Andy Griffith’s Final Years Were Marked By a Deep Friendship With This Oscar-Winning Actor: ‘I Was Like a Son to Him’

Andy Griffith as Ben Matlock
Anndra Griffith as Ben Matlock | NBCU Photo Bank

In the twelve years or so before he died in 2012, popular television actor Andy Griffith had lost his son to alcoholism and his good friend Don Knotts to cancer.

Andy Griffith Exhibition the star eventually formed a lasting friendship with this Academy Award-winning actor, who said Griffith treated him with respect and treated him like a son.

Griffith ‘s son died in 1996

Andy Griffith with his first wife Barbara in 1965
Andy Griffith with his first wife Barbara in 1965 | Darlene Hammond / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

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

Sam “idolized a famous father but captured the pressure of being a son,” Daniel de Visé wrote in his 2015 book Andrew and Don: Making Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.

Andrew’s son started drinking more and more, to the point that his father stopped all communication with him, claiming that he had “emotionally disinfected” him.

Sam died in January 1996 at the age of 37, “falling down on a desk in his North Hollywood home.” Described in his obituary as an unemployed therapist, Sam was “drunk to death,” de Visé said.

“When Don [Knotts] called to show sympathy, Andrew can’t say he’s ‘It’s very, very, very painful.’ Andrew didn’t talk about Sam much after that. But he once confessed to Don, ‘I don’t know how good my father was.’ ”

Billy Bob Thornton met Andy Griffith on ‘Matlock’

Billy Bob Thornton visits 'The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' in 1997
Billy Bob Thornton visits ‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ in 1997 | Alice S. Hall / NBCU / NBCUniversal Photo Bank via Getty Images via Getty Images

Thornton, who won an Oscar in 1997 for his screenshot for the film Sling Blade, he met Griffith when he got a small spot on the famous actor’s courtroom television drama Matlock in the 1980s.

As a consecrated person Andy Griffith Exhibition viewer, the youngest actor had been a supporter of Griffith for decades and told him so.

“On the set, Billy walked up to Andrew and said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that you were literally the reason I started acting. ‘In response, Andrew looked at me strangely and walked away,’ he told de Visé.

Thornton and Griffith became good friends

Billy Bob Thornton and Andy Griffith in 2004
Billy Bob Thornton and Andy Griffith in Photos by Frank Micelotta / Getty

According to Thornton ‘s de Visé views, Griffith began calling Thornton “all the time” in the mid – 1990s. Then the two started eating together when Andrew was in town. ”

At one point, Griffith ‘s old friend, Don Knotts, was joining them for dinner, which was a wonderful time for Thornton. “It was like I was dreaming,” he told de Visé.

“Usually, though,” de Visé continued, “Andy and Billy ate alone. After a few glasses of wine, those sessions would always lead to Andy ‘crying and putting his arm around me,’ telling Billy ‘that I looked like a son to him.

“And then he begged me to stop smoking. And he talked about losing his son. He said, ‘I don’t want to lose you.’ ”

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