Andy Griffith Struggled To ‘Emulate’ the Perfect Characters He Played On-Screen

by Chris Piner

During his presence on television, Andy Griffith was more than a friendly face as he appeared to embody an entire generation. While his success led him to own a 70-acre estate on Roanoke Island, the actor never forgot where he came from. His daughter, Dixie Griffith, admitted nothing appealed to him more than spending the summer months in North Carolina. And while he was considered rich and famous, Dixie added, “He would go into stores barefoot — sometimes even without a shirt! He wasn’t a typical Hollywood type.” 

Discussing the life of her father with Closer, Dixie shared a side of Andy Griffith that many might not know about. For starters, growing up around blue-collar families, the future star always found peace when it came to the country. Dixie said, “That’s where he felt free. We would go on boat trips, play volleyball and go waterskiing. He loved to entertain and was pretty much the life of the party.”

From Bullied To Television Star

For Daniel de Visé, the author behind Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, he recalled the history of Andy Griffith and how the leading man was once bullied as a child. The writer admitted, “His father was a foreman in a furniture factory, so his parents could dress Andy well. That worked against him because a lot of the kids from the poor side of Mount Airy were not clean or well dressed, and Andy got bullied a lot as a kid.”

While not the best moment of his life, Andy Griffith learned to defend himself not with his fist but with his words. Having a gift to make people laugh, Andy studied drama while in high school and practiced music almost nightly. His daughter noted, “He was very, very into music. He had guitars, banjos, horns and a piano. He could play pretty much any instrument.”

Writing his own material, Andy Griffith landed in show business thanks to his monologue, What It Was, Was Football. Working around the clock, Andy Griffith’s determination led him to The Andy Griffith Show, which came from another show, The Danny Thomas Show. During an episode, Sheriff Taylor happens to arrest Danny for running a stop sign. In 1960, the spin-off series about a widower raising his son, Opie, premiered and eventually ended after eight seasons

Andy Griffith’s Life Didn’t Match His Persona On TV

Although embodying the perfect person, Andy Griffith struggled in her personal life with marriage and alcohol. After divorcing his wife Barabra, their adopted children Dixie and Sam had their own problems. Sam fought with alcohol as well, eventually passing away due to it at the age of 38. Dixie admitted, “My brother had some troubles, but it wasn’t my dad’s fault. [Sam’s passing] affected him on a very deep level.”

Not living up to his persona on TV, Dixie insisted that her father, Andy Griffith, left the world a better place. “He left us with characters that emulate the best of American values. Andy Taylor was a father, leader, a friend and neighbor. Ben Matlock was the defense attorney who would fight to the bitter end.” The star passed away in 2012 at 86.