If you read nothing else this summer, consider Andy & Don, The Making of a Friendship And a Classic American TV Show, by Daniel deVise. Buy it at your local bookstore, or on Amazon.com. You'll learn that Andy Griffith and Don Knotts both grew up in abject poverty and were bullied. Classmates in high school called Andy "white trash." When they met on broadway in the 1950s, their humble beginnings and southern roots made them best friends, and when Andy went to Hollywood to film a TV pilot about a small-town sheriff, Don called to ask if he could use a deputy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Behind the small-town charm of Mayberry, de Vise reveals explosive tempers, bouts of neurosis, grudges nourished for years, silent rivalries, passionate secret love affairs (including Sheriff Taylor and Helen Crump), and struggles with the temptations of fame. Even though Don left the show in 1965, he and Andy remained best of friends for the next half-century. How close were they? Don did many guest appearances on Andy's later show, Matlock, and when Don died in 2006, Andy was at his bedside. By the end of their lives, both men made peace with their legacies. As he neared death, Andy admitted he expected to meet Don in heaven, and both men are forever remembered for Mayberry, which reminds us of a time when morals really mattered. It's a reminder we need today.