“The Andy Griffith Show” became famous in its own right, but it launched as a pilot episode on “The Danny Thomas Show.” After that, it went on to get the green light from CBS to be its own show.
‘Andy Griffith’ Started As Pilot on ‘Danny Thomas’
“I came out [to Los Angeles], did the pilot,” Griffith said. “And I remember a lot of that, too, because Danny Thomas made me very nervous. So when we started the show a lot of people were talking and wondering why they had me out here. Because I was wooden, very wooden. And as the show progressed I got looser and looser and when they brought the audience in, I was on top of it. And the show, in fact, did sell.”
Thomas was a nightclub singer, actor and producer. His character on “The Danny Thomas Show” ranked No. 5 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” Behind the scenes, he worked with Sheldon Leonard and Aaron Spelling on shows such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mod Squad.”
Outside of showbiz, Thomas founded the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. His friends knew him as Jake. He died in 1991 in Los Angeles of a heart attack.
Not All Fun and Games
Once “The Andy Griffith Show” got underway, however, it was not all fun and games. Aunt Bee actress Frances Bavier reportedly did not get along with Andy Griffith. Or most anyone else, for that matter, with the possible exception of Ron Howard.
Leonard told Kelly that Bavier was “a rather remote lady. Highly professional and a fine comedienne, fine actress with very individual character. She was rather self-contained and was not part of the general hijinks that centered upon Andy on the set.”
Howard Morris directed several episodes of the show. He told pop culture historian Geoffrey Mark that “directing Frances was like stepping on a landmine. If you would ask her to move three inches to the right to get in the proper frame, she’d blow a fuse and refuse.”
Griffith said in a 1998 interview on “Larry King Live” that Bavier called him not long before her death and shared her regrets for being difficult to work with on the show, which lasted for eight seasons before going off the air.