8 questions about this celebration of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
MOUNT AIRY, NC (WGHP) — The movie’s name is “Mayberry Man,” but it sounds a bit like “Back to the Future.”
Clint Howard, brother of invaluable actor/director Ron Howard and occasional co-star on “The Andy Griffith Show,” took to social media last week to tout this hitherto little-discussed project tied to one of the hottest brands. popular in North Carolina.
Because we live in this sphere of influence of the real Mayberry, the concept of “Mayberry Man” was both exciting and confusing. Clint Howard wasn’t the first word about the movie, but it was all a little surprising nonetheless.
And then there’s the plot of “Mayberry Man”: A selfish actor is pulled over for speeding in a small Southern town and is ordered by the judge to attend “Mayberry Fest.”
Second, we all know that Mount Airy East Mayberry. It is the birthplace of Andy Griffith, and was the inspiration for his television show. The town embraces its heritage as Otis Campbell has protected its stash of “brilliance,” from restaurants to gift shops to the Griffith Museum and to each fall’s celebration of Mayberry Days, the festival at which the original stars of the show have always flowed.
But, if you know anything about “The Andy Griffith Show,” you know it all emanates from a February 1960 episode of the sitcom “Make Room For Daddy,” featuring singer and comedian Danny Thomas.
You might recall from this episode that a rather loud and selfish entertainer, Danny Williams (aka Thomas), was arrested for running a stop sign in a small southern town. The presiding sheriff and justice of the peace, to Williams’ astonishment and antagonism, was Andy Taylor.
Williams protested the injustice, was fined $100 or 10 days in jail, then filed a complaint with the “Mayberry Gazette”, whose editor was – yes – Andy Taylor (box: Opie Taylor, aka Ron Howard, grew up to do this job in “Return to Mayberry,” a TV movie sequel). Ron Howard and Frances Bavier appeared in the episode, and a character featured the drunken Campbell Town.
Williams was sentenced to prison, then aired his complaint on a counterfeit Edward R. Murrow show, and out of this a comedy was born. “The Andy Griffith Show” hit the airwaves the following October.
“Mayberry Man” wasn’t something quite so auspicious, launching as an independent film in 2021 not from another show but from a son’s dream and designated not for prime time on CBS but as a pay-per-view order on Prime after a few premieres in Indiana theaters.
Here are eight questions that yielded some pretty intriguing information.
1. So do we recognize anyone involved in this movie?
Brett Varvel plays Chris Stone, the actor, and Ashley Elaine plays a festival organizer. Unlike the hilarious “Make Room For Daddy” episode, this one had romantic schmaltz and personal discovery among the laughs. The cast also includes actors who have played Floyd Lawson and Gomer and Goober and Mayor Pike, who may sound familiar. A woman named Karen Knotts, yes, the daughter of Don “Barney Fife” Knotts, played herself by making an appearance at the festival. Who knew she was in “Return to Mayberry” and about 20 other acting roles? Another was producer/actor Gregory Schell, who had another acting credit but is also the son of Ronnie Schell, who played Gomer Pyle’s pal Duke in “Gomer Pyle USMC,” a CBS spin-off .
2. We didn’t see the film crews at Mount Airy. Where was this filmed?
This is where this discussion takes a mysterious turn for anyone in North Carolina. “Mayberry Man” was primarily filmed in various locations in Indiana and California, focusing in part on a Mayberry in the Midwest Festival held each year in Danville, Indiana, a town of about 6,400 people west of ‘Indianapolis. The Danville Festival Parade was an element used in the film. But, as a hotel employee in the film tells actor Chris Stone, “Mayberry isn’t just a place; it is a state of mind. It’s in Georgia. It’s in Indiana. It’s even in California. This kind of explains everything. Unfortunately, the organizers canceled the Danville festival last week. So much for product placement.
3. Wait, why the hell was it filmed in Indiana. There aren’t many small southern towns in Indiana? And Mount Airy has the real festival that hasn’t been canceled.
The film is the creation of its writer/director, Stark Howell, and his brother Cort, a producer who had a role in the film. They chose locations near their hometown in Indiana. They were involved because their father, Hoke Howell, was connected to the show and attended Mayberry Days, and when they were kids they played with the Howards.
4. Who was Hoke Howell and what is his connection?
This Howell was a character actor who had some 129 roles – almost always minor ones – in television series and films between 1961 and 2000, three years after his death. Among these were two appearances on “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1963 as PFC Dudley “Dud” Walsh, who you may recall was engaged to “Romena Darling”, a woman from the mountain whose engagement dispute prompted Andy and Barney to visit his family and their antagonist, Ernest T. Bass. Hoke Howell also attended various events to celebrate the show, the Indianapolis Star said.
5. Did the people of Mount Airy even know about this movie and the plot?
We turn here to Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, who oversees Mayberry Days and the Andy Griffith Museum. “I was asked about the concept of a Stark Howell movie when he visited Mayberry Days a few years ago,” she said. “Mount Airy was a filming location for some scenes, although much of it was shot in/near Cort Howell’s hometown of Indiana. There were other scenes shot in California, where Stark lives. Mount Airy scenes included ‘The Loaded Goat’, ‘Wally’s Service Station’ and others. Much, if not all, of the filming was done during the pandemic, which affected things.
6. Did the actors impersonating Mayberry Days play those roles in this movie?
Jones: “Yes, several of the TAGS ‘tribute artists’ who come to Mayberry Days are in the film. Many die-hard fans who donated money through a crowdsourcing campaign also appear in the film.
7. If you’re wondering if this movie could tread on Mount Airy’s marks, you have a legitimate question.
Jones said the Howells were made aware of the licensing issues. “The Surry Arts Council is very careful, when asked about legal matters, to refer people to CBS or entertainment lawyers for information,” she said. “They found a generic name for the festival in the film.”
8. Does this help Mount Airy in any way?
“Fans seem to be enjoying the film, and we hope it helps keep Mayberry Days and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ popular,” Jones said.
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