Andy Griffith: His Hottest Decade Was the '50s Read more:

Andy Griffith: His Hottest Decade Was the '50s Read more:

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TV fans love him for Mayberry and Matlock, but at the start of his career he had a top-10 record, two hit Broadway shows, one popular movie and another — A Face in the Crowd — that turned his smiling-yokel persona into a multimedia monster Read more:

“I’d struck out on Broadway, and I’d struck out in the movies, so I kinda had to go to television,” Andy Griffith stated in 2008. That comment, like so many things Griffith said as Sheriff Andy Taylor and Ben Matlock, was a sly joke, an aw-shucks feint of self-depreciation to disarm the sharpies who underestimated him. But his admirers from a half-century’s runs and reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock should know that there was life before Mayberry. By the time he launched his own TV show on Oct. 1, 1960, when he was 34, Griffith had already conquered the other extant media: records, Broadway shows and movies. He didn’t strike out; he was a triple-crown winner. Beginning as a standup comic, Griffith perfected the “Andy” persona — the good ol’ boy observing modern life with enthusiastic bafflement — in monologues like “What Is Was, Was Football,” which went to No. 9 on the pop-music charts in 1953. He extended that character by starring in the TV, Broadway and movie versions of the military comedy No Time for Sergeants, a solid hit in each medium. And having constructed this friendly Tarheel image, he then boldly deconstructed it, tore it to shreds, as folk singer and TV talk-titan Lonesome Rhodes in the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd. For a decade, Griffith scaled the mountain of achievement, then coasted — most agreeably and reassuringly — as the folksy-foxy sheriff or lawyer on TV. Read more:

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