‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Actor Burt Mustin Launched His Career Late in Life: Here’s Why

by Chris Piner
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While there have been countless classic shows that have entertained generations, not many have survived throughout the decades like The Andy Griffith Show. First airing on October 3, 1960, the show became more than a staple in American entertainment as it is still being played today. Running for almost eight years, the show accumulated a staggering 249 episodes during its run. Although garnering a massive fan base and an IMDb score of 8.4/10, the show helped immortalize the career of Burt Mustin. Unlike many actors, Mustin wouldn’t get his start in Hollywood until he was over 60 years old. 

Before working alongside talent like Don Knotts, Ron Howard, and Andy Griffith, Mustin’s life was going in a different direction. Attending the Pennsylvania Military College, he became the first trombone player. Mustin was also the goaltender for the Ice hockey team. Earning a degree in civil engineering in 1903, the future actor used his degree for a short time as he moved to car sales. Mustin spent his time selling brands like Mercury, Lincoln, and Franklins until World War II when civilian cars were no longer in production. He also worked with both the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.

Burt Mustin Lands Role Thanks To Director William Wyler

During his time as a blue-collar worker, Burt Mustin shared his love for acting by becoming the first announcer for the KDKA radio station. In 1921, he hosted several variety shows until he retired and moved to Tucson, Arizona. Although retired, Mustin continued performing, landing a part in the theater production of Detective Story

Little did Mustin know, but sitting in the audience was director William Wyler. After watching the former car salesman, Wyler encouraged Mustin, who was retired, to pursue professional acting. Luckily, he took the director’s advice, leading him to the film version of the same play. Mustin acted alongside both Eleanor Parker and Kirk Douglas. This proved to be his big break as he went on to land over 150 movies and shows that spanned two decades. 

Working As Judd Fletcher On The Andy Griffith Show

Landing roles in The Adventures of Kit Carson and the political drama A Lion in the Streets, Burt Mustin’s career ultimately led him to The Andy Griffith Show in 1960. Given the role of an elderly man named Judd Fletcher, the actor appeared in a total of 14 episodes. 

Before The Andy Griffith Show, Mustin filled the silver screen in numerous films. They included, Silver Whip Half of a Hero, She Couldn’t Say No, and The Desperate Hours. All three films finished within a two-year span. Continuing to act, on January 28, 1977, Mustin passed away at the Glendale Memorial Hospital in California. He was just two weeks away from celebrating his 93rd birthday.   

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