My mother told me, "We all grew up with The Andy Griffith Show," meaning her, my father and that generation, and I thought, I did too. It seemed to be on an awful lot when I was kid considering we only had a handful of channels! Current recollections have it playing every morning that I skipped school. Then Nick-at-Nite came along and it was on even more.
But for myself, like many others in the classic film community, while Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry springs first to mind, Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes of Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957) is not far behind and in thoughts and well out ahead as Griffith's best work.
The first time I saw A Face in the Crowd I had recorded it off, I want to say old commercial-free AMC, onto a VHS tape. Quite a few of my friends would watch that VHS tape before the week was out! (Can you believe this is Andy Griffith?!?)
I couldn't believe that what was already considered an old movie not only remained relevant but seemed to speak to the moment then, 20 or so years ago, just as it does now. It was light years ahead of itself and for every second since I've first seen it remains in the moment.
Griffith's Lonesome Rhodes is so utterly obnoxious, yet somehow lovable all at once. You completely understand how this bumpkin made his rise and you absolutely believe how far he rises. Wow, this could really happen, you think. We meet him as riff-raff, but good earthy riff-raff, and watch him effortlessly manipulate the manipulators all around him. Rhodes makes moves that anyone already on top would never have the imagination or nerve to make. He is an absolute sleaze, a terrible bully, yet when it all crumbles and he's left on his own, you can't help but to feel for him having been along for the entire ride as we have been.
It was the first feature film for the stand-up comedian and in it his performance is as great as the movie as a whole.
Andy Griffith, born June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina, died July 3, 2012, age 86, at his home on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
Turner Classic Movies will be running a four film marathon beginning at 8 pm EST, Wednesday, July 18, with the classic A Face in the Crowd kicking things off. It's followed by No Time for Sergeants (1958) at 10:15 pm; Hearts of the West (1975) at 12:30 am; Onionhead at 2:15 am. More info HERE.
TV Land will be running a July 4th marathon of The Andy Griffith Show from 8 am to 1 pm EST. More info HERE.
Here are some other wonderful tributes written earlier today around the web in honor of the late Andy Griffith:
This is A Shroud of Thoughts' territory and as expected Terence Towles Canote has a wonderful look back at the life and legend of Andy Griffith; fantastic coverage from film critic Lou Lumenick at the New York Post; In Memoriam at the Self-Styled Siren's place; more from the new classic television site, How Sweet It Was; Brandie at True Classics remembers Griffith's career; Classic Becky looks at the Four Faces of Andy; Griffith's death brought up the idea that Being a classic film fan is kind of a bummer at What Happened to Hollywood?; from 50 Westerns from the '50s, North Carolinian Toby remembers Griffith; and Ivan doesn't have anything up yet, but I'd bet on something coming soon, so be sure to check Thrilling Days of Yesteryear where Andy Griffith has been regularly covered throughout the years.
... And many others I'm sure. If I missed you, I apologize. Feel free to link to your Andy Griffith tribute in the comments section, or if you don't operate your own website please feel free to leaves your thoughts directly in the comments below.