‘Matlock’: Here’s Why Andy Griffith Wore Cheap Suits and Ate Hot Dogs All the Time

These days legal dramas are a dime a dozen, but part of the inspiration for their popularity comes from one very popular retro series. Matlock was a mystery legal drama starring Andy Griffith that’s still beloved to this day. One of the most memorable elements of the show was the main character and his eccentricities.

From the dramatic courtroom speeches to the mysterious elements throughout, Matlock was a true gem. And the main character, the cantankerous yet brilliant lawyer Ben Matlock, really made the series shine.

‘Matlock’ star Ben Matlock thought his fees were a ‘bargain’

Ben Matlock
Andy Griffith as Benjamin Matlock | NBCU Photo Bank vi Getty Images

Ben Matlock went to Harvard Law and set up his own law practice in Atlanta after serving a few years as a public defender. Though Matlock accepted pro bono work occasionally, he mostly charged clients $100,000 due up front. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a fee of close to a quarter million dollars. His defense for exorbitant fees was his court record for acquittals.

His staffers defended the fees, saying, “He’s considered a bargain,” according to IMDb. But even though Matlock wasn’t scared to charge his clients a lot of money, in his personal life he was downright stingy.

Andy Griffith as Matlock always ate hot dogs and wore the same suit

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Sometimes the richest people in life have the cheapest habits, and that’s true enough with Matlock. On the show, Matlock is always eating hot dogs and constantly recycling the same suit. The explanation for his behavior comes courtesy of Griffith reprising the role in a 1993 episode of Diagnosis Murder.

In the episode, fans learn that Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) gave Matlock some bad investment advice which he never recovered from. Dr. Sloan convinced Matlock to sink $5,000 (the equivalent of around $34,000 today) into the 8-track tape industry.

When that decision didn’t pay off, Matlock was forced to buy cheap suits and eat dog dogs to survive. Meanwhile, Griffith personally had a penchant for peanut butter — not hot dogs — during filming, Social Gazette reported.

Thanks to his legal fees and future success, Matlock could later afford fancier meals and clothes. But that sense of frugality stuck with him instead.

‘Matlock’ was a critical success

Andy Griffith and Brynn Thayer | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

Even decades later, Matlock is considered a cult classic thanks to clever writing and a few unique elements that made it special. The show was filmed in Los Angeles but based in Atlanta, which made it a bit of a novelty. Plus, the format varied slightly from other contemporary crime dramas.

Besides just his same gray suit, Matlock always drove the same kind of car. His gray Ford Crown Victoria was reminiscent of the Ford Galaxie 500 Andy Taylor drove on The Andy Griffith Show. Still, the role was quite different from his old show, and highlighted darker moral themes on many episodes.

Griffith intentionally tried to distinguish Matlock from Andy Taylor. But one thing he managed brilliantly was creating two exceptional characters who fans won’t soon forget.