Monday, July 9, 2012

7.9.12 Heroes of the Day: Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on



Name: Andy Griffith
Age: was 86
Occupation: actor
Last Seen: Manteo, NC

Name: Ernest Borgnine
Age: was 95
Occupation: also an actor
Last Seen: Los Angeles, CA

Awarded For: giving us years of great acting and enlightenment


Two of Hollywood's best-known actors died this past week.

And from a 30-something's perspective, it might be a shock to some that I would rather watch an episode of The Andy Griffith Show or McHale's Navy over the whorish escapades of Jersey Shore.

True, I've only seen a handful of episodes of both shows beginning to end, I'd rather watch Andy and Opie Taylor hoist their fishing poles in the air over a bunch of fake New Jerseyites fist bump. I know, call me an old geezer TV-wise, but sometimes, TV shows that end with the long-defunct Seal of Good Practice emblem *are* better than their contemporaries.

In the case of Andy Griffith, he grew up with relatives until his working class parents could even afford a home. Despite being looked down on by his peers for being lower class, he used humor from stories his dad told him to make friends and become popular with class mates. After high school, he attended UNC-Chapel Hill, and worked on his comedy career. In 1954, one of his recorded routines became a hit on the pop charts: "What it Was, Was Football". Soon, Griffith made many TV appearances, and even starred in a hit movie, No Time For Sergeants with the man who he would be his long-time co-star, Don Knotts.

Griffith also had his dramatic side, too with his first-ever film role, 1957's A Face in the Crowd where he plays a drifter who becomes a popular TV star, Lonesome Rhodes. In the film, Rhodes becomes political- and power-hungry. It might have helped led Griffith further into his Democratic politics.

Of course, there was The Andy Griffith Show, in which he played the beloved sheriff of Mayberry, NC, Andy Taylor. Of course, his sidekicks included Knotts as Barney Fife and his beloved son Opie, played by little Ron Howard. Griffith left the show in 1968 to further pursue his movie career; the program was re-named Mayberry RFD.

Griffith's career tumbled, sadly, but bounced back in 1986 with the geezer-friendly show Matlock, which he starred in for nine seasons. He even did a few Mayberry reunion movies with Howard and Knotts in 1993 and 2003.

One of my favorite memories of The Andy Griffith Show happened several years ago here in Grand Rapids. There was a bar called Club North, and in one of the rooms, they held a goth night every Saturday night. I learned about it from their DJ, who friended me on MySpace (remember that site?). Don Knotts had died, and since they had an old projection HDTV mostly used for movies, the guy bought a DVD of old episodes of Griffith as a tribute to Knotts. He even cut through a song to announce his death.

Yeah, even the goths loved Griffith, even if he would sit back with his guitar and sing old hymns with Barney Fife in the town sheriff's office. But let's not forget that Griffith was a Democrat, frequently appearing in commercials for his local candidates and even a few ads for Medicare a few years back.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about Ernie, either.

Like Griffith, Ernest Borgnine was an only child, but when he was just two, his parents divorced, but eventually reconciled. Although he never showed a love for acting while he was young, he got into the profession after World War II, where he served in the Navy. After appearing on stage in several productions, Ernie made his big debut in 1953 in From Here to Eternity at the age of 36. However, just a few years later in 1955, he won an Oscar for playing the title role in the film Marty.

Borgnine's movie career flourished over the years with notable roles in Ice Station Zebra and Poseidon Adventure. He gained television notoriety with the hit 1960's sitcom McHale's Navy, playing that show's lead role. In all, Borgnine appeared in hundreds of films and TV shows, most-notably recently as the voice of the Merman on Spongebob Squarepants.

But for many of us, it was Borgnine who gave us quite possibly the only good moment in Fox and Friends' long history:

Right now in Heaven, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts are probably singing "How Great Thou Art" with Andy on an acoustic guitar, while Ernest is telling them that he can play the "trombone" to that song. Nonetheless, TV has lost two of its indefatigable legends who will never be replaced.

And those two deserve a fist bump.  
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