage baton twirler who captivates Griffith's character on a trip to Arkansas. Griffith recalls that Kazan wanted a specific facial expression from him to convey the character's emotional state, which Kazan summed up in the phrase, "Look at her like you want to f--k her!
In the 2007 movie Waitress, Griffith plays a character named "Old Joe". He briefly promoted the role when he appeared on Larry King Live in 2006, on an episode paying tribute to Don Knotts. In 2008, Griffith will appear in the romantic comedy Play The Game alongside Doris Roberts, in which he plays a lonely, widowed grandfather re-entering the dating world after a 60 year hiatus.
C.F. Martin & Company guitar manufacturers offer an Andy Griffith signature model guitar.
Griffith was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007.
Griffith's longtime friendship with Ron Howard began in 1960, when the child actor guest-starred alongside him on an episode of Make Room For Daddy which led to the success of The Andy Griffith Show that same year. For 8 seasons, Griffith & Howard shared a unique father-son relationship on the set. When the show ended, Howard also guest-starred alongside Griffith on its spin-off show, Mayberry R.F.D., where his character's father marries long-time girlfriend Helen Crump. The two also appeared in an episode of Gomer Pyle, USMC, in an episode in which Opie runs away from home and attempts to enlist in the Marines. Howard never made any cameo appearances on Griffith's series, Matlock, but was invited to the People's Choice Award in 1987, where Andy was honored that same year. Howard keeps busy maintaining his long-term career as a successful director and producer of high-budget films. He and Griffith keep in touch by telephone, sharing news about family and personal activities. Howard and his family attended Griffith's movie, Waitress, which they reportedly enjoyed. To this day, Andy still calls Ron by his childhood nickname, "Ronny." Howard doesn't seem to mind one bit.
Griffith received a Grammy Award in 1997. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 9, 2005. A few weeks earlier, he helped preside over the reopening of the Memorial Hall on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and donated a substantial amount of memorabilia from his career to the university.