Although best known as folksy Sheriff Andy Taylor on television,was a terrific actor who early on earned a Tony Award nomination for his work on Broadway and was downright mean and nasty in his film debut.
Griffith died Tuesday in his home state of North Carolina. He was 86.
Besides Andy Taylor, Griffith also is known for his performances as television’s Southern defense attorney Ben Matlock. Along the way, he starred in lots of so-so TV shows including “Salvage 1,” about a salvage operator who builds his own spaceship and flies it to the moon to salvage Apollo equipment left behind by NASA.
Griffith also appeared in numerous TV movies over the years, including two turns as Police Chief Abel Marsh.
Late in his life, he borrowed a page fromand starred as a crazy general bent on destroying the world in an over-the-top performance in Nielsen’s “Spy Hard.”
His legacy as a TV actor unfortunately overshadows his early film career in such gems as “A Face in the Crowd” and “No Time for Sergeants.”
Here are six films available on video, DVD, on-demand or streaming that are representative of Griffith’s non-Mayberry acting career and show that he was a far better actor than he was given credit for being.
“A Face in the Crowd” (1957) – Griffith stars as Lonesome Rhodes, a guitar-pickin’ nobody from Arkansas who becomes an overnight media sensation despite some well hidden demons in thisclassic. This was Griffith’s first film and he delivers a powerful performance as the vicious and conniving thug who hides behind a wicked smile. Other stars include , , and a very young Lee Remick.
“No Time for Sergeants” (1958) – Griffith stars as a naïve country bumpkin drafted into the Air Force who makes life miserable for his drill instructor (Myron McCormick). Griffith was nominated for a Tony for his performance as Will Stockdale on Broadway. Other stars include Nick Adams, Murray Hamilton andin his film debut.
“Onionhead” (1958) – Griffith stars in another service comedy, this time about a Coast Guard cutter on convoy duty during World War II. The title refers to a concoction Griffith uses to grow hair when he thinks he’s going bald. Other stars include Matthau, Felicia Farr, Claude Akins,and James Gregory.
“Rustler’s Rhapsody” (1985) – Griffith plays against type as the evil cattle baron out to control everything in this Western satire by the man who created the “Police Academy” franchise. Other stars include Tom Berenger as the Singing Cowboy,as his would-be girlfriend and G.W. Bailey as his faithful companion.
“Winter Kill” (1974) – Griffith stars as the sheriff of a winter resort town who has to track down a sniper killing the tourists in this made-for-television movie. Other stars include, Tim O’Connor and Eugene Roche.
“Waitress” (2007) – Griffith has a small but key role as a persnickety customer of, who is trying to rebuild her life in this underappreciated film written and directed by , who was murdered during the filming. Other stars include Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto and Cheryl Hines.