Opie (Ron Howard) was a great little actor, especially when he was younger. He was always impeccably well behaved. He sometimes had important roles. He and his friends always wore long pants, almost always jeans. One of Opie's friends was Keith Thibodeaux, who had played Little Ricky on 'I Love Lucy'. He never had any significant roles, but him and Opie became good friends. The only reference I remember to clothing in a plot was when Aunt Bee told Opie that she had mended his knickers which she called his baseball pants. Opie looked at her in a disgusted manner and insisted that they weren't knickers. Latter Helen Crump, Andy' girl friend and Opie's teacher, wanted to take a picture. Aunt Bee gushes "Oh, doesn't he look adorable in his costume." Helen agrees, but the camera swings to Andy in his umpire uniform. Then Aunt Bee grabs Opie who doesn't want to come over to have his picture taken. "Oh, no Aunt Bee! I don't want to," he protests as she drags him over. Opie reminds me of the way I used to dress as a boy, striped "t" shirt, dungarees, and Keds. After a few years Barnie left the show and Opie began growing up. The show was never a brilliant as it was during the first few years. Later continued as 'Mayberry RFD' without Andy and Oppie.
"Andy" premiered in 1960. The pilot episode had actually been an episode of the "Danny Thomas" show in which Danny had a run in with a small-town southern sheriff. Both series were Desilu productions. "The Andy Griffith Show" and its home-spun humor was one of the most popular programs of the 1960s. Because of the popularity of the show in syndication, it has helped create an image of the 1960s for younger viewers. In many ways it is a misleading image. While the show does create a nostalgic view of small town America, completely excluded are any indication of Viet Nam, civil rights, the Beattles, and other social cross currents. The producers took the safe exedient of setting the show more in the 50s than the 60s. The realtions among the cast were very friendly. The cast and crew of the show occasionally passed time on the set by playing baseball.
The program was about Sheriff Andy Taylor, a level-headed common sence, sheriff and his little boy Oppie. Andy is a widower and there are occassional episode about his girl friends. It is tghe antics of incompetent Deputy Barry Fife that really make the show. Andy and Opie live with Aunt Bee--a whiz of a cook. Since Marberry had almost no crime to occupy Andy and Barry, the show was about the interpersonal relations of small town America.
'The Andy Griffith Show' had a great cast. Andy, Barney, and Opie were perfct. And not only were the stars great, but the supporting actors such as Aunt Bee and Floyd the barber were also excellent.
The star of the program was of course Andy Griffith who played sheriff Andy Taylor. He was a well know commedian that had made a hit on Broadway with 'No Time for Seargeants'. He eventually joined the typical left-wing Hollywood chorous. It is worth noting, however, that the 'Andy Grifith Show' appeared durung the height of the Civil Rights movement. And when it really counte, you did not hear one world about Blacks and Ciil Rights. Tere were not Black cast members. It of course would have had a very positive impact if Opie had a Black friend. But none of this came frim Griffith. Only when left-wing riticism of america became mainstream did we hear Griffith speak out.
The key to the show, however was Deputy Barry Fife (Don Knotts). Barrny has to have been the most incompetent bumbling deputy ever to appear on television. He performances have made the "Andy Griffith Show" a TV classic. After a few years Barnie left the show, but it was never as good.
Opie (Ron Howard) also made an important contribution. Ronnie had played Winthrop, the boy with a lisp, in "The Music Man" (1962). This was another story about small-town America and made Ronnie a natural for Opie. He was great little actor, especially when he was younger. He was always impeccably well behaved. He sometimes had important roles. He and his friends always wore long pants, almost always jeans. Quite a few episides prominently featured Opie, incluing the first. Andy sees that a woman is needed to help with Opie when Rose, their old housekeeper, gets married. He asks Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier) to come help raise Opie. Litle Opie, however, refuses to accept Aunt Bee at first. Young children are ofren resistant to change and Aunt Bee does things differently than Rose. Then Aunt Bee lets Opie's paraqueet escape. Just as Aunt Bee is about to leave, however, Opie stops because he decuded she needs Andy and him to take care of her. Ronnie of course went on to "Happy Days" and then to become an important Hollywood producer.
One of Opie's friends, Johnny Paul Jason, was Keith Thibodeaux, who had played Little Ricky on "I Love Lucy". He never had any significant roles, but he and Opie became good friends.
There are other excellent characyer studies. Aunt Bee (Francis Bavier) was a regular and effective performer. Too of the best supporting actors were Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear) the barber and Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) who runs the filling station. Nabors of course left to begin his own program, "Gomer Pyle--USMC". He was replaced by Goober Pyle (George Lindsey). Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) was Barny's girl friend and Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris) operated a fix-it shop. A favorite was Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), the town drunk.
The show is set in Mayberry, North Carolina. Surely one reason the series proved so popilar nostalgic depiction of American small-town life family values and communities where people competed but cared for each other. Mayberry was a proxy for small town America.
Mayberry in fact was not a very accurate representation of North Carolina. Watching the show, you would get the idea that there were no black people in Mayberry or anywhere else in North Carolina. Andy Griffith was born in June 1926 in the small North Carolina town of Mount Airy. Thus Mount Airy became the inspiration for Mayberry. Apparently Andy forgot the black people in his town. There are many positive aspects to the show. Excluding black people from a show about the South in the 1960s is a disappointment. Throughout the series' run almost no few blacks were to be seen--very occasionally among a group of pedestrians there may have been a black person. Among the later episodes is the one in which Opie has a conflict between piano lessons and football practice. The football coach is a black man, a pro football player hired to coach the team. The virtual absence of black cast members in the show is strange for its small-town southern setting. 'Andy' began its successful run as the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum, and I think the production company (Desilu) may have been concerned with alienating Southern viewers if black actors were featured. Very few TV programs even by 1960 had important black actors. The black TV roles that most Americans were accustomed to in 1960 were blacks playing servants ("Beulah", Jack Benny's "Rochester") or bafoons ("Amos and Andy"). That doesn't explain why later in the series so few blacks appear. I wonder if Ron Howard looking back today wonders why there could not have been at least one episode with a black--perhaps an episode about Opie and a black friend. Surely this must have been discussed. In one "TVLand" Channel special about the program "Andy" two of the cast members, Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou") and Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass) recall that the issue had arisen among the cast and writers. Without mentioning names or specifics they just spoke of failing to make any changes in this respect. I wonder if it was Andy or just who rejected the inclusion of blacks. The tone of the show was very gentle and given the popularity, it woul have been a wondeful opprtunity to have introduced a black character or at least a few episodes about blacks. If it had bee set in the mid-west it would have been understandable. Set in North Carolina, it was dishonest and in the context of the 1960s, irresponsible.
The costume director seemed to choose what they thought boys in small town America were wearuing. The show may have been set in the South, but Opie looked generically American. I think some changes and a little variety could have suggested the regional atmosphere more effectively. Many Southern boys, especially rural ones, wore lace-up leather boots (usually well-worn and scuffed), a kind sometimes associated with hunters or fishermen. Just a plain white T shirt, rather than printed, was common for boys then--especially in the South. The unwrtten rule in American television that all boys, except Europeans and spoiled rich boys, wear lomg pants, preerably jeans, was adopted for the show. Actually in the South many boys from toddlers to teens, especially at Opie's age wore short pants during the summer. Opie normally wore checked shirts or striped "T"-shirts with jeans. Opie reminds me of the way I used to dress as a boy, striped "t" shirt, dungarees, and Keds. A HBC reader reports, "I was watching a early episode of the "Andy Griffith Show" last week. Young Ronnie Howard (Opie) was wearing the same type of jeans. He must have been about 7 or 8 years old in the episode that I was warching. I noted 4 suspender snaps on the waist of the jeans." The only reference I remember to clothing in a plot was the episode about baseball. Ronny seemed to be a good young athlete. When Aunt Bee told Opie that she had mended his knickers which she called his baseball pants. Opie looked at her in a disgusted manner and insisted that they weren't knickers. Aunt Bea called Opie's baseball uniform a "costume", and instead of practicing for the game, Bea called it "rehearsing" for the game. Latter Helen Crump, Andy' girl friend and Opie's teacher, wanted to take a picture. Aunt Bee gushes "Oh, doesn't he look adorable in his costume. Helen agrees, but the camera swings to Andy in his umpire uniform. Then Aunt Bee grabs Opie who doesn't want to come over to have his picture taken. "Oh, no Aunt Bee! I don't want to," he protests as she drags him over.
We recall very few episodes in which clothing enters the plot.
In the first season (1965-66) that Andy and Opie appeared in color, the Taylors went to Hollywood, where a film was being made of Sheriff Taylor's exploits. Prior to the departure, Aunt Bea had Opie appear in "tourist's garb", an Hawaiian shirt, above the knee shorts, and sandals that she had bought for him. Opie doesn't like the outfit at all, even calling it sissy. [HBC note: It was becoming increasingly common for American boys to wear casual shorts at the time--although this was not reflected in the show costuming. What was not common was wearing sandals, although this was probably more common in California than the east coast.] To his amazement, Andy discovered Aunt Bea had also bought a father's matching ensemble, and, ever dutiful, Andy donned it, and he and Opie appeared side by side in their new clothes, as Aunt Bea looked on, obviously delighted. Andy never put his new ensemble on again, though in a later episode, there was a mild contretemps between Aunt Bea and Opie over his donning those clothes as they were about to go on an excursion. To Opie's chagrin, Andy sided with Aunt Bea, and dutifully, Opie trooped out in his shorts.
The only other time Opie was seen in shorts was in an
hilarious episode caled "Dinner at Eight". Opie was off on a Boy Scouts' campout in that episode. Being a rural Southern boy, Opie didn't wear shorts on the show, and I think that's what the TV people thought were the right clothes for Ronnie Howard on that show. A HBC contributor reports that "Truth to tell, 'Opie' is a just a little over a year younger than I am, and having lived in not very large southern towns, I know the boys there were not averse to wearing shorts, certainly not for casual wear."
An HBC reader recalled an episode of "Fury" in which the girl character did everything better than Joey, but at the end of the show appeared in a dress and assumed the appropriate gender role. TV has an endless capacity for recycling plots. Ten years or so after this "Fury" entry, an episode of "Andy Griffith Show" had Andy, Aunt Bea, and Opie playing host to Helen Crump and her niece, Cynthia, one Saturday. Cynthia could run faster and jump longer than Opie, and even do more impressive "cartwheels". Opie invited Cynthia to play football with him and his friends. These two got into an argument over a play, and Opie ended up getting a black eye from a punch thrown by the girl. Cynthia asks Aunt Helen why boys always think they have to be better than girls at everything. Helen explained it as the result of "male ego", which Cynthia would better understand as she grows up. Helen advises it's best not to make boys feel inferior, if girls want to be liked by them. At the end of the show Cynthia is trying to rollerskate. She's just beginning, but Opie is skilled, and at last, here's something Opie can do better than Cynthia.
The show was later continued as "Mayberry RFD" without Andy and Opie.
A HBC reader mentions, "If others are interested in films that depict the
South in the mid- to late-1960s in a realistic and frank way, an overwhelmingly favorable recommendation goes to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, based on the novel by Carson Mc Cullers. This is a beautiful coming of age film shot in Athens, Georgia and released in
1967." HBC has two favorite movies about the South set in earlier periods. One is the Disney classic which has become controversial, Song of the South. The other is To Kill a Mockingbird. Another excellent film is The Reivers, based on a Faukner novel.
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