Andy Griffith Dead at 86, Friend Says
Andy Griffith Dead at 86
Television icon Andy Griffith has died at 86, a friend told a North Carolina news station.
Former University of North Carolina president Bill Friday told WITN News that the "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock" actor died at his home in Dare County, N.C.
The Dare County Sheriff's office would only confirm to TheWrap that emergency services were sent to Griffith's home Tuesday morning.
The actor's agent did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
With his slow drawl and penchant for playing characters who wore their decency like a badge on programs like "The Andy Griffith Show," the actor came to personify small town values with their emphasis on family and community. He was, in many ways, America's sheriff.
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He first came to prominence on Broadway in the 1950s in the army comedy "No Time for Sergeants" and the musical version of "Destry Rides Again."
He would reprise his country bumpkin role in "Sergeants" for the 1958 film version, earning rave reviews and propelling the film to the top of that year's box office winners.
But his film debut in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd" (pictured, right) mined a darker side of Griffith, one that he largely abandoned in favor of more mainstream entertainment.
Working with legendary director Elia Kazan, Griffith gave his finest dramatic performance as Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a drifter who is discovered by an ambitious producer and transformed into a national television phenomenon. With his folksy bromides and populist rhetoric, Rhodes seemed to presage such modern boob tube bloviators as Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. The film itself was a sly commentary on the power of television that was way ahead of its time.
Andy Griffith Dead at 86
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Yet it was television that would launch Griffith into the pop culture pantheon. Playing Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widower trying to raise a young son, on the long-running "The Andy Griffith Show," the actor found the perfect vehicle for his easy-going delivery and comic talents.
Mayberry, the fictional North Carolina town where Taylor represented law and order, was populated by village eccentrics like hapless deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) and naive gas station attendant Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors). Griffith provided the show's center of gravity; his gift was to be a proxy for the audience and to respond to the antics around him instead of providing the spark to the lunacy.