Interesting and Wild Facts About The Making Of The Andy Griffith Show
With a great cast featuring Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier, and Ron Howard, The Andy Griffith Show was a quaint portrayal of life in the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. The show charmed so many Americans in the 1960s that it ran for eight seasons featuring 249 high-rated episodes. It won numerous Emmy Awards and left a lasting impression on viewers throughout the US.
After it was over, fans could still catch reruns of the classic sitcom on major television networks. It was a feel-good show that brought laughs to Americans, even after its final episode had long since aired. That’s why we’ve decided to share some fun facts about the show and its cast! You’ll also get to discover what happened in their lives after the show went off the air.
The Andy Griffith Show Was Actually A Spin-off
In an episode of The Danny Thomas Show called “Danny Meets Andy Griffith”, Danny runs through a stop sign in Mayberry. As a result, the sheriff, played by Andy Griffith, pulls him over and arrests him for breaking the law.
Little did everyone know that the episode aired that Monday evening would inspire the concept behind The Andy Griffith Show. After Griffith’s appearance on the sitcom, the producers from CBS were happy to give the green light for him to have his own show.
The Secret Behind the Iconic Opening Credits
Andy Griffith fans likely know the opening credits and theme song well, but did you know that Ron Howard (who played Opie Taylor and was only six years old at the time) needed some help with his rock throwing when they filmed it?
One of the original ideas for the opening credits was to have Griffith and Opie walking down the dirt road with their fishing poles, with Opie briefly stopping at one point and tossing a rock into the nearby pond. However, the young Howard was not very good at throwing. So, the film’s assistant director, Bruce Bilson, decided to do something about it. He sent a crew member to hide behind a bush near the pond and throw the rock for Howard. How cute!
Andy and Don Were the Best of Friends
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts had unique comedic chemistry in their hit show, and it made them superstars. They became the best of friends not just on-screen but off-screen as well, but did you know they were besties before the show even started?
Their lifelong friendship traces back to the similarly painful childhoods they experienced growing up in the South, according to those closest to them. As adults, both Andy and Don sought to escape their bleak realities through show business. Though they went on to lead very different lives, the two maintained a friendship for years before Don succumbed to lung cancer in his early 50s.
Don Knotts Wasn’t a Regular Cast Member
Viewers of The Andy Griffith Show loved Deputy Barney Fife – played by Don Knotts – since the show began. Although he appeared in almost every episode, he was not originally intended to be a permanent character on the show.
Knotts shot the pilot episode of The Andy Griffith Show without even having a formal contract, but producers were so impressed by his performance as Barney Fife that he was offered a contract the next day to play the character in all future episodes.
The Show Went Out on a High Note
The Andy Griffith Show has been aired so many times since the late 1960s that it seems immortal. It will, of course, come to an end at some point. Mayberry will not be around forever. However, from 1960 to 1968, the show was a staple of primetime television ratings.
The show reached the top spot of the Nielsen ratings nearly every year – even during its final season. The only other shows to go out on top are I Love Lucy, which ran for six years, and Seinfeld, which ran for nine years.
The Iconic Mayberry Patrol Car
Just as music by The Beatles provided the backdrop for much of The Andy Griffith Show, cars also played an important part. In fact, several of their best episodes centered on cars and the people driving them. Probably the most recognizable vehicle in the series is the Mayberry patrol car.
Andy and Barney drove this Ford Galaxie 500 with a whip antenna. Each time a new model of the car came in, the producers reportedly received a free replacement model from a local dealership. That’s why the show always featured cars that looked brand new.
The Truth Behind The Opening Song
The whistling melody of The Andy Griffith Show theme song is still recognizable decades after the show went off the air. The song was composed and whistled by music producer Earle Hagen. It remains one of the musician’s most popular works.
“The Fishin’ Hole” song’s original lyricist, Dorothy Fields, wrote a song that was not whistled but sung in a lyrical manner by Everett Sloane. In the end, producers decided that whistling would better complement the antics of the show.
The Show Wasn’t Filmed in Mayberry
We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but Mayberry – the setting of the popular show – never really existed. Some fans think it was based on Griffith’s hometown, Mount Airy, North Carolina, but he always denied this rumor.
The interior sets were created at Desilu Studios, which was founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. That studio became popular for its sitcoms but was best known for being the home of The Andy Griffith Show. The show’s producers used Forty Acres, the studio name for its Culver City lot, as a stand-in for the fictional town of Mayberry.
Based on Real-life Experiences
Andy Griffith was the father we all wanted – a man with whom we would have enjoyed many fantastic fishing excursions. His calm demeanor and friendly smile helped shape the way people of various generations thought about fatherhood.
The two men ensured that they were not overdramatizing the relationship between their characters by drawing from each other’s real-life experiences with their fathers. Griffith even said that his reactions to Howard on the show were based on the same reactions his own father gave him.
Gomer, the Mechanic
Gomer Pyle was the simple-minded gas station attendant who later became an auto mechanic in the American TV sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. He provided much of the comic relief during his two-year stint on the show, usually by uttering, “Shazam!” after being astonished by something.
Goober Pyle, George Lindsey’s comic character, appeared much less frequently on The Andy Griffith Show than his more famous cousin Gomer, played by Jim Nabors. A spin-off show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., featured Gomer as a naive recruit in close contact with the fierce Sergeant Vince Carter, who repeatedly ridicules him for his idiocy.
Andy Was Supposed to be the Comedian of the Show
In early episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy Taylor was always the one to get the punchlines. However, producers decided that Barney Fife would serve as a better comic relief character. They then changed the show around to make Andy the “setup man” and Barney the “funny man.”
The sight gag of Barney Fife’s energetic fumbling was typical of the show’s humor. However, in real life, Knotts was a shy, soft-spoken man with no hint of Barney’s high-strung personality. Even so, he said that he felt most at home acting as Barney Fife.
Sheriff Andy Wore a Cast for Two Episodes
Andy Griffith wore a bandage on his right hand for two episodes of the show. You can see it in “Aunt Bee the Warden” and “The County Nurse.” The injury is addressed quickly, with a line about how the sheriff got into a scuffle with some bad guys off-screen.
Andy Griffith apparently didn’t always play it as cool as his Mayberry character. It turns out that in real life, Griffith’s hand was injured while shooting season two of the show. He put his fist through a wall after getting frustrated with something happening on set. Ouch!
A New Spin-off
There have been many spin-offs of successful series that had pilots within the established show, but The Andy Griffith Show did it differently. After the conclusion of its eighth season in 1968, the main character was leaving, but CBS wanted to keep the series on the air.
Following the end of the original series, many of the supporting characters returned to star in Mayberry R.F.D., which dealt more with small-town life than law enforcement. Unfortunately, the show lasted only three seasons before being canceled in 1971.
The Last Few Episodes Were in Color
The Andy Griffith Show remained a black-and-white program throughout most of its run, but the show took on a brighter look in its final season, switching from black-and-white to full color. Like many television shows at the time, the show changed formats during a time of transition in America.
The show, which ran from 1960 to 1968, was filmed in black and white for its first 159 episodes. The remaining 90 were filmed in color since most TV shows were broadcasting in the newer medium.
Andy Griffith Was An Award-winning Actor on Broadway
Griffith was well known for his television work, starring in many TV shows and movies, often being cast as a folksy character with a native Blue Ridge drawl. The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock were two of the most popular shows in which he appeared.
Andy Griffith had a long career on stage and screen. He won a Tony Award in 1944 for his role in the Broadway show, No Time For Sergeants, but he gained international fame thanks to the show that bore his name. He died at age 86 of heart failure in 2012.
Ron Howard’s Career Flourished
Ron Howard got his first major acting job at the age of six when he landed a role on The Andy Griffith Show. He played the lovable Opie Taylor and became one of the show’s most memorable characters. Howard was incredibly young when he received his big break on the sitcom, but his father was around to support him every step of the way.
After the popular sitcom ended in 1968, Ron Howard went on to star in another iconic show, Happy Days. From there, he moved on to become a leading Hollywood director. Howard won an Oscar for Best Director in 2001 for A Beautiful Mind.
Bavier Had Already Established Herself on Broadway
When The Andy Griffith Show premiered in 1960, Ron Howard, Frances Bavier, and Andy Griffith were all relative newcomers to major acting roles. All three owe their success to the show, but Bavier had already reached legendary status on Broadway.
Frances Bavier started her career as a theater actress, but she is best remembered for playing the role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. In 1968, she won an Emmy Award for Supporting Actress for her role in the show. After The Andy Griffith Show ended, Bavier retired from acting. She passed away in 1989.
The Real Deal Behind Knott’s Middle Name
While few details are known about Barney Fife’s early life, fans of the show often wonder about the character’s middle name. The actor who played Barney throughout the series, Don Knotts, was asked what it was on multiple occasions, but he allegedly gave out at least two different answers.
In some episodes, Barney Fife said his middle name was Oliver. In other episodes, it was Milton. The writers never came to a firm decision regarding the character’s middle name, but nevertheless, Don Knotts’ comedic skills and Andy Taylor’s composed manner won over viewers nationwide.
Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy sheriff played by Don Knotts, was a beloved character in Mayberry. However, many fans don’t realize that he wasn’t a full-time cast member of The Andy Griffith Show in every year of its production. Knotts took time away from the show to pursue a film career.
Though Knots left the show to pursue a career in filmmaking, he continued to make guest appearances until it ended in 1966. He also made a few appearances during the first episode of Mayberry R.F.D.
Don Knott’s Successful Career
As we mentioned, Don Knotts left his role as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show to pursue a film career. He returned in 1966 and 1967 for two more seasons, earning two more Emmy awards for outstanding performance in a supporting role in a series.
Don Knotts returned to TV in 1981 for the role of landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. Years after his death in 2006, TV Guide included Don Knotts on the “50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time” list.
Working with Bavier Was “Difficult”
Though immensely talented, actress Francis Bavier, who played the wonderfully doting Aunt Bee on the long-running television series, was said to be a bit of a diva. Some people attributed her behavior to the fact that she was used to working on feature films and stage productions.
Griffith and Bavier were not on good terms when they worked on the series. Although Griffith felt that Bavier was too sensitive, he later admitted that he should have been more understanding of her. After she was diagnosed with cancer, the actress sent Griffith a letter saying that she wished she’d treated him better.
Griffith and Knotts initially signed five-year contracts for The Andy Griffith Show. That’s why during the fifth season, Knotts began looking elsewhere for work, eventually getting an opportunity to sign a five-year contract with Universal Pictures.
Sadly, when Griffith told him that he planned to extend the series another three years, Knotts was contractually obligated to continue with his Universal deal. As a result, Don Knotts had to choose and was forced to leave The Andy Griffith Show.
Helen Was Supposed to Be a Guest Character
If you’ve ever wondered why the character Helen Crump, played by Aneta Corsaut, was given such a peculiar name, it’s because she was only supposed to appear in one episode.
However, audiences loved her, and the producers saw that she worked really well with Griffith, so they had to make her a regular cast member.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Loving Cowboy
Another resident of Mayberry beloved by fans was this cute character, played by Ron Howard’s real-life brother, who was largely silent on the series. Clint Howard, the adorable peanut butter-and-jelly-loving cowboy, appeared in several episodes as Leon. It makes sense that he became an accomplished child actor!
Clint Howard, who would go on to be a child star himself, made several appearances on the comedy show. Clint was only two years old when he appeared with half of a sandwich in one hand and a cowboy hat on his head.
Who is Mr. Schwamp?
The identity of “Mr. Schwamp” was a mystery for 60 years. It’s hard to imagine that an actor on a popular television show could remain unknown for six decades. Yet, somehow, this familiar face from The Andy Griffith Show baffled fans for 60 years. Just who in the world was Mr. Schwamp?
Mr. Schwamp was a character with no lines on The Andy Griffith Show, but he was typically found sitting on a park bench or in a crowd and would be greeted by Andy or Barney with, “Hello, Mr. Schwamp.”
The Origin of Ange
Despite using the name “Andy” in most of his dealings with Andy, Barney frequently addressed his superior as “Ange.” This may seem strange or even disrespectful at first glance, but it is actually evidence of Andy and Barney’s close bond.
Andy and Barney have a close relationship that is akin to that of brothers. They are always hanging out together, working, eating, and laughing. Barney calls Andy “Ange” – an amalgam of the first parts of Andy and Griffith – because they are so close. Though this was a realistic addition to the show, many viewers complained because they thought it was a mistake!
Original Love Interest
Elinor Donahue’s portrayal of Ellie Walker, who takes over her uncle’s drugstore and eventually begins dating Andy Taylor, was not a favorite among the show’s writers. In fact, in the show’s first season, Elinor Donahue asked to be let go from her three-year contract.
Donahue and Andy Griffith mutually agreed to end the contract. Meanwhile, Andy Griffith and Aneta Corsaut’s strong on-screen chemistry extended off-screen as well.
Andy Wasn’t a Fan of Live Audiences
Sitcoms filmed in the ‘50s and ’60s were traditionally recorded in front of a live studio audience. Andy Griffith, who created the seminal small-town sitcom that shared his name, had no interest in having audiences sit in on the filming of his program.
He wanted his show to feel like an authentic town, so he kept the cast focused on acting instead of minding the crowd. To avoid the problems associated with filming a comedy show on a soundstage, the producers filmed each episode in its entirety on location. They added the laugh track in post-production.
What Happened to Floyd the Barber?
Howard McNear had an extensive career in radio and television for years when he began playing Floyd, a character described by Wikipedia as “a vague and chatty barber.” Unfortunately, the actor suffered a stroke in the middle of the show’s run. This left his left side partially paralyzed.
Although McNear left the show at this point, he was warmly welcomed back later. He continued to play a memorable character despite his physical limitations. Producers gave him a stool that made it look like he was standing in his scenes when he was really sitting or resting against something.
Barney Fife Was Irreplaceable
When Don Knotts, who was popular for his portrayal of bumbling Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, left the series in its fifth season, the show’s producers weren’t sure what to do. They introduced a new character to fill the gap Knotts was leaving, but this move failed miserably.
The character of Warren Ferguson was not well received by viewers. Griffith also felt that Warren’s appearance and personality were not to his liking. Producers decided to have him completely written out of the show after only 11 episodes.
It was no surprise that Sheriff Andy Taylor fell for Mayberry’s new nurse, Peggy McMillan, played by blonde beauty Joanna Moore. During the show’s third season, Moore was, in fact, married to Hollywood superstar Ryan O’Neal. The couple had two children together, including daughter Tatum, who still holds the record for being the youngest competitive Oscar winner in history.
In 1962, Joanna Moore talked about how excited she was to be part of a show that was a huge success and that featured such friendly co-stars. Moore appeared in a slew of other shows, including My Three Sons, Peyton Place (on which she met Ryan O’Neal), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, The Fugitive, and The Virginian.
Letters from the Hubachers
During the earlier runs of the show, Andy and Barney hold their annual Christmas party at the police station. They open a slew of Christmas cards in the process. The funniest greeting was from the Hubacher brothers – a family who were all incarcerated.
Instead of holding a grudge, the Hubachers send letters regaling the duo with tales from prison. In the episode, Andy reads it aloud. “Merry Christmas from state prison,” he says. However, nobody noticed that the insert shot of the card actually says, “Greetings from state prison.”
Ron's Supportive Father
Rance Howard made sure his son Ron knew it was up to him to decide whether or not he wanted to become an actor. Ron recalls his father talking in a respectful manner and conveying how seriously he took the decision.
According to an interview with Ron Howard, the character of Opie was originally written as a snarky “typical TV kid.” However, the elder Howard asked the writers to change the script to make Opie more respectful of his father. Griffith liked the idea, so he changed Opie’s character and modeled some of his character’s fatherly mannerisms based on Rance’s.
Andy of Mayberry
In the early years of television reruns and syndication, successful series such as Seinfeld would often be rebranded with a different name for reruns. Syndicators did this so viewers and programmers would know to expect an older episode rather than a new one.
The daytime reruns of The Andy Griffith Show that were shown in syndication from Oct 1964 to Sep 1970 went by the title Andy of Mayberry. After the show left prime time in 1968, the syndicated program reverted back to its original name, The Andy Griffith Show.
Jerry Van Dyke’s Regrets
When Don Knotts left the series in 1980, Jerry Van Dyke guest-starred as a carnival musician. He appeared as a potential replacement to the point that he was actually offered a full-time job on the series. However, Van Dyke declined the offer.
He declined in favor of starring in My Mother the Car. The series only lasted one year, while the Andy Griffith Show continued for much longer, so it’s no surprise that Van Dyke regretted the decision.
So, Who Was Andy Griffith?
Andy Griffith was born on June 1st, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He was the first and only child of his parents, Carl Lee Griffith and his wife, Geneva.
He went on to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for music. He graduated in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree.
No Military Service For Andy
When Andy Griffith turned 18 he was required to register for the military–the same as everyone else. While undergoing a required medical evaluation a discovery was made that would impact his military service.
The doctors discovered that he had a herniated disk located in his lower back. He had sustained this when he was a child when he fell off a tire swing. Due to this, he was not required to enter the military services.
He Taught Music and Drama In High School
After Andy graduated college he went on to become a highschool teacher of drama and music. He taught at Goldsboro High School in North Carolina and stayed for several years.
He did not feel satisfied in this field and decided to pursue stories and monologues that he would deliver on stage. It took him five live performances for him to get over his nervousness on stage, but he eventually did (of course!).
He Was Married More Than Once
Or more than twice if you want to get into the weed about it. He first married Barbara Griffith from 1949-1972 before splitting. Next he married Solica Casuto in 1973. This relationship lasted until 1981.
Lastly, he married Cindi Knight in 1983 up until 2012. This was his last marriage. Between the three marriages he had two adopted children.
Andy Griffith’s Children
Andy Griffith adopted two children. One was a daughter who was named Dixie Nann Griffith and a son named Andy Samuel “Sam” Griffith Jr. For the latter child, Sam, he was adopted a year after he was born by Andy Barbara, his first wife.
Dixie was born in 1960 and was adopted by the couple rather shortly after that. Those were the only children he had.
One of His Children Died
Sam, Andy’s only son, had some troubles in his life. He was married to a woman named Renee Denise Griffith. In 1992 he was arrested and sentenced to three years probation for a domestic dispute.
His wife went on to have a miscarriage. Sam died in 1996 at the young age of 37 after suffering from an awful addiction.
Andy Could Not Attend the Funeral
After his son died, Andy did not attend the funeral. According to his daughter Dixie, “My brother had some trouble, but it wasn’t my dad’s fault.”
She went on to say, “It affected my dad on a very, very deep level. I went to my brother’s funeral service, but my dad wasn’t able to go. There would be too many magazines and cameras, and it just wasn’t a good place for him.
Who Was Dixie?
Dixie, Andy’s only daughter worked as an apprentice on not one but two of her father’s made for TV films, however ultimately decided not to pursue acting or a career in film, herself.
According to Dixie she “respected privacy” for her entire life and was raised in a very protective household. In order to continue to honor this aspect of her life, she chose a different path than her father.
He Once Sued a Man
Andy Griffith once sued a man who had legally changed his own name to Andy Griffith. The man, William Fenrick, was running for town sheriff and perhaps wanted a leg up.
This made Andy Griffith upset and angry. However, soon afterwards the lawsuit ended up being dropped. William Fenrick lost the election as well.
There Was Confusion Following His Death
Andy Griffith died at 86 years old on July 3, 2012. Not many people were shocked at his death as Andy had a lot of health issues that cropped up in old age. Andy suffered a heart attack in his home.
After his passing in his coastal North Carolina home on Roanoke Island is where the confusion from his fans begin to get momentum.
He Was Buried Fast
It was not yet five hours when Andy Griffith was lowered into the ground of the Griffith family cemetery on the private estate property.
This left a lot of people feeling confused at the seemingly rushed burial. Afterall, weren’t tests supposed to be done? Furthermore, when someone of his acting fame and caliber passed, there was usually a bit more fanfare and formal mourning practices.
Andy Griffith was notoriously private in his life. This is what led many people to speculate over the nature of his death and incredibly quick burials. Perhaps this is what the star had requested, and they were following his wishes.
It could have also been the wishes of his family. Losing a family member is hard enough. Feeling like you have to share your grief with the rest of the world would be incredibly difficult.