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Andy Griffith, Star of 'The Andy Griffith Show' and Kazan's Brilliant 'A Face in the Crowd,' Dies at 86

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood July 3, 2012 at 12:06PM

Most folks know Andy Griffith as the star of long-running television hit shows "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock." But the actor, who died at home in Dare County, North Carolina on July 3, gave several superb dramatic performances as well...
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Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"
Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd"

Most folks know Andy Griffith as the star of long-running television hit shows "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock." But the actor, who died at home in Dare County, North Carolina on July 3, gave several superb dramatic performances as well.

Andy Griffith Show

Beginning in 1960 and for the better part of the decade following, Griffith played Mayberry sheriff Andy Taylor on his self-titled show (where Ron "Ronny" Howard got his start), which offered a wholesome, "gee whiz" view of rural America. Following Andy Taylor, Griffith went on to star as Matlock, a grittier role.

Born in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Griffith and his wife were teachers who performed on the side. Ed Sullivan gave Griffith a chance to showcase his monologues on his network show. He won a role as a military bumpkin in Ira Levin's 1955 Broadway comedy "No Time for Sergeants" and reprised the role in the 1958 film. Griffith surprised everyone with his edgy performance as a savvy southern celebrity angling for political office in Elia Kazan's 1957 success d'estime "A Face in the Crowd," which co-starred Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau.

Griffith also scored in Hollywood satire "Hearts of the West" in 1975, played the bad guy in 1996 spoof "Spy Hard," a family patriarch in Billy Bob Thornton's "Daddy and Them" (2001) and was delightful as the sweet owner of the diner in Adrienne Shelly's 2007 film "Waitress."

Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He is survived by third wife Cindi Knight, to whom he was married since 1983.

TCM will remember Griffith on Wednesday, July 18 with a four-film tribute beginning at 8pm with "A Face in the Crowd," followed by "No Time for Sergeants" at 10:15pm, "Hearts of the West" at 12:30am, and "Onionhead" (1958) at 2:15am.

This article is related to: Obit, Classics, Television, Clips, Video, Andy Griffith


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.