Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

There are some celebrities who, whether you realize it or not, mean a lot to you.  For me, Andy Griffith is one of those celebrities.

His passing last week saddened me much more than I would have anticipated.  But I know why.  It was because of Griffith’s best known character: Sheriff Andy Taylor.  Andy Taylor was very much like my own father.  I still watch episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and laugh as much as I did when I was a kid seeing them for the first time.  There’s a reason why the series has never really been off the air.  Like the best comedies, it’s about people, with all their good points and their bad.  And the calm center of all was Andy Taylor, no matter what befell the residents of Mayberry, North Carolina.

Griffith began his career with comedy, playing small clubs and doing monologues.  One of his most popular routines, a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, was written into the episode A Feud is a Feud of his TV series.  He went on to make a name for himself in the teleplay No Time for Sergeants and went on to Broadway when the play was presented there.  He later starred in the feature film version.

His film debut, however, was A Face in the Crowd, in which Griffith gave an amazing dramatic performance as a drifter turned manipulative television powerhouse.  It’s one of my all-time favorite movies and one that I highly recommend to any film fan.

Griffith was also a fine musician and singer, even winning a Grammy in 1997 for his album I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns.  And he performed with Brad Paisley on Waitin’ on a Woman from Paisley’s 2008 album Play.

But, of course, it’s the role of Andy Taylor for which Griffith will always be remembered.  Well, that and Georgia attorney Matlock.  And while he could play villains, Taylor and Matlock were roles that defined Griffith as an intelligent, trustworthy man who we’d want to know.