Everyone loves The Andy Griffith Show. But what went on behind the scenes of this classic?
A Fiery Temper
While most of the cast generally seemed to enjoy working with one another, most of them reported that they had issues with Andy as the show moved on. It turned out that Griffith was, in fact, dealing with substance abuse issues and would often get mad and aggressive when he started drinking. This meant that he went from being calm and funny to having explosive fits of rage in a matter of minutes! Most folks just learned to keep their distance…
Friends, Not Partners
While Don and Andy were close friends both on set and off it – that was all they were ever going to be. Apparently, Don had decided to leave the show after five years because Andy said he would be leaving by then and that the show would be canceled. This prompted Don to leave, starting his successful film career. However, before entirely jumping ship from CBS to Universal, Knotts offered to split ownership of the show with Griffith. He declined and maintained his 50% shareholding.
While the show has been noted for dealing with a wide variety of different themes over the course of its runtime, a lot of it had to do with fatherhood. When the creators were originally constructing the intro sequence for the series, they wanted to depict Andy playing with who was then a 6-year-old Ron Howard in a father and son-style montage. Years later, Andy admitted that the intro sequence was based on things he would do with his father and was, therefore, an homage to him.
Most of us as audience members are pretty well aware that the characters we’re watching on screen are just that – characters. However, when you get to watch a show for such a long period of time as The Andy Griffith Show, it becomes easy to imagine the actors as being a lot more like the characters they’re portraying. When it comes to Don and Andy though, they both couldn’t have been more different from the characters they played in real life. They were polar opposites.
While Andy and Don might have had a funny and at times uneven relationship on-screen, off-screen, the two were the best of friends. Apparently, they would get along very well after the cameras had stopped rolling and could often be seen joking or talking to one another off-set. Even after the show had come to an end, the two remained in touch and stayed close friends. In fact, Andy even helped to prepare Don’s funeral after he passed away in 2006. They were friends to the end.
Frances Bavier, who played the role of Aunt Bee, was known for being tough to get along with on set. According to fellow crew members, she was quite stuck-up and would generally avoid fraternizing with them whenever she could. She came from a well-to-do family and had attended a very good university. Because of her attitude, she didn’t get along well with Andy and was even said to have hit one of the cast members with an umbrella for using curse words too often!
A Single Bullet
In the series, one of the most memorable things about Don Knotts’ character, Barney Fife, was that he was terrible with a firearm! As you can imagine, being a lawman with bad gunslinging skills is a recipe for disaster (or at least, a lot of laughs). Don became known as the incompetent gunman throughout the series and his fanbase seemed to reciprocate by sending him a single bullet via fan mail to show their gratitude. He was known for only loading one bullet into his revolver!
Cousins For A Season
When the show started, the writers and producers intended for Andy and Don’s characters to be related to one another. At first, they thought it would be a good idea for Andy and Barney to be cousins – which would give the series a more realistic small-town feel. However, after the first season, they decided to scrap the concept. They felt it was an unnecessary detail and ultimately didn’t make a difference whether they were related or not. From then on, they were only partners.
The Ford Galaxie
When the producers of the show decided to pick out a car for the two to use as their police vehicle, they settled on the Ford Galaxie. The Ford Galaxie was a pretty common car at the time and was considered a pretty simple, yet tough and practical car – making it ideal for small town Sheriffs to do their jobs. The dealer that sold them the Galaxie agreed to give them a new one each time a new model came out.
In the series, the writers had decided that they wanted Andy to be the funny one in the series and that Don would help set up the jokes for him to knock down. However, due to Don’s naturally comedic and high-energy type of humor, he would often be the one cracking jokes off-set or in between takes. The writers and producers realized he was a natural when it came to comedy and therefore he got the honor of being the funny guy in the show as well!
Man Of Many Names
During the show, if you watch closely, you’re likely to notice that Barney is referred to by a number of different names. At one point in the show, he is referred to as Oliver and in an earlier season, they change it to Milton. When asked about this, Don Knotts simply answered that it changes. Sometimes it’s Milton, sometimes it’s Oliver. We’re not sure if this means that Barney Fife simply has a whole lot of middle names, or if the writers just got lazy!
Apparently, Don Knotts’ real birth name is actually Jesse. Because he did not particularly like the name, he changed it to Don instead. Having known this, and that Don did not enjoy being called by his birth name, Andy would often tease him on set. He would call him “Jess” instead of Jesse or Don – which made Don awfully embarrassed most of the time. Thankfully though, the two were close enough to allow each other’s pokes and jibes. It never got in the way of their friendship.
Mayberry Doesn’t Exist
While the set of The Andy Griffith Show was recreated incredibly well, to the point where you might believe it to be based on a real town – the truth is that it’s only a set. We know that a lot of people were pretty disappointed to find out that Mayberry, in North Carolina, didn’t really exist in real life. Instead, you’ll find a large-scale, open-plan set and a museum dedicated to the show and cast members there.
No Chemistry Chemist
When Elinor Donahue was accepted onto the show in the role of Ellie Walker, the town chemist, she was intended to be a romantic interest for Andy’s character in the series. However, the two did not get along very well off the set or when the cameras had stopped rolling. This meant that their on-screen dynamic had started to lose its muster and instead of fireworks, we got sparklers. It got so bad that Elinor actually asked to have the contract canceled early just to leave the show.
Drama On Set
It’s nearly impossible for a celebrity to do anything these days without the paparazzi finding out. Other than that, we’ve become a lot more open-minded these days – especially when it comes to romance and intimacy. However, in the ’60s, it was still incredibly controversial for celebrities to be caught having affairs. When Griffith was caught with co-star Helen Crump while he married, it was hushed up to avoid extra drama on set and defend the performer’s reputation, but secretly everyone knew what had happened.
During the late ’50s and ’60s, the Cold War had become a prominent feature of everyday life in America. The constant fear of Soviet attack had driven the government to turn on their own people. McCarthyism was in full swing at this point and people would spy on their neighbors, friends, and coworkers to see if they were Communist sympathizers. Hollywood had created a blacklist of people that could not be worked with due to their suspected ties with Communism. The Andy Griffith Show worked to get people on this list jobs and back in the industry.
The Real Andy Griffith
Apparently, after the show had come to an end, Andy Griffith went to great lengths to ensure that his name and trademark were secured. Before setting out into the wide world of TV and film, he made sure that he had a personal brand. His attention to detail would pay off, as pretty soon after the show had ended, a man named William Fenrick changed his name to Andy Griffith in order to run for Sheriff. When the real Griffith found out, he sued him!
A Beautiful Mind
It’s a little-known fact that Ron Howard, the young child actor who played the role of Opie, the little boy on the series, would later go on to become a highly prominent director in the world of film and would be a name known worldwide. He’s directed a number of highly successful films in recent years and even has a Masterclass that he teaches. His best-known work would be the Academy Award-winning A Beautiful Mind. He also directed the cult comedy series Arrested Development.
When a cast works as hard as the cast of The Andy Griffith Show, we tend to assume that they don’t spend much time rewatching old episodes – just move on to the next after shooting, right? Well, apparently that’s not the case as the cast have frequently referred to their favorite episodes in interviews. Griffith claimed that the episode where Barney spends his life savings on a car that doesn’t work was his favorite episode throughout the entire series. The episode was called “Barney’s First Car.”
Talented Mr. Gomer
Gomer Pyle, a beloved side character played by Jim Nabors, was a huge hit among audiences. He was witty, well-timed, and silly all at once and his humor worked well across the board, meaning that children and adults liked him equally. But it turned out that Jim Nabors was indeed a highly talented actor. After his time on the show, he went on to have a highly successful career in Hollywood and even received his own TV show. He also recorded an amazing 29 records!
Uneasy First Day
When Don Knotts originally showed up for his first day on the The Andy Griffith Show, he didn’t even have a contract! The old Hollywood system was a lot less refined, which often meant that actors could get picked up for a role on the day of shooting. After an amazing performance in the role of Barney, Knotts was given a year-long contract the very next day.
Originally A Spin-Off
When it comes to something as iconic as The Andy Griffith Show, we’d all like to think it’s an original masterpiece. However, the truth about the show is that it was originally based off an episode of The Danny Thomas Show that was called Danny Meets Andy Griffith. Another lesser known fact about the show’s two main stars, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, is that they starred together in the movie No Time For Sergeants in 1958 before working on the show together.
Goober Pyle was the brother of Gomer Pyle and together, the two formed a sort-0f Stooge-esque, “Laurel and Harding” comedy duo. This often helped to give the episode a few moments of craziness and a notable sense of humor. However, unbeknownst to the majority of audience members, George Lindsey, the man who played Goober, was, in fact, a highly charitable person. He spent a great deal of his personal time and money helping those in need and even raised $1 million to help fund the Special Olympics.
Cops And Lawyers
After his time on The Andy Griffith Show, Andy went on to a number of different jobs in the entertainment industry. He made a number of different cameo appearances as himself but eventually found consistent work as the lead in a new show called Matlock. He went from being everybody’s favorite town sheriff to being a lawyer and his ratings did quite well. After his concurrent success in the world of Hollywood, Andy Griffith was awarded his own star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Getting the number one spot on any TV channel is a seriously difficult task. It takes hard work, a lot of good writing, and really knowing your audience well to manage that feat. Thankfully though, due to the huge popularity of The Andy Griffith Show and a loyal fanbase, the show did incredibly well during it’=s eight-year run. Over the course of its run, the show climbed from strength to strength and is still one of only three TV shows to end on the number one spot for ratings!