At first intending to become a minister, actor/monologist Andy Griffith (born June 1st, 1926) became active with the Carolina Playmakers, the prestigious drama-and-music adjunct of the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill. He spent several seasons portraying Sir Walter Raleigh in the summertime outdoor drama The Lost Colony, spending the rest of the years as a schoolteacher. Griffith continued performing fitfully as an after-dinner speaker on the men's club circuit, developing hilariously bucolic routines on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to football. Under the aegis of agent/producer Richard O. Linke, Griffith returned to acting, attaining stardom in the role of bumptious Air Force rookie Will Stockdale in the TV and Broadway productions of No Time For Sergeants. Before committing Sergeants to film, Griffith made his movie debut in director Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, in which he portrayed an outwardly folksy but inwardly vicious TV personality (patterned, some say, after Arthur Godfrey).
After filming Face in the Crowd, No Time for Sergeants and Onionhead for Warner Bros. during the years 1957 and 1958, Griffith starred in a 1959 Broadway musical version of Destry Rides Again; as an added source of income, Griffith ran a North Carolina supermarket. On February 15, 1960 he first appeared as Andy Taylor, the laid-back sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, on an episode of The Danny Thomas Show. This one-shot was of course the pilot film for the Emmy-winning The Andy Griffith Show, in which Griffith starred from 1960 through 1968. Eternally easygoing on camera, Griffith, who owned 50% of the series, ruled his sitcom set with an iron hand, though he was never as hard on the other actors as he was on himself; to this day, he remains close to fellow Griffith stars Don Knotts and Ron Howard. An unsuccessful return to films with 1969's Angel in My Pocket was followed by an equally unsuccessful 1970 TV series Headmaster. For the next 15 years, Griffith confined himself to guest-star appearances, often surprising his fans by accepting cold-blooded villainous roles. In 1985, he made a triumphal return to series television in Matlock, playing a folksy but very crafty Southern defense attorney. A life-threatening disease known as Gillian-Barre syndrome curtailed his activities in the late 1980s, but as of 1995 Andy Griffith was still raking in the ratings with his infrequent Matlock two-hour specials. The actor worked on and off throughout the late nineties and early 2000s, and co-starred with Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion in the romantic comedy Waitress in 2007. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi