Few television comedies are more synonymous with the 1960s than The Andy Griffith Show. We dug deep and can now reveal many surprising secrets behind the scenes from the show, as well as what happened to the lead actors after the show ended.
1. Close Call
Don Knotts, who played the beloved Deputy Barney Fife on the show, showed up to work on the first day without a contract. Producers were so impressed by the chemistry between Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, that they gave him a firm offer on the spot.
2. Real Life BFFs
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were actually lifelong best friends. Their friendship began when they met in the 1958 Broadway play No Time for Sergeants. Andy even knelt by Don’s bedside during his last days in 2006.
3. Contract Dispute
The team had thought the show would be over after five seasons, so both Andy and Don signed five-year contracts. As season 5 was winding down, Don struck a deal with Universal Pictures. When Andy returned for the sixth season, Don agreed to come back only if he could split ownership of the show with Griffith. But Griffith declined, and Don moved on.
4. Secret Lovers
No one had expected Andy Griffith would carry his on-screen romance with Aneta Corsaut, who played Opie's teacher Helen Crump, off the set. At that time, Andy was still married. Their relationship was hush-hush on set, but of course, word got out.
5. Something The Writers Must Have Regretted
Aneta Corsaut was originally intended to appear in just one episode, so the writers gave her a horrible last name for fun. But Andy demanded her character become a regular for the rest of the series due to her amazing performance and their special relationship. Bet the writers later regretted that awkward name.
6. No Chemistry Chemist
Andy's first romantic relationship on the series was with chemist Ellie Walker, who was played by Elinor Donahue. After just one season, Donahue asked to terminate her three-year contract because she couldn't feel any on-screen chemistry with Andy.
7. The Most Mysterious Role
We all knew that Andy was a widowed father to Opie, but what happened to Opie's mom? Andy never showed his son a picture of his mom. The only thing we learned was that Opie lost his mom when he was "the least little speck of a baby" in the episode The Danny Thomas Show. Poor Opie!
8. Drama On Set
Although Andy and Aunt Bee got along well on the show, the two had a rather tense relationship in real life. Andy was a big jokester, and Frances Bavier, who played Aunt Bee, didn't like his antics. Thankfully, the two made peace right before Frances' death in 1989.
Opie, played by Don Howard, didn't actually throw the rock into the lake in the opening credits. Little Howard was only 6 years old at the time and couldn't hurl the rock far enough. A prop man hid in the bushes and threw the rock that made the splash. You've been deceived for so many years.
10. Andy Griffith Sued Andy Griffith
Andy Griffith made great efforts to ensure that his name and trademark were secured. He sued another man named Andy Griffith in 2006 because the man legally changed his name from William Fenrick to Andrew Griffith to run for sheriff. The court ruled that Fenrick did not violate federal trademark law since he did not use the name in a commercial transaction.
11. Polar Opposites
In contrast to his manic on-screen energy, Don was surprisingly dignified and reserved off camera, and Andy delighted in shattering his friend's calm. It turned out that the show was funnier with their personalities reversed.
12. If The Shoe Fits
Andy was really into playing pranks on his co-stars of the show. Every few weeks, the cast members would respond to his pranks with pranks of their own. One example was to steal Andy's shoes at intervals, forcing him into going home in huge clown shoes.
13. Frozen Time
You may not have noticed that the calendar in Floyd's Barbershop was always on February. It's still a mystery whether this was a deliberate depiction of Floyd's forgetfulness or an oversight by the director.
14. The Inspiration Behind Mayberry
The fictional Mayberry town on The Andy Griffith Show was actually based on Andy’s hometown, Mount Airy, NC. In the episode “A Black Day For Mayberry,” Mount Airy can be clearly seen on the cover of the phone book lying on Sheriff Taylor’s desk.
15. Written In Reality
Andy Taylor's hand was heavily bandaged in two episodes of Season 2 as a result of an injury whilst apprehending some criminals. But that's not exactly the whole story. In fact, before the filming, Andy punched a wall on the set in a rage and ended up with a broken hand.
16. When Star Trek Visited Mayberry
What would Mayberry look like after an apocalypse? When Star Trek first aired, the show was forced to use the set of Mayberry due to insufficient funding. We can see William Shatner and Joan Collins walking together outside Floyd's barber shop in "The City on the Edge of Forever." We can also get a glimpse of what Mayberry might look like after an apocalypse in "Miri."
17. The Car Kept Changing
Andy's cop cars were always Ford Galaxie 500 sedans. A Ford dealership offered the show a new car each time a new model came out. This resulted in 10 Ford Galaxies throughout the show's 8 seasons. The dealer would then take the old car back, repaint it and sell it.
18. Number One
The Andy Griffith Show ended while it was at the top of the Nielsen's ratings. There were only two other television shows that can make that claim: I Love Lucy and Seinfeld.
19. Life After The Show
The Andy Griffith Show ended 51 years ago, and in recent years, the number of surviving cast members has dwindled. Let’s take a look at what the main actors were up to after the show ended. No other cast member’s post-series life will impress you as much as the next person...
20. More Than Just Opie
Ron Howard, the little boy on the series, later went on to become one of Hollywood's A-list actors and directors. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Medal of Arts, an induction into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013, and he also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Today at 65, he is still active on stage and screen.
21. Andy Griffith: From A Famous Sheriff To A Famous Lawyer
After the show ended, Andy starred on many TV shows, and finally made a name for himself again after playing lawyer Ben Matlock in the show Matlock. He married three times before he died of a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 86.
22. Don Knotts Moved In
Although Don was best known as Barney Fife on the series, he later landed another popular role as the landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. In 1979, TV Guide ranked him #27 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All-Time list. He died in 2006 at age 81 from lung cancer.
23. Frances Bavier Lived Alone
After The Andy Griffith Show ended, Frances Bavier chose to live in North Carolina rather than returning to her native New York City. Frances retired from acting at age 69 in 1972 and lived a quiet life until her death in 1989. She never married or had children.
24. The Oldest Living Member Of The Show
92-year-old Betty Lynn, who portrayed Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou on the show, is one of the living members and the oldest of them. She retired from acting in 2006 and is now living in Mount Airy.