RIP: Andy Griffith, Folksy Sheriff Of Mayberry RFD, Gone To The Great Fishin’ Hole In The Sky

NEW YORK TIMES: His fame was never as great as it was in the 1960s, when he starred for eight years as Andy Taylor, the sagacious sheriff of the make-believe Southern town of Mayberry, running weekly herd on a collection of eccentrics like his ineffectual deputy, Barney Fife, and the simple-minded gas station attendant Gomer Pyle while, as a widower, patiently raising a young son, Opie. “The Andy Griffith Show,” seen Monday nights on CBS, was No. 4 in the Nielsen ratings its first year and never fell below the Top 10. It was No. 1 in 1968, its last season. After the run ended with Episode No. 249, the show lived on in spinoff series, endless reruns and even Sunday school classes organized around its rustic moral lessons. The show imagined a reassuring world of fishin’ holes, ice cream socials and rock-hard family values during a decade that grew progressively more tumultuous. Its vision of rural simplicity (captured in its memorable theme song, whistled over the opening credits) was part of a TV trend that began with “The Real McCoys” on ABC in 1957 and later included “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Petticoat Junction” and “Hee Haw.”But by the late 1960s, the younger viewers networks prized were spurning cornpone, and Mr. Griffith had decided to leave to make movies after the 1966-67 season. CBS made a lucrative offer for him to do one more season, and “The Andy Griffith Show” became the No. 1 series in the 1967-68 season. But Mr. Griffith had decided to move on, and so had the zeitgeist. “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” with its one-liners about drugs and Vietnam, and “The Mod Squad,” about an integrated police force, were grabbing a new generation of viewers. MORE

RELATED: The Dark Side Of The Goob

WIKIPEDIA: A Face in the Crowd is a 1957 film starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau, directed by Elia Kazan.[1][2] The screenplay was written by Budd Schulberg, based on his short story “Your Arkansas Traveler”. The story centers on a drifter named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Griffith, in a role starkly different from the amiable “Sheriff Andy Taylor” persona), who is discovered by the producer (Neal) of a small-market radio program in rural northeast Arkansas. Rhodes ultimately rises to great fame and influence on national television.  In late 1950s America, a drunken drifter, Larry Rhodes (Andy Griffith), is plucked out of a rural Arkansas jail by Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) to sing on a radio show at station KGRK. His raw voice, folksy humor and personal charm bring about a strong local following, and he lands a television show in Memphis, Tennessee under the stage name “Lonesome” Rhodes, given to him on a whim by Jeffries. With the support of the show’s staff writer Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) and Jeffries, the charismatic Rhodes ad libs his way to Memphis area popularity. When he pokes fun at his sponsor, a mattress company, they initially pull their ads— but when his adoring audience revolts, burning mattresses in the street, the sponsor discovers that Rhodes’s irreverent pitches actually increased sales by 55%, and returns to the air with a new awareness of his power of persuasion. Rhodes also begins an affair with Jeffries. Meanwhile, an ambitious office worker at the mattress company, Joey DePalma (Anthony Franciosa), uses the firing episode, and subsequent popular protest that follows, to put together a deal for Rhodes to star in his own show in New York City. The sponsor of this show is Vitajex, an energy supplement which he ingeniously pitches as a yellow pill which will make men energetic and sexually powerful . Rhodes’s fame, influence and ego balloon. Behind the scenes, he berates his staff and betrays Jeffries by eloping with a 17-year-old drum majorette (Lee Remick). The onetime drifter and his new bride move into a luxury penthouse, while a furious Jeffries demands more money for her role in Rhodes’s success.

The sponsor’s CEO introduces Rhodes to a senator whose presidential campaign is faltering. Under Rhodes’s tutelage as media coach, the Senator gains the lead in national polls. But Rhodes’s life begins to unravel as his amoral dealings with the people closest to him have placed his career trajectory on a collision course with their festering wounds. He goes home early to find his agent and young wife ending a tryst. He dumps his wife and flees to Marcia Jeffries to proclaim that with the election victory assured, he will soon serve on the cabinet as “Secretary For National Morale.” Finally seeing Rhodes’s narcissism, Jeffries runs from the room. Miller tells Jeffries he’s written an exposé about Rhodes, entitled “Demagogue in Denim”, and he has just found a publisher. Ultimately, Rhodes’s descent into fame and arrogance begins to turn on him. Rhodes’s teenaged wife cheats on him with DePalma who threatens to reveal Rhodes’s own secrets if the affair is made public, claiming that he and Rhodes are now part of the same corruption. The final blow is delivered by the one who has loved Rhodes the most and been most injured by his selfishness: Marcia Jeffries.

At the end of one of Rhodes’s shows, the engineer cuts the microphone and leaves Jeffries alone in the control booth while the show’s credits roll. Millions of viewers watch (in what initially is silence) their hero Rhodes smiling and seeming to chat amiably with the rest of the cast. In truth, he’s on a vitriolic rant about the stupidity of his audience. In the broadcast booth, Jeffries reactivates his microphone, sending his words and laughter over the air live. A sequence of television viewers is shown to react to Rhodes’s description of them all as “idiots, morons, and guinea pigs.” Still unaware that his words have gone out over the air waves (with thousands of angry calls to local stations and the network headquarters), he departs the penthouse studio in a jovial mood and prophetically tells the elevator operator that he’s going “all the way down.” All the numbers on the elevator show the numbers going down to 0, the ratings of the show go suddenly down as well, due to Rhodes’ insults. MORE