I don't recall if I've mentioned it here before (I probably have), but THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (1960-1968) is my all-time favorite television series. I have many GRIFFITH items in the ol' man cave to reflect. Tin signs. Signed and framed b&w stills. A table tent card for a show at Caesars Palace starring Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Jerry Van Dyke. I've taught Sunday School lessons based on episodes of the show. I have Seasons 2-5 on DVD. I still need to get Season 1. There's an ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW TRIVIA GAME on the shelf beneath my television. I have THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET, GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN, RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT, SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST, THE LOVE GOD? and A FACE IN THE CROWD on DVD. Heck, I even had a bonafide 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 customized to look like the Mayberry Sheriff's car once. But that's another story. A long one.
And of course I have books.
Lots of books.
Here's what's currently on the Mayberry shelf in my library: BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND by Andy Griffith, I'M PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND: A COLLECTION OF SPECIAL MOMENTS OF FRIENDSHIP FROM THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW by Ken Beck and Jim Clark, ACT LIKE SOMEBODY: SPECIAL MOMENTS OF PARENTING FROM THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW by Ken Beck and Jim Clark, AUNT BEE'S MEALTIME IN MAYBERRY: RECIPES AND MEMORIES FROM AMERICA'S FRIENDLIEST TOWN by Ken Beck and Jim Clark, BARNEY FIFE'S GUIDE TO LIFE, LOVE AND SELF-DEFENSE by Len and John Oszustowicz, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW by Richard Kelly, THE WAY BACK TO MAYBERRY: LESSONS FROM A SIMPLER TIME by Joey Fann, MAYBERRY 101: BEHIND THE SCENES OF A TV CLASSIC by Neal Brower, BARNEY FIFE AND OTHER CHARACTERS I HAVE KNOWN by Don Knotts, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW BOOK by Ken Beck and Jim Clark, THE DEFINITIVE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW REFERENCE: EPISODE-BY-EPISODE, WITH CAST AND PRODUCTION BIOGRAPHIES AND A GUIDE TO COLLECTIBLES by Dale Robinson and David Frenandes, MAYBERRY MEMORIES: THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW PHOTO ALBUM by Ken Beck and Jim Clark, THE INCREDIBLE MR. DON KNOTTS: AN EYE-POPPING LOOK AT HIS MOVIES by Stephen Cox and Kevin Marhanka, and THE OFFICIAL ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW SCRAPBOOK by Lee Pfeiffer.
That's a lot of information on the show and the two men who made it a classic, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I'm proud to add another volume to the Mayberry shelf, ANDY AND DON: THE MAKING OF A FRIENDSHIP AND A CLASSIC AMERICAN TV SHOW by Daniel de Vise. My beloved wife Judy (who loves the show as much as I do), gave me this terrific book this past Christmas. I recently finished reading it and I'm here to tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It's a dual biography of both Griffith and Knotts, covering their entire lives and careers. The men were truly best friends and while each did outstanding work on their own, they were both at their absolute best when they were working together. They had many things in common off screen. Both came from small towns in the East. Both had unique obstacles to overcome in their childhoods. Knotts suffered from a variety of ailments both real and imagined his entire life while Griffith was prone to sometimes violent outbursts of temper. Both men had extra-marital affairs. Griffith had an off screen fling with co-star Aneta Corseaut (Helen Crump). Both were married three times with both marrying much younger women as their third and final wives. Knotts had a lucrative film career post THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW while Griffith could never get traction, starring in a series of failed television series and one-shot movies of the week. But he came into his own with MATLOCK, a series that enabled him to hire many of his old Mayberry co-stars, including Knotts.
Author de Vise has a unique perspective on one of his subjects. His wife's sister is Don Knotts' third wife, making him Knotts' brother-in-law. Unfortunately, de Vise didn't begin this project until both Griffith and Knotts had passed but he does a remarkable job of assembling their stories using previously published material and sources.
What comes across in ANDY AND DON is the deep and abiding love these two men had for each other. And that affection clearly shows in everything they ever did together. Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were only human. They had their faults and foibles like all of us. They weren't perfect.
But they created two characters that embody our better selves. Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife are immortals thanks to the love, talent and devotion of these two men. Thanks to Daniel de Vise for telling this story so well.
And thanks to Andy and Don.
I love you guys.