‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Griffith Revealed Awkward Relationship with Danny Thomas, Costar of Show’s Pilot

by Joe Rutland
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Andy Griffith did not warm up much about his relationship with entertainer Danny Thomas, who costarred in “The Andy Griffith Show” pilot.

Griffith goes into more detail during a 1998 interview with the Archive of American Television.

“Danny was a wonderful comedian,” Griffith said. “I never really got close to Danny. That first day of rehearsal on his show kinda did it for me. An awful lot of people liked Danny. It’s just Danny played in a different ballpark than I did and I just couldn’t bring myself to his ballpark. I just couldn’t.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Pilot Airs As Episode Of Thomas’ Show

That episode from “The Danny Thomas Show” is called “Danny Meets Andy Griffith.” It’s the first time viewers are introduced to Sheriff Andy Taylor, who arrests Danny Williams, Thomas’ character, for speeding through Mayberry. It aired in February 1960.

But Griffith shed a little more light on his relationship with Thomas in the same interview. He told interviewer Michael Rosen about being on set with Thomas and executive producer Sheldon Leonard. There was a lot of screaming on the show’s set. It sent Griffith over the edge and lead him to a conversation with Leonard.

“If this is what television is, I don’t think I can handle it,” Griffith said.

Leonard replies, “Andy, the star dictates what the attitude will be on the set. Danny likes to yell, so we all yell. If you don’t want to yell, nobody will yell.”

That conversation saved “The Andy Griffith Show” from not being made at all.

For eight seasons, the CBS sitcom would have a place among television’s top-rated shows. Griffith’s cast includes Don Knotts, Frances Bavier, Ron Howard, and Jim Nabors.

Griffith Makes ‘Mayberry’ Into A Core Character Of His Sitcom

Fans of the show know that everything revolves around Mayberry. What makes that town so special? Griffith offered a couple of clues in a 1965 interview with The New York Times. He said “Mayberry” is needed as a character. The city, based on Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., is at the core of each individual character on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“I think it is because we–everyone on the show–have a real sense of community, of kindness toward one another,” Griffith said. “The basic rule by which we live comes through on the program, kindness comes through.”

That theme not only carries through Griffith’s show but in its two spinoffs, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and “Mayberry R.F.D.” Pyle, played by Jim Nabors, initially works at Mayberry’s gas station. He ends up going to join the U.S. Marine Corps and that show turns into a mega-hit. “Mayberry R.F.D.” stars Ken Berry of “F Troop” fame in the lead role as the show takes over Griffith’s show time slot. It only lasts for three seasons, though.

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