by S. J. Martiene
On July 3rd and July 8th, respectively, the entertainment world lost two of its legendary citizens: Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine. Both actors left a long legacy of films and TV work to keep generations of fans indulged forever. We take this moment to pay tribute to them both.
Ernest Borgnine (born in 1917) made his film debut in 1951’s CHINA CORSAIR as gambling room owner, Hu Chang. Borgnine, usually cast as a heavy, landed roles in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and of all things, JOHNNY GUITAR. Borgnine won an Oscar for his role as a lonely butcher in 1955’s MARTY. He also co-starred in two movies with Bette Davis: A CATERED AFFAIR and BUNNY O’HARE (which if you have never seen it, count your blessings). Borgnine’s resume blossomed in the 50’s and 60’s with such movies as THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE WILD BUNCH, AND ICE STATION ZEBRA, MCHALE’S NAVY and an appearance on THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW. This is something he shared in common with Andy Griffith, along with his long friendship with George “Goober” Lindsey who passed away earlier this year.
In the 1970’s, Borgnine ran the gamut of genres between his TV and movie appearances. This list includes THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, HOLIDAY HOOKERS, and the acclaimed TV mini-series, JESUS OF NAZARETH. Not to leave out the younger audience, his voice-over work will always be remembered as Mermaidman in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. Finally, one of his bad movies will live on as MERLIN’S SHOP OF MYSTICAL WONDERS was lovingly skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (episode #1003).
Ernest Borgnine is survived by his wife, Tova, his children, and his younger sister.
Andy Griffith (born in 1926) began his film career with a bang. In 1957’s A FACE IN THE CROWD, Griffith commands attention as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a two-bit hood turned megalomaniac superstar. If the 1957 Best Actor Nominees had not included such stalwarts as James Dean, Rock Hudson, Laurence Olivier, Kirk Douglas and Yul Brynner, I believe Griffith would have had a shot at it. Yes, he was THAT good.
Shortly thereafter, Griffith reprised his stage role in a film version of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS (and began his collaboration with Don Knotts). He continued to do movies until he made history with an appearance on THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW in the character of Sheriff Andy Taylor. Shortly thereafter, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW premiered and ran nearly the entire decade of the 1960’s. Since then, it has never been off the air.
The 1970’s and early 1980’s, Griffith did few feature films, had a few not-so-popular television series, made guest appearances on TV shows, and made several made-for-TV movies. In 1983, Griffith was afflicted with Guillain–Barré syndrome, paralyzing him from the knees down and he was unable to walk for several months. It wasn’t long after this serious health issue that he began this writer’s favorite Andy Griffith character, Benjamin Matlock. MATLOCK, a series about a lawyer from Atlanta, ran from 1986-1995. In several of the episodes his co-stars included ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW cast members Don Knotts, Aneta Corsaut, Jack Dodson, and Betty Lynn. Griffith was not without showing more of his “dark side” in television movies. In UNDER THE INFLUENCE (1986) and GRAMPS (1995), he played both murderous and alcoholic characters. Griffith is survived by his wife and daughter. He was preceded in death by his son, Andy Griffith, Jr. in 1996.
To say both of these actors will be missed is an understatement. Fortunately for us, syndication and the availability of online streaming and DVD’s, their bodies of work will never fade away.