By Jake Easton
R A D O K N E W S
he Andy Griffith Show is a timeless and heartwarming portrayal of American small-town life during simpler times, where traditional values were cherished, and people respected and cared for one another.
The weekly comedy featured the steady, unflappable Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), the bumbling but hilarious deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), Andy's young son Opie (Ron Howard), and the ever consummate homemaker Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier).
The backdrop for The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) was the sleepy little fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina (population 1800).
Now, for the first time, we take a look behind the scenes of this small town and its residents, through countless interviews, historic film and television archives, old aerial photos of the Desilu Studio's backlot, and closeups of subsequent shows of that era, to learn much more about this euphoric spot in television history.
While perceived to be hometown, USA, the actual location of Mayberry was not in North Carolina, but in Culver City, California - just down the street from the 1965 Los Angeles race riots. But who cares. Many still enjoy in reruns, the wholesomeness of a make-believe world that has yet to be duplicated.
As you can see, most of the Mayberry buildings are much taller than they appear on The Andy Griffith Show. Andy and the producers felt that, by keeping the camera angles low, viewers would get more of a 'small-town feel' rather than showing the taller buildings - such as the four-story Mayberry Hotel1 (top right).
"Forty Acres" Backlot
There is significant history to the Mayberry set. The Culver City studio opened in the early 1920's by Thomas H. Ince - his second studio in the city.
In 1928, David Sarnoff, president of Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and Joseph P. Kennedy, merged the largest theater chain at the time, Keith-Albee-Orpheum, with Pathe Studios and the Film Booking Office of America (FBO) - a movie distribution organization acquired by Kennedy two years earlier. The new company was renamed the Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation, or RKO Studios.
One of RKO's first movies, The Bird of Paradise, was filmed at this location, then the studio started building up the backlot for jungle and village scenes for what later became the location for the Tarzan and King Kong movies.
In 1935, David O. Selznick leased the backlot property from RKO to construct the city of Atlanta, a railroad station, and the Tara mansion for the $4 million blockbuster movie, Gone With The Wind.
Several of the 'Atlanta' buildings used in the original Gone With The Wind set (that weren't burned down), were later used for the town of Mayberry.
In 1948, multi-millionaire tycoon and movie producer Howard Hughes acquired the studio, made a few forgettable movies, then it changed hands a few more times until 1956, when Desilu Studios purchased the studio buildings and backlot grounds then affectionately known as 'Forty Acres.'
On this 'Forty Acres' wedge of property adjacent to Ballona Creek (which was actually just under 29 acres), many popular television shows were filmed.
In addition to The Andy Griffith Show - The Adventures of Superman, Ozzie and Harriet, The Green Hornet, The Untouchables, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Hogan's Heros, Lassie, Batman, and episodes of Star Trek, were among the successful shows filmed at this location.
On Star Trek, the most-notable appearances of the forty acres lot were in the Miri episode (first airing on October 27, 1966 - season 1, episode 8) and City on the Edge of Forever (#28 originally airing on April 6, 1967). City on the Edge is a classic for The Andy Griffith Show fans where Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy end up in the early 20th century. One of the more interesting shots is where William Shatner and Joan Collins are walking down Main Street, passing in front of Floyd's Barber Shop!
Filming of Interior Shots
While the outdoor filming was produced at Desilu Studio's '40 Acres' backlot, many of the interior shots were filmed at Desilu's Cahuenga Studios, now Ren-Mar Studios, at 846 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. Old Desilu production schedule reports reveal that The Andy Griffith Show reserved Desilu-Cahuenga's Stage 1 and 2 for Thursday through Wednesday shoots (with weekends off) for each of the 249 episodes they produced.
In 1967, Desilu sold the studio buildings and backlot to Gulf & Western Industries, and later to Paramount Studios - a G&W subsidiary. All good things must eventually come to an end, however, and in 1976, the 'Forty Acres' backlot was bulldozed to make room for an industrial park.
Did You Know? The Andy Griffith Show was in the top 10 ratings throughout its eight year run, and was #1 when Andy left on April 1, 1968.
Did You Know? Jackie Gleason never won an Emmy, but his sidekick Art Carney won five for The Honeymooners.
Andy Griffith shared Gleasonís bad fortune, having never won an Emmy either, while Don Knotts - like Carney - won five for The Andy Griffith Show.
Did You Know? Joanna Moore, who played nurse Peggy McMillan in four TAGS episodes, married Ryan O'neal and is the mother of child actress Tatum O'neal.
Did You Know? Suzanne Cupito played Opie's girlfriend, Mary Alice Carter in episode 220, Opie's First Love.
Suzanne later changed her name to Morgan Brittany, of Dallas fame.
Don't Miss These
1. Mr. McBeevee
2. Man in a Hurry
3. Opie's Hobo Friend
4. Barney and the Cave Rescue
5. Mayberry goes Bankrupt
6. Barney Gets His Man
7. Opieís Newspaper
8. Opie The Birdman
9. The Jinx
10. The Pickle Story
Did You Know? The opening theme song was whistled by the show's music composer, Earle Hagen.
Barney on Litter
"You start with gum wrappers, and then it's paper bags, then newspapers, then tin cans, then rubbish.
First thing you know Mayberry's up to here in litter! Now litter brings slums and slums bring crime.
Is that what you want to see started here in Mayberry, a crime wave?
Well I don't and I aim to Nip It In The Bud!"
Did You Know? Each of The Andy Griffth Show episodes were originally 24 1/2 minutes long.
Over time, the networks shortened the show to 22 minutes to allow for increased advertising.
The remaining 2 1/2 missing minutes is cut out of the middle, or in the closing epilogue of each show.