Three veteran actors passed away this month: Andy Griffith (7/3/2012), Ernest Borgnine (7/8/2012) and Sherman Hemsley (7/25/2012). All three were my favorite TV actors when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After reading their obituaries with great interest, I noticed a trend among the obituaries for all three. They made no mention of the specific TV show or movie that I came to love each of these actors for.
Although I enjoyed watching “The Andy Griffith Show” as a young child, I was more of a Don Knotts fan back then. I didn’t appreciate Andy Griffith until he appeared in “Salvage 1” that ran for one season in 1979, about a junkman who builds his own rocket to recover all the junk left by NASA on the Moon. This series aired before the fiery demise of Skylab and the beginning of the space shuttle program. Ordinary citizens building a workable spaceship despite the federal government’s monopoly on spaceflight was an intriguing idea back then, and more so now that private spaceflight is becoming a reality.
Ernest Borgnine had a famous face that appeared in many movies and TV shows long before I was born. Until he appeared along with Jan-Michael Vincent (“Damnation Alley”) in “Airwolf,” I never took noticed of him. As the father figure and mentor to a reclusive Viet Nam veteran fighter pilot who stole an advanced military helicopter, I wished I had someone like him when I was growing up as a teenager.
I first saw Sherman Hemsley in “All In The Family” as the black neighbors who tormented Archie Bunker in his bigotry, and became a huge fan with “The Jeffersons” about being a successful businessman. But that’s not the role I remembered him best for. It’s in the movie, “Love At First Bite,” as a Harlem minister performing a funeral at a black church, when Count Dracula (George Hamiliton) pops open the coffin. Needless to say, a dead black man coming back to life as an undead white man is very unsettling. Mrs. Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) also makes an appearance as a court judge in this movie.