Andy Griffith Went to Great Lengths, Battled Through Excruciating Pain to Prove He Wasn’t Paralyzed

by Michael Freeman

During The Andy Griffith Show’s tenure, there were plenty of rumors Andy Griffith faced. One of the biggest was when the show would be ending after Don Knotts departed. However, one trumped that and was whether Griffith was paralyzed, something the actor went to great lengths to prove was false.

The rumor began in the 1980s after Andy battled the flu. Reportedly, the illness progressed rapidly within a few days, with Griffith noting he felt a “terrible, searing pain that ricocheted through my entire body.” One day while watching the Kentucky Derby, he lost control of his feet. Dropping to the ground, he was unable to pull himself up and remain standing. After rushing to the hospital, he was diagnosed with an inflammatory nerve condition, which sparked rumors he was paralyzed.

Griffith wasn’t, but his recovery took nearly a year, so he couldn’t exactly contest people saying he was paralyzed. After that year passed and he had no real acting offers left, his wife, Cindi, helped him find a solution. “That day, and every day for quite a while, Cindi and I went over to the William Morris Agency at lunchtime and sat in the lobby. My agent and every agent in the building saw us. Everybody talked to us, invited us to their offices, some to lunch.”

This scored him a role on Hotel, where Griffith had a scene roughly 18 minutes into the episode which had him jogging on camera. It’s not a short scene and has the actor running, seemingly effortlessly, the whole time. What nobody knew was Griffith experienced excruciating pain and was wearing leg braces.

Nonetheless, the trick worked and squashed the rumor surrounding him once and for all.

Andy Griffith Did Not Support the Show Adding One Character

Andy Griffith was the face behind the show, but he didn’t have full creative power. Speaking with the Television Academy Foundation in 1999, he revealed the only real fight he had with showrunner Sheldon Leonard was concerning the addition of a certain character.

“They wanted me to have a boss figure,” Griffith explained, referring to the Mayor of Mayberry. “That’s a good idea for the lead to have a boss figure. Like Lucy’s boss figure was her husband. They wanted to introduce a mayor as the boss figure. I told them before we started, ‘That can’t work because the mayor cannot be the boss to the sheriff.'”

Griffith goes on, noting the chain of command doesn’t work like that. “A sheriff is a county official. A mayor is just a little local town official. So, it didn’t work.” Overall, it seems he didn’t necessarily have a problem with the character, but more with the accuracy regarding the mayor’s power.