The Andy Griffin Show (Mayberry RFD)
Andy Samuel Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, comedian, television producer, Southern gospel singer, and writer, whose career spanned seven decades of music and television.
Known for his southern drawl, his characters with a folksy-friendly personality, and his gruff, gregarious voice, Griffith was a Tony Award nominee for two roles, and gained prominence in the starring role in director Elia Kazan’s film A Face in the Crowd (1957) before he became better known for his television roles, playing the lead roles of Andy Taylor in the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968) and Ben Matlock in the legal dramaMatlock (1986–1995).
Griffith died on July 3, 2012, from a heart attack at the age of 86 at his coastal home in Manteo, Roanoke Island, in Dare County, North Carolina. He was buried in the Griffith family cemetery on the island within five hours of his death.
Andy Griffith and Howard in a publicity photo for The Andy Griffith Show (1961)
In 1960, Howard was cast as Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show. Credited as “Ronny Howard”, he portrayed the son of the title character (played by Andy Griffith) for all eight seasons of the show. On his 9th birthday, in 1963, he got an 8mm movie camera, with tripod, lights and film, a gift that was given by both Griffith and producer Aaron Ruben (who shared the same birthday with Howard, and was 4 decades Howard’s senior). He and Griffith remained close, until Griffith’s death nearly 45 years later, on July 3, 2012. Upon his death, Howard released a statement from Entertainment Weekly: “I was five years old. And I was preoccupied with the prop that was in my hand, because it was a toy turtle. But I had to pretend it was a real turtle that the audience just wasn’t seeing, and it was dead, so I was supposed to be crying and very emotional, and I remember him looking at that little turtle and talking to me about how it was kind of funny to have to pretend that was dead. So I recall just a very relaxed first impression.” He also added of the memories he had on the show with his TV father: “He was fantastic,” Howard said. “There was a fantastic equilibrium between his love of laughter and jokes and funny stories and songs and all that, and then he could turn on a dime and be the utmost professional…. If people who met him were to be surprised [to learn something about him] it would be this sort of simple commitment to excellence. This straightforward work ethic that he adhered to in a very unpretentious way with great humility and very few words.” The last thing that Howard said about his TV father’s legacy, his work on everything: “He loved people,” Howard said. “He loved their foibles, their quirks, and he celebrated that on the show, and he appreciated it about people in life.” Then, 4 years after his TV father’s death, he said in a 2016 interview with US Magazine when Griffith would allow the then 7-year-old boy to embark on his own writing, “I felt elated,” Howard recalled: “Andy Griffith said, ‘What are you grinnin’ at, young’un?’ I said, ‘That’s the first idea of mine they’ve taken.’ He said, ‘It’s the first that was any damn good. Now let’s rehearse!'”