Andy Griffith is dead at the age of 86. Here's a good obit for him.
For virtually all us baby boomers, he was America's Sheriff, thanks to his portrayal of Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. At a time in which real Southern "lawmen" like Bull Connor of Birmingham were making headlines for the brutal suppression of the Civil Rights movement, Sheriff Andy gave us an image of what everyone wished law enforcement was like.
(However, I once came up with a weird idea for a Hicksploitation movie in which a couple of hippie hitchhikers in North Carolina were stopped by a Southern cop and hauled into jail -- the Mayberry jail as it turned out -- where they met sinister, sadistic versions of Andy and Deputy Barney Fife. In this imaginary film Floyd the Barber was a torture specialist, but Otis the Town Drunk would heroically help the poor hippie boys escape ... Great idea, but I don't think Griffith would have gone for it. )
(And I won't even bring up the vile, obscene song called "Barney Fife," sung to the tune of "Sam Hall," that my brother and I wrote back in the '80s when we were thinking of starting a punk bluegrass band ...)
But in all seriousness, I'm saddened by the loss of Andy Griffith. Though the Mayberry character will be what he's most remembered for, his greatest contribution as an actor was his portrayal of "Lonesome Rhodes" a guitar-strumming drunken drifter who rises to become a political demagogue in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957). And in that role he showed he was a pretty good singer too (see video below)
Goodbye, Andy. I hope Heaven is a lot like Mayberry.
With his long nightshirts and low-hanging pant, belted around the knees, his funny hat, his deadpan face -- and a truly dangerous banjo ...
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