Not Even The Biggest Fans of The Andy Griffith Show Know These Facts
We all look back on old TV shows with nostalgia, but some of them just really defined an entire era. One such show aired for eight seasons with 249 episodes and won numerous Emmy Awards. Yes, we’re talking about none other than the The Andy Griffith Show, a show which left a lasting mark on American hearts. You might think you know everything about the sleepy town of Mayberry, Sheriff Andy Taylor and Barney Fife’s shenanigans, but let’s see if you’re really part of the die hard fan base. So, get ready for 35 incredible facts and behind-the-scenes tidbits about The Andy Griffith Show. You don’t want to miss this one!
1. The Proof Is In the Comic
During the first run of The Andy Griffith Show, Dell Comics released two comic books with the show’s namesake to promote the show. The comics featured art work by Henry Scarpelli, who portrayed Opie Taylor as a blonde instead of a redhead like in the show, possibly because the TV show aired in black-and white.
The first volume of the series was published from January to March of 1961, while volume two was released from April to June of 1962. In 2004, copies of these comics in near-mint condition were priced in excess of $500 each!
2. The Art of Rock-Throwing
One of the best parts of the opening credits is when Opie Taylor throws the rock in the lake, right? Well, did you know that Opie, played by Ron Howard, didn’t actually throw the rock himself?
Howard was only six years old at the time, so he didn’t have enough strength to pull off that stunt. Instead, a production assistant hid behind a bush and threw the rock into the lake. He stood at a strategic position so it’d look like Opie threw it.
3. A Real-Life Tribute
Here’s another personal tidbit you probably didn’t know about the opening credits! When Opie Taylor throws the rock into the lake, his father on the show, Andy Taylor, nods his head in acknowledgement while they walk down the road. But it wasn’t just any nod of the head.
Andy Griffith, who played Andy Taylor as the main character of the show, was actually nodding his head as a tribute to his own father. Griffith noticed this years later and realized his dad used to shake his head in a similar fashion, which was his way of telling Griffith “nice work” or “good job.” Both Andy Griffith and Ron Howard admitted that they portrayed each of their characters based on the relationship with their real-life fathers.
4. “Aunt” Bee Did Not Like Andy Griffith
Yep, the rumors are true in case you were wondering. Andy Taylor might have invited the motherly figure Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor to care for and dote on his son Opie after their housekeeper left, but in reality Aunt Bee would never have moved in with them. That’s because actress Frances Bavier, who portrayed Aunt Bee, didn’t like Andy Griffith and couldn’t bear to work with him.
He never quite understood why Bavier disliked him so vehemently, so much so, that when Andy Griffith and Ron Howard went to visit her in 1972, she turned them away. Luckily their acting skills hid this minor but serious little detail very well. In 1989, Bavier actually came out and told Andy Griffith that she regretted they weren’t closer all those years they worked together. We guess by then it was just a little too late.
5. Cousins Only In Name
In Season 1 of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy would often refer to his partner in crime Deputy Bernard Milton Fife as “Cousin Barney.” The epithet was actually a satirical joke about how people in small towns get places because they are related to someone and not because of merit.
However, after a few blatant references to Barney and Andy as cousins, the idea was dropped. As the show went on, Andy never refers to Barney as his relative again, but rather a close friend from childhood.
6. What’s In A Name?
We think it’s safe to say that Barney Fife is one of the most memorable characters on the show, but that doesn’t mean we know everything about him. Even actor Don Knotts might have been confused if people were to ask him about his character’s real middle name.
If you look back at all eight seasons, you’ll notice that Barney had not one, but two middle names. On several episodes he is referred to as Barney Oliver, while in others Barney says his middle name is Milton. Seems like a case of the writers struggling to agree on one middle name for the character.
7. Writing in Reality
Fans who are well-versed in Andy Griffith’s character probably remember that Andy Taylor’s hand is heavily bandaged in two episodes during Season 2 of the show as a result of the brave sheriff apprehending some criminals.
Griffith broke his hand in real life. In a fit of rage off camera, he apparently punched a wall on the set, breaking his hand. Well, when something happens to the actor, you gotta write it into the show, right?
8. Fictional Town
Many fans of The Andy Griffith Show are of the opinion that the fictional and sleepy town of Mayberry is based on Andy Griffith’s real hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina, but Griffith has denied those claims.
However, in the opening scene of Season 2 Episode 7 (“A Black Day for Mayberry”), Barney frantically picks up Sheriff Taylor’s phone book in search of a number. In several shots of the episodes, it’s clear to see that the front cover of directory reads “Mount Airy.” It must have been a real phone book used on the set for the fictional town of Maybery. In fact, some fans take this town so seriously that there is an annual festival called Mayberry Days, celebrating the sitcom and held in none other than Mount Airy, North Carolina.
9. Role Reversal
Andy Taylor was originally written as country bumpkin character who spoke in a frantic manner getting all the punchlines. However, after a few episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, the producers believed Barney Fife would serve as the right character to play the inept but amicable figure on the show for comic relief.
This is when Sherriff Andy Taylor took on the role as the level-headed and sophisticated justice of the peace for the little sleepy town of Mayberry. This also came with its problems because it became impossible for Taylor to create his own problems in the show like other central sitcom characters do, such as Archie Bunker in All in the Family and Lucy in I Love Lucy.
10. The Brand New Ford Galaxie 500
Did you ever wonder why Sherriff Taylor and Barney’s Ford Galaxie 500 always looked brand spanking new? Well, the producers of The Andy Griffith Show actually received a brand new Galaxie from a local dealership especially for the show.
What’s more, whenever a new model of the car came out, the dealership sent over a replacement of the car to the studio for free and took back the old model, only to repaint and sell it. Altogether, there were 10 Galaxies on the show, which is why the car always looked brand new.
11. It’s Not What It Seems
We bet you never noticed that Howard McNear, who played Floyd Lawson the barber, never moved his left hand in later episodes?! Did you also notice that he was never actually standing upright either? Hmmm, you probably didn’t notice the latter and for good reason.
After actor Howard McNear suffered a stroke, he struggled to stand and couldn’t move his left hand anymore. In order to subtly hide McNear’s condition, production built a special stool for Floyd Lawson to stand on, so it appeared like he was standing when he was actually half-sitting and leaning. A lot of the scenes also feature the character sitting in his barber chair or on a bench outside the shop.
12. Deal or No Deal?
Despite Barney Fife featuring as one of the main characters on The Andy Griffith Show, he wasn’t originally written as a permanent role. In fact, the producers didn’t write up a formal contract for Don Knotts until after his incredible portrayal of the character in the pilot episode.
After the pilot, Knotts signed a five-year contract. Both Andy Griffith and Knotts believed the show would last only five years, which is why Knotts signed a five-film contract with Universal Pictures during Season 5 of the show. While Griffith went on to act in the show for three more years, Knotts was caught off guard and decided leave in 1965 as he didn’t want to miss out on this new opportunity. He offered to come back in return for part ownership of the show, but when Griffith declined, Knotts moved on.
13. More Nicknames
In many episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Barney refers to his partner and friend Sherriff Taylor as “Ange.” This was actually the nickname Don Knotts used to refer to Andy Griffith off screen. He thought Ange was a great shortened version for Andy.
Knotts and Griffith were actually very close friends off screen, which explains the nickname. They first met on the film set of No Time for Sergeants (1958), and then reunited on the TV show in 1960, but their friendship transcended beyond their professional careers.
14. The Danny Thomas Show
Did you know that The Andy Griffith Show was partially derived from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, originally called Make Room for Daddy, from the ’50s? In fact, the unofficial pilot episode of Andy Griffith’s show was actually an episode from Season 7 of the older show called “Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” which aired in February 1960.
In the episode, Danny gets stopped by Andy Griffith for committing a traffic violation in the town of Mayberry, however, the only differences from the actual show, which aired later that year in October 1960, are that Frank Cady plays the town drunk instead of Hal Smith and Frances Bavier portrays one of the townsfolk instead of Aunt Bee.
15. It’s All About the Chemistry
Elinor Donahue, who played Andy Taylor’s first girlfriend on the series, named Ellie Walker, said she left after Season 1 because she felt absolutely no on-screen chemistry with Andy Griffith, which in turn rendered the relationship hard to believe. Griffith later admitted it was his fault because of how he struggled to show affection in front of the camera.
That might have been so, but that certainly didn’t stop Griffith from forging a strong relationship with actress Aneta Corsaut, who played Opie Taylor’s teacher Helen Crump. On screen, she was Andy’s only long-term girlfriend whom he eventually marries. Off screen, Andy Griffith often flirted with Corsaut in private.
16. A Crumpy Name
The producers of The Andy Griffith Show thought Helen Crump’s character would only appear once in the series, which is why they gifted her a rather disagreeable and strange sounding name. Who knew she’d become Andy Taylor’s wife?
Owing to Aneta Corsaut’s unexpected stellar performance, which really impressed the producers of the series, and her rapport with Andy Griffith, her character was written in as a regular cast member from Seasons 3 to 8.
17. Dressing Up for the Occasion
One of the more endearing facts of The Andy Griffith Show is how Barney Fife dresses up in a white straw boater hat, red bow tie, and a salt and pepper patterned coat each time he goes out on formal business or even a date.
Don Knotts even adopted this look after he left the series for his films. He wears the same suit in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), and How to Frame a Figg (1971).
18. What Ever Happened to Opie Taylor’s Mother?
The Andy Griffith Show kicks off with Sheriff Taylor as a widowed father to Opie Taylor, but no one actually mentions what happened to his mother. Viewers only learn in the pilot episode of The Danny Thomas Show that Opie was “the least little speck of a baby” when his mom died.
It’s as if her memory was never written into the show, since Opie’s mother’s first name is never mentioned. Andy Taylor never gives his son a picture of his mother and her grave is never shown or mentioned.
19. A Great Dad Nevertheless
Andy Taylor might not have told his son Opie about his late mother or given her a picture, but he was still ranked at No.8 in TV Guide‘s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in 2004.
Now a top Hollywood director, Ron Howard stated that Andy Griffith “shaped [his] life” in some many ways and that he is “forever grateful” for him. Seems like he was a father-like figure to Ron Howard both on and off screen.
20. Just a Clerical Error
Did you know that the last 16 episodes of Season 3 are part of the public domain because of what they attribute to a clerical error? This error rendered the episodes widely available in different formats and conditions.
The theme song, however, is still copyrighted material, and therefore the opening and closing credits of the different renditions feature different music. To make matters worse, these episodes comprise of significant moments in the show, such as the debut of Malcolm Merriweather, played by Bernard Fox from Bewtiched, Ernest T. Bass, and the Darling family. They also portray Helen Crump’s arrival, and how she and Andy are set up as a couple after her second appearance.
21. Whistling Away
The whistling you hear in the theme song of The Andy Griffith Show is actually composer and 20th Century Fox orchestrator Earle Hagen whistling the song himself. Together with the Chilean-born composer and orchestrator Herbert Winfield Spencer, Hagen composed the music for the song, called “The Fishin’ Hole.”
The opening and closing credits tune even consisted of lyrics written by the character actor and songwriter Everett H. Sloane, but they were never used on the show as the producers felt the whistling version would work better. That didn’t stop Andy Griffith from making his own recording of the song with lyrics to “The Fishin’ Hole.”
22. Barney Gets Fan Mail
Sherriff Andy Taylor doesn’t think Barney Fife can be trusted with a loaded gun, so he only relegates him one bullet which he keeps in his shirt pocket. Taylor would even have to take away that one bullet from Barney sometimes.
If you look closely, Barney kept the bullet in his left pocket in every episode, except for the episode where he prepares to foil a bank robbery and keeps it in his right pocket. The best part of this all is that Barney’s careless handling of weapons actually inspired fans of the character from all over America to send him single bullets as fan mail.
23. The Indispensable Don Knotts
When Don Knotts left the show, his character Barney Fife leaves to join the Raleigh North Carolina police force, however, another character, Warren Ferguson replaces him. Ferguson, portrayed by actor Jack Burns, is introduced as the nephew of Floyd Lawson the barber.
Despite this new twist, viewers didn’t click with Warren Ferguson, as he couldn’t replace the classic Barney in their eyes. This is why his character was written out of The Andy Griffith Show after only 11 episodes with no explanation; he simply disappears. Seems like Warren suffered from a “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome” before Happy Days even came about.
24. Mister Schwamp
You might recall Andy Taylor or Barney often chiming “Hello, Mister Schwamp” throughout the running of The Andy Griffith Show. Mister Schwamp, a middle-aged man with dark combed over hair, is actually a recurring character who appears in several episodes.
Mister Schwamp is the character who doesn’t mutter even one word during the entire show, but you can find him slumping over a park bench or walking through the crowd scenes. When Andy or Barney acknowledge him, he just smiles and nods. Yep, turns out there’s a function for everyone on the show.
25. Details Only a Diehard Fan Would Notice
We thought we’d add two little details that only a diehard fan of The Andy Griffith Show might notice. First, did you ever notice that the calendar in Floyd’s Barber Shop was always on the month of February?
Maybe not…but how about how one of the maps used on Sherriff Taylor’s desk was just a map of the state of Idaho turned upside down? You’d probably have to be a master of America’s state maps to notice that one.
26. Why Opie?
We bet none of you know why Ron Howard’s character was called Opie Taylor by the producers of the show! Well as it turns out, the character was named after the prominent clarinet player and band leader of the ’30s and ’40s swing era, Opie Cates.
Both Andy Griffith and Sheldon Leonard, the producer of The Andy Griffith Show, were avid admirers of Cates, and hence they decided to go with the name for one of the main characters on their show.
27. Location, Location!
Most of the residential scenes of The Andy Griffith Show were filmed on the eastern part of the RKO’s Forty Acres film studio in Culver City, California. Andy Taylor’s house sat right next to the “Aunt Pittypat House” from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind‘s “Atlanta” film set.
Andy’s house was so close to the Aunt Pittypat’s, that if you walked out of the courthouse and looked towards the right, there stood the old Atlanta train station from the film. It featured in so many of the show’s episodes. Andy Taylor’s home address on the show is disputed, with Barney saying 24 Elm Street in one episode and Aunt Bee quoting it as 332 Maple Street in another.
28. Going off Air with a Bang
When The Andy Griffith Show went off air after eight remarkable seasons in 1968, it went off with a bang, still topping the Nielsen ratings at No. 1. The series was such a success, that it never placed lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings.
In 2002, TV Guide listed the series as the 9th best show in American television history. Now that’s quite an achievement! Here’s another fun fact for you: I Love Lucy and Seinfeld also ranked at No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings when they went off air.
29. Spin-Off Shows
After Andy Griffith left The Andy Griffith Show, many of the supporting actors returned for the spin-off and direct continuation of the show, Mayberry, R.F.D. (1968). Ken Berry and Buddy Foster stood in for the roles of Andy Taylor and Opie Taylor, and the series ran for an additional three seasons, ending in 1971.
The show also spawned another spin-off called Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1964), which aired on CBS. The pilot episode of this show actually aired as the season finale for Season 4 of The Andy Griffith Show. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was extremely popular, running for a total of five seasons. It never placed lower than No. 10 in the Nielsen ratings, and ended its run as the second highest rated TV series in America at the time.
30. Return to Mayberry
Besides for the different spin-off renditions of the popular series, The Andy Griffith Show also boasts a reunion telemovie called Return to Mayberry (1986) released on NBC. The comedy film is based on the original ’60s show and the spin-off Mayberry, R.F.D.
It featured 16 of the original cast members, including Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Ron Howard. Frances Bavier was the only notable exception, as she retired after featuring in two seasons of Mayberry, R.F.D. The television film was the highest-rated show of 1986.
31. Jerry Van Dyke
When Don Knotts left The Andy Griffith Show, the actor and comedian Jerry Van Dyke (younger brother of Dick Van Dyke) was considered for the role of Deputy and would have replaced Barney Fife. Dyke even appears donning a Deputy’s uniform in Season 5.
Dyke didn’t end up starring in the show because he was chosen instead to feature in the fantasy sitcom, My Mother the Car (1965), which only aired for one season on NBC. Dyke even said that if he was to do it again, he would have taken the Deputy part instead.
32. Keeping It in the Family
Ron Howard’s younger brother Clint appeared in many episodes of the show as Leon, the peanut-butter-and-jelly-eating toddler in a cowboy hat. Leon appears through Seasons 2 to 4, but only in a total of five episodes.
Clint Howard might not have featured as a focal character in The Andy Griffith Show, but Ron Howard, who went on to become an A-lister Hollywood actor and director, certainly has faith in him. Since Ron Howard took on directing, Clint has appeared in a whopping 16 of his brother’s movies.
33. The Darling Sons
The four men who appear on The Andy Griffith Show as the Darling sons were a real bluegrass music group called The Dillards from Salem, Missouri. The band members and brothers were portrayed by Doug Dillard, Rodney Dillard, Dean Webb, and Mitch Jayne.
They might have already been an established band, but the band members’ claim to fame was their appearance on the TV series. In fact, many Americans had never heard of bluegrass music until they featured on the show.
34. A Secret Location
If you’re part of The Andy Griffith Show fan base, you might have known that Andy Taylor’s house was next to the Aunt Pittypat House from Gone with the Wind, but we bet you weren’t aware of one other famous filming location of a few other keys places in the series.
This interesting location was actually a collection of three small bungalow houses opposite Desilu Studios in Hollowood. This location was used for Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou’s residence, as well as for random homes of minor characters throughout the show.
35. Canned Food
When it comes to pop culture and merchandise, The Andy Griffith Show sure has its place in the annals of America’s favorite TV shows. The show’s everlasting popularity ever since its first run has initiated the creation of lots of merchandise like bobbleheads, books, kitchenware, and board games.
The best of this merchandise is probably the line of canned foods inspired by the series. The condiments, called Mayberry’s Finest Brand Foods and managed by CBS Consumer Products, were released in grocery stores across America in 2007. The food line featured 36 Southern-inspired foods including cream-style canned corn as well as canned turnip and collard greens. The line also featured new baking mix flavors such as cinnamon toast, lemon icebox, chocolate chunk cookie dough, and peach cobbler. The line also included beef stew, chicken, and chili dumplings. Hmmmmm, sounds good!
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