Originally published January 24, 1964
Griffith is a fearsome worrier, so petrified by social situations that he avoids most big Hollywood functions. “I feel I just might not be able to cope,” says Griffith. “I wish I could be like [Sheriff] Andy Taylor. He’s nicer than I am — more outgoing and easygoing. I get awful mad awful easy.” Griffith freely admits to what seem to him monumental shortcomings, among them a tendency to keep public emotion at arm’s length. “It’s the way we mountain people are,” he tries to explain.
“My own grandpappy never showed big emotion but once in his life. Lying on his deathbed, he suddenly got up and kissed my grandma gently on the check — he’d never been seen before even to touch her! Then he took back to his bed and died. One emotional act in his whole life, but no one ever forgot it.”
When Andy looks back on his childhood, he sometimes assumes a prismatic double vision. One moment he recalls “the fun we kids had in the summer kickin’ rocks and lyin’ to each other in that wonderful slowed-down time between dusk and dark.” In the next, he speaks of himself as a skinny, gawky, rejected, unathletic kid hurt by his nickname of “Andy Gump” [a cartoon character] and remembers that once, when he was 11, someone called him “white trash.”
As he expands as a man and an actor, Griffith thrives in what another rural comic, Pat Buttram, has called the best of all possible worlds — “a Southern accent with a Northern income.”
Once, aboard an airliner, Griffith turned to his manager. “Say, you think I oughta lose my Southern accent?” he asked seriously.
“Sure,” the other shot back, “if you want to try another line of work.”
—“I Think I’m Gaining on Myself” by Donald Freeman, January 25, 1964
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Featured image: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
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