On a rare moment of channel-surfing the other night, I was halted by the whistle of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW theme song. (Unfortunately, the TV show theme song is a lost art – which I will address in a later FLOTS post.) Having grown up in rural North Carolina, an occasional serving of the Andy Griffith Show is as comforting to my soul as the sound of a distant train whistle in the wee hours of the night.
This particular episode was a treat because it featured my favorite character “Ernest T. Bass” played by the multi-talented Howard Morris. After “Ernest T.” is rejected by the object of his affection because he lacks education, Andy and his lady friend school teacher, Helen Crump, take on the duty to educate him. While I always adored “Ernest T.’s” hysterical rebellion as a kid, watching him as an adult [and filmmaker], I was awed by Mr. Morris’ precise choices as an actor.
Every actor will tell you that they work very hard to create the many layers of a character with their whole body. Actors will also tell you that listening is a vital part of their creative process. Looking into Howard Morris’ eyes as he listened to Andy Griffith in this performance, revealed a fierce focus and peaceful “in the moment” presence that is the embodiment of character at its best – and the reason why we all still love “Ernest T. Bass” after more than half a century.
A dynamic film artist, Howard Morris brought this passion to every medium of his art. Whether acting in sketch comedies with Danny Kaye or Sid Caesar, or directing episodes of series such as BEWITCHED, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE LOVE BOAT or the pilot for GET SMART. For the big screen, he directed WHO’S MINDING THE MINT? and WITH SIX YOU GET EGG ROLL, featuring George Carlin and Doris Day.
Those of us who spent our Saturday mornings in front of the TV in the late 60s and early 70s, remember Howard Morris as the voice of many cartoon characters including Archie’s pal “Jughead”, “Mr. Peebles” from MAGILLA GORILLA, ADAM ANT, and a plethora of voices in Hanna-Barbera productions such as THE FLINTSTONES and THE JETSONS.
It’s artists like Mr. Morris, whose name we don’t often know or recall, who give us some of our most memorable and entertaining moments of the screen.
Time is priceless… Voice is a gift… Show your love!