A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Agoura) I booked a role as a farm hand henchman named ‘Lester.’ The role was not much to write home about, but the memories have lasted a life time. And you know what? I think I did write home about it.
For those of us who have been bumping around the audition trail for the past few decades, there are a few television shows that you leave on your resume long after the cancelled one season wonders don’t make the final cut, regardless of how small the font gets.
I never got to pound my chest about being on Murder She Wrote. I would love to be able to mention at cocktail parties that I was on M*A*S*H or Mary Tyler Moore. No such luck. But, way down at the bottom of my 8X10 calling card casting directors find one title that sticks out. At least when I look at it.
I wish I could wax on here about “how great it was working with Andy Griffith.” But I cannot. We didn’t have a scene together. Needless to say, I was disappointed. The legendary actor passed away today at the age of 86.
I did, however, work with a man named Art LaFleur. An industry heavy in his own right. An actor’s actor and a man’s man. He taught me much and we are friends to this day. My day is brighter when I cross paths with Art on the trail.
I can only imagine how many people Mr. Andy Griffith touched. How many days he made brighter.
Going to bed as a child with The Tonight Show on in the living room, my parents being greeted by “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”
I’ve never slept better.
Certain television shows made staying home from school “sick” an education unto themselves.
I loved Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver re-runs. Happy Days was by far my favorite show as a teenager. All three programs with strong father figures who always managed to right the ship, no matter how wicked the storm.
Granted, the problems ‘Opie’ was confronted with were a far cry from those that little ragamuffin may have encountered today, but the lessons were the same. Simple stuff like “character’s who you are when no one is looking” and “honesty is a virtue.” Timeless morality nudges that any parent can lean on when the ceiling’s falling in.
Has there been a theme song since The Andy Griffith Show that compels happiness and contentment as much?
Best Buy, Target, and Amazon will most likely enjoy a July boom of Andy Griffith Show box set sales. YouTube will work overtime today to accommodate mass linkage requests. Whistlers and finger snappers who have long forgotten how much fun it is to whistle and snap their fingers will have a familiar diddy on their tonsils for the remainder of this 4th of July celebration week.
For those of you looking to celebrate the actor rather than the icon. I recommend two films.
A Face in the Crowd is an Andy Griffith many of you have probably never seen. A morality tale about a guitar pickin’ hobo who rises to become a media sensation, only to have his ego and his demons reveal him to be unworthy of adulation. It is a classic cult of personality story, and Griffith is outstanding in the role. Elia Kazan directed and won the Director’s Guild Award for his effort. Griffith should have been nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of ‘Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes.’
Waitress is one of those little gems that somehow fell through the cracks. It stars Keri Russell as ‘Jenna,’ a sweet-natured pie baker in a dead-end town, trapped by an abusive husband, looking to find herself. Griffith plays ‘Old Joe,’ the crusty town curmudgeon, all money no heart. But he develops a soft spot for ‘Jenna,’ and in a particularly sweet scene in a consistently sweet film, slow dances with her and counsels her to “…make the right choice, start fresh – it’s never too late to start fresh.” ‘Jenna’ responds “I ain’t got no money, Joe.” To which ‘Old Joe’ says “I know. Who the hell does anymore. I was just dreamin’ a little for you. All my dreams are gone.”
And now Andy Griffith is gone. What a legacy to be remembered so fondly by so many.
I never worked with the man, but I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.