Friday, April 08, 2016

Andy & Don

By Daniel de Visé

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts were both sons of the South. Andy grew up in North Carolina and Don in West Virginia. Andy had a fairly normal childhood, even if his parents weren't wealthy. He was a bit of a momma's boy and remained close to his mother his whole life. Don, on the other hand, had a miserable childhood, tormented by his alcoholic and mentally ill father. He was also plagued by illness and grew up to be a bit of a hypochondriac.
Both boys were drawn to the stage. Andy had a fine singing voice and he played a musical instrument. He also had the gift of storytelling, starting out his show biz career with humorous monologues. His success with the monologues led to jobs in theater and in movies.
Don started out as a ventriloquist and served in the military as an entertainer. After leaving the military, he got work on a radio show and eventually came to work with Andy Griffith, first in the Broadway play, No Time for Sergeants, and went on to also appear in the film version with Griffith.
The two men became close friends and when Griffith was offered his own show, Don called him up and suggested that Sheriff Andy needed a deputy sidekick, namely Don Knotts himself. Andy thought it was a great idea and so Don and Andy embarked on the roles that would win them fame and a lasting audience of enthusiastic fans even decades later.

This was a really interesting book, a story of a lifelong friendship with a bit of ego and rivalry thrown in for leavening. The Andy Griffith Show wasn't on TV for a really long time, about eight years, but the characters of Andy Taylor and Barney Fife are part of American history now. However, this book isn't about just the TV show. It covers the span of both men's lives, their ups and downs, their failures and successes, personal and professional.
It was quite an enthralling read and I appreciate the amount of research the author put into the work, even taking the time to note discrepancies in different versions of events. Fan of Andy and Don and of their work will surely enjoy this quite engaging biography of these two giants of Show Business.

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