In honor of the passing of Andy Griffith, I finally got around to watching A Face in the Crowd, his 1957 drama about a country boy who uses people around him on his rise in the radio and television business. I had never seen it, but with Andy’s death so recent, I figured it was time.
You know, that real-life country boy could act.
We mostly remember Andy Griffith, of course, for his good-natured side, the funny man who played it mostly straight on The Andy Griffith Show because he had so many funny people around him in Mayberry.
The show was about many things, but mostly about family. A kindly aunt, a deputy who was like a younger brother to Sheriff Andy Taylor, townsfolk who might have been – and often were – cousins. Most especially, though, it was about a widower raising a young son with the appropriate balance of punishment and teaching. What little Opie in America didn’t want Sheriff Taylor as a father?
I’ve long thought his program was one corner of a triangle that made situation comedies more like real life than simply ways to pass an evening in front of the boob tube. What The Andy Griffith Show was to family, Seinfeld was to friendships and dating, and Everybody Loves Raymond was to marriage.
It’s difficult to think of a situation in our lives that wasn’t handled by at least one of these shows, and with more laughs than we are able to inject on our own. More often than not, though, The Andy Griffith Show covered all three corners of the triangle and much more.
Take the workplace. Andy ran an office whose main purpose was not arresting people but picking them up and setting them straight. He was a Human Resources office with a badge.
In college, my drama professor hated the series because many weeks, Andy would help some poor misguided outsider – a Northerner, usually – slow down and resolve his issues. Life isn’t that cut-and-dried, the professor said. Well, of course not. By the way, my professor was from New York City.
Consider how Andy saw the big picture. Do you remember the episode in which little Opie killed a bird with his slingshot and took in its babies to raise? He didn’t want to set them free, but Andy insisted. The birds fly away, and Opie laments that the cage seems so empty.
“Yes, son, it sure does,” Andy says, “but don’t the trees seem nice and full?”
Human interaction? There was the time a young and extremely beautiful Barbara Eden, before her days on I Dream of Jeannie, can’t understand why the womenfolk in town are shunning her. Andy delicately explains that “Nature’s been good to you. I mean real, real, real good. I can’t remember when I’ve seen nature spend as much time on one person.”
Once, Andy tries to explain that there’s a ratio of 1½ needy boys per square mile in the county, and Opie laments, “Poor Horatio.”
Thanks, Andy, for reruns.