Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were very close friends in real life, and many viewers don’t know that the relationship shown on screen is indicative of their loving friendship off screen. Don and Andy both grew up during the Great Depression in the South, and both of them grew up in poverty.
Don Knotts And Andy Griffith: Best Friends Forever
They both met before The Andy Griffith Show, actually meeting on Broadway while cast in the play No Time for Sergeants and their friendship lasted for the rest of their days. One facet of their friendship was that they loved to prank one another. Everyone on set was fair game but especially between Andy and Don.
Andy Griffith’s Scandalous Affair
Allegedly, the show’s romance carried over into real life with Andy Griffith and actress Aneta Corsaut. Andy was married at the time but was allegedly also dating Aneta. Who would’ve thought of such a thing with wholesome Andy Taylor? Helen Crump, portrayed by Aneta, was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s girlfriend on the show. While on the show, Aneta was also pursuing her education at UCLA.
Originally, the character of Helen Crump was only supposed to be on one episode and was given a horrible sounding name because they did not think she would be recurring. However, Aneta and Andy worked so well together that she ended up becoming a series regular, among other things. Andy ultimately got a divorce, and by the end of his lifetime had been married three separate times.
Anything for a Laugh
Andy always loved to call Don by his real name Jesse (or Jess), which drove Don crazy because he didn’t like his real name very much. The cast once pranked Andy by stealing his shoes, forcing him to wear his Sheriff boots home from on set. The pranking even made it on screen and was written into various episodes. Andy and Don’s friendship carried on throughout their lives and Andy was even at Don’s bedside when he died in 2006.
Andy recounted the last words he said to his friend: “I know that he could hear me, and we all believe that he could hear my voice.” “I told him that I loved him, and I told him…I said ‘Jess, breathe. You’ve gotta make this, you’ve gotta pull through. Breathe.’ And you know, I saw his chest heave, and I said ‘That’s a boy. Keep breathing. Just keep breathing.’ And his shoulder moved, so I believe he heard my voice.” Andy died only six years later, at the age of 86.
Interesting Opie Facts
The Andy Griffith Show has one of the most iconic openings in television history. In the opening credits, Andy and Opie walk along to go fishing, while the whistled theme song plays. On their way, Opie is shown to toss rocks into the lake. This was only a case of movie magic, however, as little Opie was not strong enough to throw the stones such a distance. Opie was of course played by actor/director Ron Howard who was only six years old at the time. Originally, they filmed several attempts, but eventually a prop man had to be hidden in the bush. Opie would pretend to throw a rock and the prop man would be the one really throwing it.
If you look closely you will probably notice a lag between Opie’s throw and the actual splash. Opie’s name came from a famous band leader from the 1930s and 1940s, named Opie Cates. Andy Griffith and Sheldon Leonard, a producer, where both huge fans of Opie Cate’s music and decided to choose his name as that of Andy’s son. Ron Howard has of course gone on to become mega-famous as a director, even surpassing his acting career.
The Right Stuff!
As mentioned earlier, the cast loved to prank one another. During one prank, a crew member dressed as a waiter to deliver a dinner to Andy’s hotel room. Instead, he found Andy and Aneta engaged in a compromising situation (allegedly). Although the affair was kept mostly secret it was still somewhat known around Hollywood at the time. Interestingly, Andy had previously said that he had difficulty showing affection while filming.
For this reason actress, Elinor Donahue stopped working on the show after one season because there was no on-screen chemistry. The relationship never felt real so they ended it as it was too unbelievable for the audience. Apparently, it just took casting the right woman for Andy Griffith to feel the chemistry!
All of the cast members had their own favorite episodes. Andy Griffith’s was “Barney’s First Car.” Ron Howard’s favorite episode was called “The Ball Game” which was written by his father actor Rance Howard. Rance actually wrote and acted in five other episodes as well. Many fans love the episode titled “The Pickle Story,” which also happens to be Don Knotts favorite.
This episode centers on a batch of pickles made by Aunt Bee that was remarkably disgusting. Barney even calls them “kerosene cucumbers!” Of course, as events unfold, Andy and Barney have to eat them. Ew! It’s pretty clear from the expressions on the actors’ faces that they find the whole episode quite amusing themselves.
The Ratings Were Insane
Another notable fact about The Andy Griffith Show is that it ended while still at the top of the Nielsen’s Ratings. Only several other shows have done this throughout television history. They are I Love Lucy and Seinfeld. The Andy Griffith Show still continues to play re-runs until this day!
Another interesting tidbit of The Andy Griffith Show is that there is an actual theme song called The Fishin’ Hole. The original version actually has lyrics but the producers of the show decided they like it better when it was whistled. You can still find the song on both Itunes and YouTube. Catchy little tune!
Ron Howard starred as Opie Cunningham on The Andy Griffith Show. He went on to become, arguably, the most famous of the cast. You’ll know this especially if you’re are familiar with his work as a director. He has been given many various awards over the years including the National Medal of Arts, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some of the most famous films he’s directed are Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, the latter of which went on to win him an Academy Award.
Ron was not the first person in his family to get the acting bug; he followed in the footsteps of his father and mother. Rance Howard and Jean Howard were both actors. Ron had a great relationship with his father and used that as his basis for playing Andy’s son on the show. Now his own daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, is an actress following in her family’s footsteps and has had such notable roles as starring in The Village and one of the Twilight films.
Apparently, Andy didn’t always get along with all of his leading ladies. The actress who played Aunt Bee, Frances Bavier, was a bit of pretentious personality. She was from New York City and had been born into wealth, she attended both the prestigious Columbia University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Allegedly Frances and Andy had quite the tense relationship, Andy loved to joke and well, Frances didn’t much care for such foolishness.
Frances never returned home to New York, and instead, she remained in North Carolina, where The Andy Griffith Show was shot. The town had become her home and she had fallen in love with it. Before Frances passed away in 1989, she called Andy Griffith and apologized to him for being difficult during filming. Frances passed away at age 86.
Crazy Info about the Pyles!
The goofy Pyle family, which included both the lovable Gomer Pyle and dopey cousin Goober, were played by notable actors Jim Nabors and George Lindsey, respectively. After The Andy Griffith Show ended, Jim Nabors starred in a spin-off feature the famous character Gomer. Jim Nabors publicly came out as gay in 2013, when he was able to marry his long-term partner of 38 years.
Nabors reportedly said, “I’m 82 and he’s in his 60s and so we’ve been together for 38 years and I’m not ashamed of people knowing, it’s just that it was such a personal thing, I didn’t tell anybody.” Originally George Lindsay had tried out for the part of Gomer. Later in life, George started the George Lindsey Celebrity Weekend and Golf Tournament. He was able to raise over $1,000,000 for the Alabama Special Olympics. George Lindsey passed away in 2012, at the age of 83.
Probably the most iconic character from the show would be that of Barney Fife. And funnily enough, it was almost only a one-time appearance. Don Knotts was only scheduled to appear on one episode but was so obviously a hit, had great chemistry with Andy, and immediately became loved by audiences, that they kept him on the show.
Originally, Andy was going to be the funny one but it quickly became obvious that that role belonged to Don Knotts. He, of course, went on to play other iconic roles like the lovable but clueless landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company in the 1970s.
Barney Fife Trivia
On the show, Andy only allowed the character of Barney Fife to carry one bullet because he did not trust him with any more, much less a full barrel. In response to this, fans across the country mailed in bullets to Don Knotts. What would one do with so much artillery?! Another interesting bit of trivia is the famous suit that Barney Fife always appeared in; the outfit was accompanied by a white straw fedora with a salt-n-pepper pattern coat and a red bow tie.
Apparently, Don Knotts loved this outfit so much that he wore it in many other films. Check out The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and How to Frame a Figg and you will see it there in all its glory. Who would have thought that good ol’ Barney Fife would be a fashionista?!
Sheriff Andy Taylor
And Griffith continued acting in different shows after his namesake run, but none were quite notable until he started playing the role of Matlock in 1986. Matlock became a huge hit, especially with the older crowd. Andy also starred in a variety of commercials notifying seniors about health care. Being an older gentleman himself at this time, it’s no wonder he took up the cause.
Not long before his run on Matlock he had become ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome but was able to fully recover. Andy Griffith passed away in 2012 of a heart attack and was buried on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. He was buried only hours after he passed away, and memorials had to be held after his interment.
Andy Was a Well-Known Democrat
Andy Griffith was also a well-known democrat, continuously supporting Democratic causes and candidates throughout his career. Another interesting bit of trivia is that during the show he actually punched a wall out of anger and broke his hand. Who would have expected this from mild-mannered Andy Griffith?!
To make up for his self-inflicted injury, it was written into the show that Sherriff Taylor had been hurt while apprehending some criminals. Andy also received multiple awards throughout his lifetime, including an induction into the Television Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was and forever will be one of the most loved stars of his generation.
Creepy Time: Unknown Actor?!
Here is kind of a creepy tidbit about the show. A regularly occurring character by the name of Mister Schwamp would pop up in random episodes. He appeared to be a man of middle age, with dark hair that might have been a hairpiece. He was almost always seen sitting on a park bench or you could spot him in the crowd.
Andy or Barney would say hello to him in the scenes, and the character never spoke but would respond with a nod and a smile. He even appeared in several episodes of the spin-off “Gomer Pyle: USMC.” Now here is the creepy part; to this very day, no one knows who played Mr. Schwamp!
Floyd the Barber and His Health Problems
The character of Floyd the Barber was another comedic one on the show, and he was portrayed as super forgetful and kind of “slow,” if you will. Floyd was played by Howard McNear. During the show, Howard McNear suffered a stroke, so the show had to take creative measures for him to continue on.
He was having trouble standing so they often showed him sitting in his barber’s chair or leaning against something. The character Floyd ultimately had to be retired from the show, with a storyline where he happily retired making enough money from his barber business. Not long after leaving the show, McNear died of a stroke in 1969. The show replaced his character with a fix-it-man named Emmett Clark, played by the actor Paul Hartman.
A Television First
During this time of television history, there were still few, if any, roles for African Americans. While The Andy Griffith Show did feature many African Americans as extras who appeared in the background scenes none of them had a speaking role. One man was able to break the cycle, however, by the name of Rockne Tarkington.
Rockne appeared on the episode “Opie’s Piano Lesson“ and actually had lines. He was the only Black actor to have lines throughout the entire series of The Andy Griffith Show. He continued to act for many years, including in TV shows and Blaxpoitation films of the 1970s. He died in 2015, at age 83.
Real-Life Nods to Nicknames and Hometowns
If you pay attention during the show you will notice that Barney usually calls Andy by the nickname Ange. This is actually a real life nickname of Andy Griffith, he combined both Andy and Griffith to get the name, kind of like the Brangelina of its day, only for one person. The nickname became such a habit that they decided to use it throughout filming as well.
While Andy Griffith was from North Carolina, he always denied that the fictional town Mayberry was based on his hometown of Mount Airy. However, in one episode, called A Black Day for Mayberry, the character of Barney picks up a phone book that is sitting on the Sheriff’s desk and flips through the pages. On the phone book’s cover you can make out the words “Mount Airy.” It was allegedly the real phone book for Mount Airy, North Carolina.
A Tribute to His Dad
In the opening credits, when Andy and Opie are walking together, Andy gives Opie a head shake, Andy took this from his own father. Andy Griffith’s real father would shake his head to gesture nice work or good job. Andy felt like this was a really heartfelt tribute to his own father. Another interesting Andy fact is that Andy Griffith was a southern gospel singer. He even showcased the talent in several of his roles.
Want some more Andy trivia? Andy Griffith had to sue another man by the same name back in 2006. The man actually changed his name to Andy Griffith to try to win an election to become a sheriff in Wisconsin. Andy sued him for using the name in violation of the Andy Griffith trademark.
Random References in Popular Culture
A long time and many galaxies ago, Star Trek was starting out as new and very poorly funded show. They were so underfunded that they actually used the set of Mayberry to film various scenes. If you look closely you will recognize Mayberry in the episodes Miri and City on the Edge of Forever.
You can see the Mayberry Courthouse, Walkers Drugstore, and Floyd’s Barber Shop during the scenes when Captain Kirk is walking with Edith Keeler. Another interesting pop culture fact is that the iconic grunge musician Kurt Cobain wrote a song called Floyd the Barber which came out on the Nirvana album Bleach. In typical Kurt fashion, the song has a rather dark story. In it, all of the residents of Mayberry including Floyd the Barber are trying to murder Kurt Cobain.
Cousins at First
Having a good memory or paying attention to detail may have helped when it comes to this detail. During the first three shows, there was a small detail that producers introduced into the series. For the first three episodes, Andy Taylor and Barney Fife were cousins.
It was only mentioned and maintained for the episodes “The New Housekeeper,” “The Manhunt,” and “Runaway Kid.” Then for some reason, the producers wanted to ax the idea of them being family. They hoped no one would notice. That is somewhat of a big factor that changes how character development happens, so good thing they got rid of the idea early.
Keep It in the South
There are shows where the premise of the show has largely to do with the area of where the show is located. For instance, the show Silicon Valley is based around the actual Silicon Valley. And with that territory, it would be easier and make more sense if the actors in the show were from that area as well.
With this show focusing on life in the south, only two characters are really from the south. Those two were Andy Griffith and Jim Nabors. Understandably, creators just want to cast the best people for the role, but it would add more authenticity if they cast characters from where the show is being filmed.
Rumor Gone Wrong
In the ’60s, a gay character would not have sat well with viewers. This was back in time when things were different and how people viewed differences in one another was extremely harsh. Jim Nabors did not openly hide he was homosexual but he did not actively acknowledge it either.
Once the show had been off year for a few years, the rumor of Rock Hudson and Nabors being a couple started to swirl around. The rumor was that the two were actually married. This rumor was so horribly wrong that the two never spoke to each other again. Hollywood can be harsh.
Get the Contract Straight
Contractual agreements can often times mess up a good thing. When money is involved, people tend to lose their cool or get ahead of themselves quicker. Especially in this case when you are considered one of the main contributing forces to something being successful. Don Knotts had a dispute of re-signing which led him to make a strong decision.
There were certain terms Knotts had to agree with on the new contract but he did not see eye to eye with them so he ended up quitting the show. The same show he won five Emmy’s from. That must have been something nasty on that contract.
Always up to date
If you were to pay attention to minor details then you might have noticed this one. Throughout the span of the series, there was a total of ten squad cars. This was because as soon as ford came out with a new model of the car called the Galaxie, they just shipped one over.
The cars would be seamlessly planted into the show. This was one way the show stayed relevant but in a way that many viewers did not notice all that well. Ask a true fan if the squad car ever changed and they might admit that they have no clue.
Trial and Error With The Actors
Talk about scared of commitment. There was a list of characters who were not meant to be on the show full time. They were only meant to make an appearance for an episode maybe two. Basically, actors had no guarantee that they would be around on the show for an extended time and that went for the main characters as well.
Think about the character Otis Campbell who was the town drunk. This fact was even true for him. Tunes changed after the first day of shooting when producer Aaron Ruben took him aside and said “Hal, this might develop into quite a part for you.” They were impressed, but he still had to keep working hard in order to keep his job.
Griffith Had the Jokes
There is always that one person that keeps work alive and entertaining. In this case, it was Andy Griffith. Even when they were not filming, he kept things interesting. He had the tag of being big on practical jokes and teasing others in general. He sounds like a fun but possibly exhausting person to work with!
Don’t you hate when someone calls you by one of your nicknames that you don’t really like? Well, Andy would call Knotts “Jess” which was short for his real name Jesse. It was his form of teasing because he knew Knotts did not like being called that by that name.
Andy Griffith Changed Ron Howard’s Life
Having a positive influence in life can take you a long way. That goes for daughters and mothers, sons and fathers, and anything else in between. Since Ron Howard was on the show at such a young age, the fact that this show, and Griffith himself, changed his life so drastically is not at all surprising.
Howard spoke out on how Andy impacted his life and said, “He treated me really well, but he made it a learning experience, not in a stern, taskmaster kind of a way, but I was really allowed a real insight into creativity and how things work and why some scenes were funny and others weren’t. That insight has served me really well over the years.”
Don Knotts Was Anxious
A hypochondriac is someone who extremely anxious about their heath. They constantly think they are dying and have a bad habit of diagnosing themselves (incorrectly) with all kinds of diseases. In a general sense, people are already somewhat concerned with their health and that can lead them to act in certain ways and changing the way they live. Someone who is extremely worried about their health is just a whole new level.
Don Knotts was a hypochondriac. He always felt that he was inferior. One of the offset actions he would take part in is spending several days hiding in his bed prior to a performance. That sounds like he had it bad, and dealt with it the best way he could.
Ownership at 50
When the show was created by Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas, Andy Griffith must have seen dollar signs. Andy was not into TV at that point but was spending his energies on films such as No Time For Sergeants and A Face in the Crowd. Well, not only did he agree to star in the show but he got himself half ownership of it.
Having half of the stake would lead to a later disagreement between him and his friend Knotts. As mentioned earlier, Knotts left the show because of a disagreement with the contract but he agreed to come back on one condition. That condition was that he have some of the stakes in the show. Andy thought he wanted some of his shares and easily told him no. It was all just a misunderstanding.
Hard Times While Growing Up
There is a plethora of actors who had to overcome a lot of adversity to get to the acting pinnacle. These adversities can range from a multitude of things such as being homeless and having to figure that out or even being abused by parents. The latter of those possibilities is what happened with Knotts.
He was raised in Morgantown, Washington Virginia. This was a poverty struck place and Knotts was the son of an alcoholic. No jokes here: Knotts’ father would a hold a knife to his throat. For what reason, we do not know but that is not an environment a child should be growing up in.
Andy Griffith was more than an actor. The man was a great musician as well. You often times see a lot of people switching from acting to music or vice versa. A common example of that is Miley Cyrus or even Will Smith. Being an entertainer means just that, entertain the people!
While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Andy majored in music. That tells you a lot about his skills and where he is most successfuly, muically. Is he as good at acting as he is in music? That is something you have to decide.
Looking for Respect
A police officer that seeks respect is a great thing to come by. Any person in general that looks for respect is admirable. Have you ever noticed Andy hardly ever had his gun on his hip nor had a tie around his neck? Well, there was a specific reason behind this.
Some episodes he would wear one but not the other but he consistently does not have the firearm or tie because of something called respect. Andy states in the show that he does not carry his gun around because he wants the people of the town to respect him and not be fearful.
The Red Channel
One of the directors of the show, Cody Ruskin, was a victim in 1950. He was a victim of the 1950s Red Channel which was a pamphlet that outed Hollywood stars as Communist sympathizers. Communist supporters were not tolerated in the States so this was a big deal.
There are political reasons why Americans hate Communism such as communism being one of the main threats to interests of American corporations. Overall, Communism threatened how America operated and America did not want the people to fall into that line of thinking. This was for sure not a good look for the director.
The Theme Song
How much do you know about the opening theme song? Not just that there is someone whistling, but what else? Well, it was made by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer. The person you hear whistling the song is Hagen. A musician by the name of Everett Sloane wrote the lyrics to the song.
That was a waste of lyrics because as you may know, the lyrics were never used on the series. If you recall from earlier about how we said Andy Griffith was a musician, well, he actually made a song that used the lyrics of the song and you can find it somewhere on the web.
It Was Gospel
We have established Andy Griffith was a musician, but now we will reveal his genre of music. Andy was a southern gospel singer. Yes, a southern gospel singer. This was an art of his he found out he was good at during acting. His role in A Face in the Crowd is what notably made him discover this skill.
He was all about the soul and brought it while he performed. Like we said, he majored in music back in college so he has to have some sort of passion about it. It was something he was truly into and loved.
Now this is funny. Andy Griffith once sued Andy Griffith. As crazy as it sounds it is not that crazy once you read the story. There was a man running for Wisconsin Sheriff back in 2006 and the man changed his name from William Harold Fenrick to Andy Griffith.
He did so to gain a better standing in the election because he thought it might help. The original Andy sued him on the grounds of the imposter wanting to gain his political and economic standing. There was also trademark infringement involved. Would you sue someone who had changed their name to yours?
Have you ever heard of Guillan-Barre syndrome? It was the disease Andy Griffith came down with before he starred in Matlock. The disease mad him go through a rigorous rehabilitation. It took some time for him to get back to strength but in 1986 he got his strength back and was able to start back up his acting career.
Rehab is a tough process to go through and many people give up on it. It goes to show how tough-minded Andy is to endure rehab. It must have been devastating for him to learn he was paralyzed initially.
Your first major influence can dictate a lot about the trajectory you are going to go down as you grow up. For example, Kobe Bryant’s first major influence was Michael Jordan now look where that brought him. For Andy Griffith, his first major influence was from a religious figure. Explains his music genre choice, right?
The religious figure was Ed Mickey who served as a minister in North Carolina at the Grace Moravian Church. That is a great type of person to have to be your first influence. As a parent, you are not really worried your child’s decision if they are following in the footsteps of a minister.
Whistle to the End
In the end, there was a reason this show ended at number one on the ratings. It was a great show that taught many life lessons. These lessons include the fact that family always needs each other, it’s important to give people the opportunity to learn something new, and you everyone can learn from children. That is just to name a few.
The show had its fair share of troubles and secrets that we uncovered but what show does not? What do you think was the most surprising secret or fact you did not know about before? Share this article and what secret you think was most surprising!