Andy Griffith, who died Tuesday at the age of 86, was best known for his folksy homespun humor as Sheriff Andy Taylor on the classic “The Andy Griffith Show,” but he was first introduced to film audiences as a dramatic actor of conviction and power.
The North Carolina native, who started as a stand-up comedian and had scored with audiences on both “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” made his film debut in 1957’s “A Face in the Crowd,” director Elia Kazan and his “On the Waterfront” screenwriter Budd Schulberg’s dark social commentary.
Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes, a hard-drinking, womanizing hobo with a gift of gab who becomes an overnight radio and TV sensation thanks to an enterprising young radio producer (Patricia Neal). Lee Remick also made her film debut in the film as a cheerleader who becomes his unhappy wife.
The film was not a success, but it has grown in relevance over the last 54 years.
In a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Griffith recalled that he had a beer with Schulberg after the screenwriter caught a performance of “No Time for Sergeants,” a Broadway production adapted from a 1955 live TV show in which he played the naive recruit Will Stockdale.