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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In Memoriam: Andy Griffith, 1926-2012

Andy and Opie do a little fishing.

It's a sad day for the South. Andy Griffith, beloved for his TV portrayals of decent small-town Southerners, died today at his home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, North Carolina, at the age of 86.

Even though they were different personalities and from different parts of the South, something about Griffith's portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor always reminds me in a vague way of my father. (As it happens, Ron Howard and I are very nearly the same age, too.) There is - or at least, there was, well into the last century - a certain kind of well-rounded, down-to-earth, easy-going Southern personality that's hard to describe but easy to recognize; and it's not the stereotypes that our friends at the North love to make fun of. Something wise and dependable and comfortable to be with, and often rather humorous around the edges - a certain attitude towards life that is not seen so often these days.

Griffith was a great actor - if you doubt it, go watch his performance as an out-of-control rockabilly star in the vastly underrated A Face in the Crowd (1957) - so it would be a mistake to think that he and Sheriff Taylor are just alike; but Griffith was a Southerner and let the real, genuine flavor of that small-town background shine through his character.  It's never the same at all when a Yankee tries to imitate Southern accents or manners;  a few have done a good job of acting, but - it's obviously just acting.  Griffith gives you the real thing, although of course he's also playing for laughs much of the time. 

I still get a kick out of watching the Andy Griffith Show from time to time. Here's one of my favorite episodes, and one of the funniest.

Amazingly, Griffith never won an Emmy, either for TAGS or for Matlock - a great injustice.

One more thing: it should be remembered to his everlasting credit that Griffith, a lifelong Democrat, came out publicly in favor of Obama's healthcare reforms in 2010, despite heavy criticism from his Republican compatriots. Here's the PSA he made at that time:

Additional: It's come to my attention that George Lindsey, who played the clownish grease monkey Goober in TAGS, has also passed away, back in May. He was a very good actor too; everybody on that show was.
Lindsey as Goober:  "Judy, Judy, Judy."

1 comment:

Tim said...

A nice, gentle humour, they didn't show it in the UK as faras I know. But I kept thinking of George W looking at Andy!!! ;)

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