‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Director Richard Crenna Compares Show to Directing Another Classic

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Richard Crenna had a long and varied career before his death in 2003. Many moviegoers will remember him as Trautman from the Rambo films. Additionally, he was in a number of television shows, films, and made-for-TV movies. However, Crenna also worked behind the camera. He directed a handful of made-for-TV movies as well as several television series episodes.

Richard Crenna starred in the hit comedy series The Real McCoys as Luke McCoy. Additionally, he started his directorial career on the classic comedy. According to his IMDb, he helmed 14 episodes of the show. Not long after that, he directed 8 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.

Before his passing, Richard Crenna sat down with The Archive of American Television to talk about his life and career. At one point, he opened up about directing on The Andy Griffith Show.

Richard Crenna Compares The Andy Griffith Show to The Real McCoys

To get into the topic of his directorial career, Richard Crenna mentioned leaving The Real McCoys. He said he wanted to take some time off from acting. Instead, he wanted to try his hand at directing. He got a feel for in on The Real McCoys and wanted to try to recapture that magic elsewhere.

Richard Crenna explained that he got the chance to direct The Andy Griffith Show when the original director, Bob Sweeny, left the production at the end of the second season. Before the third season kicked off, Sheldon Leonard contacted Crenna and asked if he’d like to direct on TAGS. He told Leonard, “I’d be pleased and proud,” to take the position.

“We had been on the same lot, so we felt very much of a family feeling. I knew everybody,” Richard Crenna recalled. He said that he fit the production “like a glove” because he saw a commonality between McCoys and Griffith.

“It was the same kind of homey comedy that we did on The McCoys. Very straightforward. They didn’t try to be funny. You can’t make Don Knotts not funny, but he didn’t have to try to be funny,” Richard Crenna explained. Then, he said that going from acting and directing on The Real McCoys to directing on The Andy Griffith Show was “a natural kind of progression.” All told, Crenna directed eight episodes of the show’s third season.

When Richard Crenna took the directorial position on The Andy Griffith show, he had one goal. He wasn’t looking to make the show better. Instead, he recalled. “I was anxious to keep it as good as it was.”

Today, the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show are classic television gold. Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and the rest of the crew worked together like a well-oiled machine. Then, Knotts left to pursue big-screen roles.