The Andy Griffith Show has grown in stature as a comedy among classic television comedies over the decades. And the show made stars out of its principal actors: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and Ron Howard.
An important player in the show’s crew is someone you’ve probably never heard of. But most of the cast said this person was one of the set’s most valuable members.
The cast of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was like a family
Many of the show’s cast members have said working on The Andy Griffith Show set was like being part of a family unit. It was definitely hard work. But in between filming, there was heartfelt camaraderie and friendship, as Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show author Daniel de Visé noted.
“Andy knew a few things he would do differently on The Andy Griffith Show,” the author wrote. “Andy wanted his own soundstage to be productive but relaxed. He envisioned cast and crew functioning like an extended family: exchanging gifts at Christmas, eating lunch together at the commissary, playing music in the dressing rooms, even staging the occasional practical joke.”
The crew member who knew all the on-set happenings
One crew member who many of the cast agreed knew the ins and outs of the set and the cast’s lives was its makeup artist Lee Greenway.
The Andy Griffith Show author Richard Kelly wrote of Greenway: “The one person on the set who probably knew the most about the goings and comings of everybody on the show was the makeup man, Lee Greenway. Everyone had to sit in his chair three mornings a week. He knew all the gossip and functioned as the peacemaker.”
Kelly revealed that Greenway, much like a neighborhood bartender, heard everyone’s woes and did his best to smooth out bruised egos and stepped-on toes.
“Occasionally, when [Aunt Bee actor] Frances Bavier, who was a very sensitive woman, would get her feelings hurt, she would call in to say she was not feeling well and would arrive late. Everyone knew this meant she was angry or disturbed about something. Greenway would soon have things patched up. He was unofficially the ‘make up’ man in that sense.”
Andy Griffith thought the world of Lee Greenway
In an interview years after the lights dimmed on The Andy Griffith Show, the show’s star told The Associated Press of Greenway: “I guess some of the fondest memories along with everything else would be the time I spent with Lee Greenway. He was a wild, wonderful man, very entertaining, plays guitar and a five-string banjo, and we had a wonderful time.”
De Visé confirmed this portrait of the set makeup artist. “When the camera wasn’t rolling, Andy seemed intent on running his show like a big ole family picnic, with song and dance, food and drink, and much general merriment,” he wrote. “Lee Greenway kept a five-string banjo on hand. After lunch, Andy would grab his guitar and the two men would begin to play and sing.”
Greenway became one of Griffith’s closest friends, de Visé revealed, quoting Howard as saying the crew member was “kind of like Ed McMahon” to Griffith’s Johnny Carson. “They’d start singing these hymns or these country tunes. And he’d get Andy singing, and doing these kooky harmonies, and he’d be laughing his head off.”