The last years of Andy Griffith were marked by a profound relationship with this Oscar-winning actor: “I was like a son to him”


Popular television actor Andy Griffith lost his son to alcoholism and his dear friend Don Knotts to cancer in the decade or so before his death in 2012.

Eventually, the “Andy Griffith Show” star developed a lifelong friendship with the Oscar-winning actor, who said that Griffith viewed him with love and treated him like a sibling.

In 1996, Griffith’s son died.

Andy Griffith and his first wife, Barbara, were unable to produce children and in 1958, nicknamed Sam, adopted their son, Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr.

In his 2015 book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Daniel de Visé wrote that Sam “idolized his famous father but resented the pressures that came with being his son,”

Andy’s son started to drink more and more, to the extent where his dad finally cut off all contact with him, claiming that he had “emotionally disinherited”

Sam died at age 37 in January 1996, “slumped over a desk in his North Hollywood home.” Sam was described in his obituary as an unemployed contractor who had “drunk himself to death,” de Visé said.

When Don [Knotts] called to offer his sympathies, all Andy could say was, “It’s very, very, very painful.” Andy didn’t talk much about Sam after that.

“But he confessed to Don once, “I do not know how good a father I have been.

In ‘Matlock’, Billy Bob Thornton met Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith had a “long and bitter” grudge which started in his early career.

Thornton, who received an Academy Award in 1997 for his script for the film Sling Blade, met Griffith when, in the 1980s, he landed a small role in the latter’s hit TV series Matlock.

The younger star, a devoted Andy Griffith Show viewer, had been a Griffith fan for decades and told him so.

“Billy approached Andy on set and said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that you are basically the reason I started acting.’ In response, Andy “sort of looked at me curiously and then walked away,” he reminded de Visé.

Griffith and Thornton were good friends,

In the mid-1990s, Griffith started calling Thornton “all the time” according to Thornton’s comments to de Visé.

Then the two men started “having dinner together when Andy was in town.”

On one occasion, Griffith invited Don Knotts, his old friend, over for dinner, which for Thornton was an amazing moment. He said to de Visé, “It was like being in a dream,”

However, more frequently,” continued de Visé, “Andy and Billy dined alone.

These sessions always ended after a few glasses of wine, with Andy “crying and putting his arm around me” and Billy saying “that I was like a son to him.”

“And then he would beg me to stop smoking.

“And he spoke of losing his son. He said, “I don’t want you to be lost.


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