‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Andy Griffith Once Revealed the Actor That ‘Made the Show a Hit’

by Joe Rutland

When it comes to giving credit for the success of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Andy Griffith is not shy of tipping his hat in one direction.

In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the CBS sitcom, said Don Knotts helped make the show stand out. Obviously, Knotts played Deputy Barney Fife on the show. But it took a little action on his part to get Griffith’s attention.

Griffith said Knotts saw “The Andy Griffith Show” pilot, which featured himself, Ron Howard, and Frances Bavier on an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Said This Performer Called Him After Seeing Pilot

“Don Knotts saw that on the air, the pilot on the air, and called me right here,” Griffith said. “And I said, ‘I didn’t know that you were out of work.’ Yes, he was cancelled. I said, ‘Call Sheldon (Leonard, the show’s creator).’

“And that’s what made the show a hit was Don,” Griffith said. The pairing of Griffith and Knotts turned out to be one of television’s greatest moves. Knotts, though, previously worked with Griffith in the Broadway play and movie adaptation of “No Time For Sergeants.”

Knotts earned five Emmy Awards for his work on “The Andy Griffith Show.” He left after five seasons to pursue a movie career, yet would return for guest-starring appearances.

Both Griffith and Knotts, sadly, are no longer alive. Knotts died on Feb. 24, 2006, at 81 years old. Griffith died on July 3, 2012, at 86 years old.

How Can A Big Break On ‘Ed Sullivan’ Go Wrong? Let Andy Tell You

While today’s television stars may get roles in different ways, in the Golden Age of Television people could become stars by appearing on one show.

“The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS had that type of pull. Actors, musicians, and comedians might show up on a Sunday night show, then become booked for months if it went well.

Um, for Andy Griffith, this was not the case. He appeared on Sullivan’s show in 1959, playing Destry in a scene from the movie “Destry Rides Again.”

In an old interview with Ralph Emery for On the Record, Griffith talked about the experience.

“The first job I had was on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,'” Griffith said. “I was so terrified that I don’t even remember doing it. The only thing I remember about it was a guy pointed his finger. Like that, for me to walk out on stage. I remember that I did not get any laughs. At all.”

Sullivan had wanted Griffith for a number of appearances on his show. After that experience, though, Sullivan didn’t want Griffith anymore. “The Andy Griffith Show” star was fine with that, too.