Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show
By Daniel de Vise
A Book Review by Michael Limon
This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for a book review
Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show is a love story between two Hollywood actors and best friends. In his book, author Daniel de Vise goes into great detail describing the lives of both men both professionally and personally. He starts out with each man’s background, and how they actually got into acting. In fact, the two men would have never met at all if they had not just missed out on prior acting auditions, and met up at the audition for No Time for Sergeants. Andy Griffith and Don Knotts would become lifelong friends after working on that play. Each man married three times, and the author dives into their marriages. It was surprising to me to discover that the nice Sheriff from Mayberry was prone to drinking and had a terrible temper which he often took out on his first wife. Don Knotts recently out of work saw his pal Andy on his new show, The Andy Griffith Show. Thinking quickly and not telling anyone, he places a phone call to Griffith with one basic question. “Don’t you think the Sheriff out to have a deputy?” Eventually, Knotts is hired, and Deputy Barney Fife is born. Griffith was also a shrewd businessman and when Knotts was eager to leave The Andy Griffith Show, Andy offered him a percentage of the show (Andy Griffith was a part owner of The Andy Griffith Show) and thought that Don wanted at least 50 percent of the show. Knott turns it down, ultimately leaving the TV series and goes on to make feature films like The Ghost and Mrs. Chicken, and Mr. Limpet amongst others. Again the author goes into details about Barney Fife’s last episode which was very touching. Knotts does come back and visits the series in guest spots as well as two Andy Griffith Return to Mayberry specials. The book also talks about how Knotts landed the part of Mr. Furley on Three’s Company. The producers were actually looking for him and he didn’t need to audition for the role. They just hired him. Griffith was not as successful as first, but does eventually go on to making some movies and is hired as Matlock the southern attorney. I really enjoyed reading this book. It is detailed with many facts and the timeline is in order. It gives the reader an insight into how hard it is to be an actor and the struggles that they go through. One aspect of Andy Griffith’s life that I found fascinating was that he actually held a grudge with many of the people in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the town where he grew up. He never forgot or forgave the people that burned him or would not help him when he first started out. He kept that grudge going years later when he retired and returned to North Carolina. Another nice part of the book is when Don Knotts is on his deathbed. Andy rushes to the hospital and tells his best friend, “Come on Jess. That’s it. Breathe!” Jess was Don Knotts first name, and Griffith often called him by it, which Knotts didn’t care for. Andy Griffith would join his friend in death some six years later after his health failed. This is a great love story between two men who loved each other’s company, and spent as much time together as possible. When they weren’t together they were on the phone with each other. If you are a fan of either man, or just a fan of the shows that they were in, this book is for you. You can’t miss by buying it and reading it. It’s the kind of book that you can read again and again and still learn something that you might have missed in the first read. Very informative and well written!