Andy Griffith: The Movie Role That Spoiled Him on Playing Villains for More Than a Decade

by Matthew Wilson
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Andy Griffith is perhaps best known for his wholesome roles like on “The Andy Griffith Show.” But one film allowed the actor to break bad early in his career. Griffith played a villainous amoral character in the film “A Face in the Crowd” in 1957.

According to IMDb, Griffith felt proud of the work he did on the film. But playing a villain rubbed him the wrong way. He realized that he didn’t like playing those sorts of characters because he felt they were distasteful. He wouldn’t play another villainous character until the 1970s.

Of course, Griffith’s character Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes wasn’t a villain in a traditional sense. He didn’t twirl his mustache and face off against the hero. No, Griffith’s character was a flawed man that let fame get the best of him and corrupt him. Griffith plays a drifter who quickly rises in the music industry and becomes a big star on stage.

Meanwhile, Griffith’s character becomes unbearable in real life when he isn’t performing. He allows the fame to go to his head, and he alienates those closest to him as a result. By the end of the film, the audience has little sympathy for Griffith’s character and his ways.

Andy Griffith the Hero

It’s hard to imagine Griffith as a villain when he spent most of his career portraying heroes. Perhaps, he’s a bit like John Wayne in that respect. After appearing in “A Face in the Crowd,” Griffith would go on to star in the “The Andy Griffith Show” as Sheriff Andy Taylor.

That character was a simple slice of kindness, patience, and doing the right thing. Griffith acted as a calming agent for Mayberry’s various eccentric characters. He often kept the town safe and them out of trouble. Later in his career, he threw a couple of other villainous roles in his catalog as an actor. But Griffith is largely remembered for the roles where he acted for the betterment of his fellow people.

For instance, he starred attorney Ben Matlock in the 1980s, making sure the right criminals wound up behind bars. Griffith played that role for nine seasons, one of the last major roles of his career. He did have fun hamming it up as a villain however in the western comedy “Rustlers’ Rhapsody.”

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