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R.I.P. Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist July 3, 2012 at 12:29PM

He made Mayberry home to all of America, he dispensed justice as Ben Matlock and along the way, became one of the most beloved film actors of all time. But sadly, Andy Griffith has passed away today at the age of 86.
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Andy Griffith

He made Mayberry home to all of America, he dispensed justice as Ben Matlock and along the way, became one of the most beloved film actors of all time. But sadly, Andy Griffith has passed away today at the age of 86.

The most remarkable thing about the early years of Andy Griffith is how unremarkable they were. Though his parents were struggling financially when he was born, it never stopped his ambitions, and Griffith soon found himself interested in music and the arts. Raised Baptist, he went to college initially studying to become a Moravian preacher, but soon switched out to music, graduating with a bachelor's degree. Afterwards, he taught English for a short while but the arts came calling, and first gained a small bit of fame for his comedy monologue, "What It Was, Was Football."

However, it was an atypical role that would burst him onto the scene, playing the sneering, drunken lead in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd," that the trailer for the movie (see below) trumpeted Griffith as an actor in the vein of Marlon Brando and James Dean. And while that never quite happened, Griffith eventually settled comfortably into his role as America's everyman. First it was as the amiable Sherriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" for eight seasons, and then later as Ben Matlock on the nine-season-strong "Matlock."

Between television work, Griffith also worked on movies, though never quite achieving the same kind of success as he did on the small screen. Nontheless, he was a greatly respected and admired actor, and certainly earned a fond place in the hearts of those who grew up with his shows. "Andy Griffith His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life I'm forever grateful RIP Andy," Ron Howard, who started his career on "The Andy Griffith Show," tweeted today.

He will be greatly missed, but not forgotten, and in fact, TCM has already slated a tribute to the actor for July 18th where they will screen "A Face in the Crowd," "No Time For Sergeants," "Hearts of the West" and "Onionhead."

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