Monday, March 16, 2015

The Mayberry we never saw

Many remember watching The Andy Griffith Show, set in the fictional town of Mayberry, NC. Characters included not only sheriff Taylor, deputy Barney Fife, Aunt Bea, Opie and Floyd the barber, but the town itself. Mayberry became a symbol of the humor, patience and gentle kindness viewers missed in modern life. Structurally, the town itself was fake -- just a bunch of false fronts on the Desilu back lot. But the kindness was real -- in ways we never knew. For example:

The cast and crew were devastated in 1963 when actor Howard McNear, who played Floyd the barber, suffered a debilitating stroke that put him briefly in a coma. After awakening, he was unable to work while recovering, but Andy never forgot McNear and when the time was right, he called the actor's wife to see if Floyd might come back to the barber shop. Helen McNear told Andy "that would be a prayer answered." Andy knew McNear had limited mobility and little use of his left arm, so he made sure scripts had Floyd seated or standing behind the barber chair using a hidden brace to support his unseen left arm, as in this picture. McNear rejoined the cast of friends he loved and played Floyd for several more happy seasons. His son Kit said, "I don't think any other cast or individuals had the guts Andy Griffith did. I think it's virtually unheard of for a production company to look after one of its members like that. But that's the way Andy wanted it. I'll always respect and admire him for that."

Griffith played down praise like this. "I wish I could be more like Andy Taylor," he said. "He's nicer than I am -- more outgoing and easygoing. I'm not as good as Andy Taylor; he almost always tries to live his life so that he is responsible, and he realizes this responsibility -- not only to his family but to his friends, his girl, and his community." An example for us all.

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