The Andy Griffith Show is considered one of America’s best TV series and is utterly deserving of its lofty reputation. Between 1960 and 1968 Sheriff Andy Taylor entertained millions of Americans, and the show’s innocent and warm tone retains a spot in many sitcom lovers’ hearts. But every closet has its skeletons, and behind the series’ wholesome image lie some revealing secrets. Indeed, these 20 facts may make you think twice about planning a trip to Mayberry.
20. Andy Griffith had a ferocious temper
Despite his calm on-screen demeanor, Andy Griffith suffered from a short fuse in real life. At least, during one tantrum, he punched a hole in one of his own house’s walls – something that resulted in extensive bandaging to the offending hand. His injury was explained on screen as the product of a scuffle with the Gordon boys.
19. Griffith also knew how to push his co-star’s buttons…
Like their on-screen counterparts, Griffith and Don Knotts – a.k.a. bumbling deputy Barney Fife – had a firm friendship off set. However, Griffith still loved to tease his co-star. In particular, the actor would repeatedly call Knotts “Jess” – a version of his real first name, Jesse, and a moniker the latter thoroughly loathed.
18. …but he often got a taste of his own medicine
It wasn’t just Knotts who fell foul of Griffith’s antics, though. Indeed, the actor loved to pull pranks on everybody in the show’s cast and crew. As a result of his behavior, however, Griffith himself quickly became the target of on-set hijinks. Once he even had his shoes stolen by his vengeful co-stars, forcing him to walk home in a loaned pair from the wardrobe department.
17. Aunt Bee was hard to please
Though most cast members had easy working relationships, Frances Bavier was a different case entirely. In fact, in contrast to her character Aunt Bee’s easy-going personality, Bavier was impersonal and refused to fraternize with co-stars. She also had a strong aversion to coarse language, which once caused her to hit foul-mouthed Mayberry R.F.D. co-star George Lindsey with an umbrella.
16. Frances Bavier later apologized for her behavior…
By all means, Bavier was a difficult actress to work with, but that doesn’t mean that she wasn’t blind to her own steely nature. Indeed, Griffith – who received the brunt of Bavier’s hostile attitude – once recounted to Larry King that she had called him prior to her 1989 death to apologize for her difficult behavior.
15. …but few paid their final respects to her
And, after her death, few involved with the show paid their respects, while all her co-stars even declined to attend her funeral. Despite her attempts to make amends later in life, then, it seems that Bavier still couldn’t mend the bridges she’d burnt with most of her cast mates.
14. Ron Howard didn’t throw the rock in the opening scene
In perhaps the most memorable opening scene of all time, The Andy Griffith Show famously began with Ron Howard’s Opie throwing a stone into a lake. Nevertheless, the unforgettable shot could only be achieved via some studio trickery. That’s because the then six-year-old Howard couldn’t throw the rock far enough, so a props master pitched a similar volley off screen.
13. Floyd had problems standing
During the show’s third year, Howard McNear – who played town barber Floyd Lawson – suffered a shocking, debilitating stroke. Unable to speak or stand properly, McNear faced an uncertain future. Nonetheless, producers created a bespoke stool that gave the actor the appearance of standing and allowed him to continue in his role until 1967.
12. Don Knotts received bullets in the mail
One of the series’ lasting jokes involved Barney Fife’s inability to safely wield a gun. Instead of carrying a fully loaded weapon, in fact, the deputy had to make do with only a single bullet. Consequently, Knotts’ fans would show their appreciation in one alarming way – namely, by sending the actor bullets in the mail.
11. The show inspired one of Nirvana’s darkest songs
While the show has received countless tributes over the years, none are as macabre as Nirvana’s bewildering track “Floyd the Barber.” Released on the band’s 1989 debut, Bleach, the grunge song sees Kurt Cobain imagining a visit to Floyd’s establishment before being molested and murdered by Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee. Now that’s an episode we don’t want to see.
10. Elinor Donahue asked to be released from her contract because of Andy Griffith
When pharmacist Ellie Walker was introduced in the first season, she was intended as a romantic interest for Andy Taylor. However, actress Elinor Donahue asked to be released from her contract after just one year because of her and Griffith’s lack of chemistry. Later, Griffith additionally admitted that he struggled to show any affection for Donahue on screen.
9. Griffith got a little too close to one of his co-stars
Though Griffith had difficulty showing Donahue affection, the actor had less trouble with his last love interest, Aneta Corsaut. According to some, Griffith – then married to Barbara Edwards – had a passionate affair with the Helen Crump actress. In fact, one unfortunate crew member apparently caught the two in the act after delivering food to Griffith’s hotel room.
8. Andy’s deceased wife is hardly ever mentioned
Many women may have walked through Andy Taylor’s life, but one important person was hardly mentioned on screen. Specifically, the sheriff’s deceased wife – and Opie’s mother – was barely discussed throughout the series. Indeed, important facts like her name and how she died were never even brought up.
7. Floyd rarely replaced his calendars
Like most series of its era, The Andy Griffith Show suffered from noticeable continuity errors. One notable example can be found in Floyd’s barbershop, which features a calendar permanently turned to February. And while it’s possible that Mayberry was stuck in Groundhog Day, we’ll wager instead that someone forgot to dress the set properly.
6. The show employed victims of the Hollywood Blacklist
During The Andy Griffith Show’s initial run, America was in the midst of the Red Scare that restricted supposed Communist sympathizers’ ability to work on home soil. In defiance of the status quo, though, the series hired director Coby Ruskin, a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist. This was his first work in the U.S. after a temporary exile to the U.K.
5. Don Knotts left because Andy Griffith told him the show would only last five years…
Upon joining the series in 1960, Don Knotts was told by Griffith that he only intended on making the show for five years. And although the series’ success caused Griffith to change his mind, Knotts still believed that the show was finished after season five and so began looking for work. Thus, he jumped ship from CBS to Universal in 1965.
4. …but Knotts finally fought for a stake in the show
Prior to beginning a lucrative film career, Knotts made one last offer to stay on the show. Specifically, in the middle of season five, Knotts told Griffith that he would stick around in exchange for shares in the program. But Griffith – who owned 50 percent of the series’ rights – refused the offer, and Barney left Mayberry empty-handed.
3. Griffith once sued a man who shared the same name
Following its end in 1968, The Andy Griffith Show became a beloved part of pop culture. In fact, a 2006 candidate for a Wisconsin Sheriff’s office even changed his name to Andy Griffith to capitalize on the show’s reputation. His plans ultimately fell apart, however, when the real Griffith sued over a violation of trademark and invasion of privacy.
2. Griffith and Knotts were firm friends until the bitter end
Despite quarreling over the ownership of shares, Griffith and Knotts remained good friends throughout their lives. And before Knotts passed away from cancer in 2006, his co-star was there to ease him through his final moments. However, even as he lay dying, Griffith still cheekily referred to his friend as Jess!
1. Griffith’s family spared no time in planning his funeral
Six years after Knotts’ death, Griffith himself would depart this mortal coil after suffering a heart attack in 2012. In a peculiar twist, though, he was buried within five hours of being pronounced dead. That’s because, owing to his notability in Hollywood, his quick burial helped avoid unwanted paparazzi intrusion on his mourning family.