Thursday, July 26, 2012

Goodbye, Chad Everett

This has been a terrible month for former television stars.  Andy Griffith passed away on July 3rd.  Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson on TV's The Jeffersons, died two days ago at the age of 74.  Now comes word that Chad Everett, star of Medical Center, has succumbed to lung cancer.  The 75-year-old Everett died on July 24, 2012, at his home in Los Angeles.

Chad Everett was born on June 11, 1937 in South Bend, Indiana.  His birth name was Raymon Lee Cramton and he was raised in Dearborn, Michigan.  He developed an interest in theatre while attending Fordston High School in Dearborn.  After studying at Detroit's Wayne University, the aspiring actor decided to try his luck in Hollywood. His agent, Henry Wilson, was able to secure him a contract with Warner Brothers. Wilson, during the 1950s, managed a slew of handsome young male stars such as Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, Robert Wagner and Troy Donahue.

At the time of his signing with Warner, Raymon Lee Cramton changed his name to Chad Everett, apparently because he was weary of explaining that Raymon had no "d" and Cramton had no "p."  The newly named Chad Everett's first noteworthy role came with his appearance in the 1960-1962 detective series Surfside.  A year later, he had a major role in the film Claudelle English.  He then portrayed Deputy Del Stark in the short-lived 1963 TV western, The Dakotas.  The up-and-coming actor appeared in myriad films and television series in the latter part  of the 1960s, but it was not until 1969 that he he got his big break when he was cast in the role of Dr. Joe Gannon in a new medical drama called Medical Centre. 

To watch the introduction and opening theme of Medical Center, click on the link below.

Medical Center ran  for seven seasons, from 1969 until 1976, and it was a huge hit. Everett and his co-star, James Daley, played doctors at an unnamed hospital complex in Los Angeles.  Daly played the role of Dr. Paul Lochner, chief of staff. Everett's character, Dr. Joe Gannon, was an associate professor of surgery.  Gannon was sensitive, compassionate and good looking, the Dr. McDreamy of that particular television era.

The popular CBS series revolved around the personal conflicts and the health issues of the hospitals doctors and patients. One of its core conflicts was youth versus age and experience, as represented by Gannon and his venerable superior, Dr. Lochner.

Although Chad Everett will be best remembered for his role on Medical Center, his acting career spanned four decades.  He made guest appearances on a wide variety of television shows including The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Touched by an Angel and Diagnosis Murder.  In 1998, he played the role of Thomas Sterling in four episodes of Melrose Place.

Chad portrayed a gay police officer named Jimmy Bruno in the detective series Cold Case.  The episode was entitled "Forever Blue" and it aired on December 3, 2006 (Season 4, Episode 10).  In 2009, he was noticed by a whole new generation of viewers when he played an older version of Dean Winchester in the fantasy series Supernatural.  

Earlier this year, despite declining health, Chad Everett made his final television appearance in an episode of Castle, a comedy/drama about a novelist who is also a police detective.  The episode, entitled "The Blue Butterfly," aired on February 26. 2012.

Everett lost his wife of 45 years, actress Shelby Grant, just last year.  Shelby died of a sudden brain aneurysm on June 25, 2011 at the age of 74.  The couple were married on May 22, 1966 in Tucson, Arizona.  They had two daughters, Katherine Kerrie "Kate" Everett Thorp and Shannon Kimberly Everett, as well as six grandchildren.

Shlby Grant


* Chad Everett's politics were decidedly conservative and Republican.  He created a stir in 1972 when he angered comedian Lilly Tomlin on The Dick Cavett Show.  Tomlin, an ardent feminist, stormed off  the set when Everett made some extremely chauvinistic remarks.on Cavett's program.  She became infuriated when he referred when he referred to his wife, horse and dog as his "property."

* James Daly, Chad Evertt's co-star on Medical Center, died of heart failure on July 3, 1978.  Daly was 59 years old at the time of his passing.

Chad Everett and James Daly in July, 1969

- Joanne

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tribute to Andy Griffith

Another television legend is gone.  Andy Griffith, died today at his home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina.  The actor, best known for his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, was 86 years old.  He will be sadly missed and long-remembered for his easy-going Southern style.  It is fitting that this native of North Carolina passed away in his home state rather than in Hollywood.  From his down-home country style to his heavy Southern drawl, Griffith oozed a folksy charm that endeared him to television viewers.  He represented Main Street, not Tinseltown.

In response to the news of Andy Griffith's passing, Governor Beverly Perdue of North Carolina stated, "North Carolina has lost its favourite son.  Andy Griffith graciously stepped into the living rooms of generations of Americans, always with the playful charm that made him the standard by which entertainers would be measured for decades."  "In an increasingly complicated world."  she said, "we all yearn for the days of Mayberry."

Mayberry, North Carolina was the sleepy, fictional little town depicted on The Andy Griffith Show.  It was an idealized vision of small town America, unabashedly corny and undeniably sentimental at times.  It was also pure escapism.   In the 1960s, people took refuge from the  political and social turbulence of the times by following the adventures of Mayberry's citizens, including the town's sheriff, widower Andy Taylor, and his bumbling deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts).  Hollywood film director Ron Howard, a former child actor, played Andy's son, Opie.Taylor.  Howard was then known as Ronny.

There was peace and order in Mayberry and Sheriff Taylor was wise and trustworthy. The only "criminal"  was Otis Campbell, the town drunk, and the most serious crime was manufacturing bootleg liquor.  Andy's kindly Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) was always there to deliver a scrumptious lunch to Andy at the courthouse or to bake an apple pie.  Many a show ended with Andy strumming his guitar as hie relaxed on his porch.

Life was much simpler in Mayberry and there was a clear difference between right and wrong.  Yet, although the town had a great sense of community, it also had a homogeneous population of white Protestants and there were no major black characters on the show.  "We tried in every way to get that to happen," Griffith once told USA Today, "but we were unable to do it."   (Hmmm . . .Why not?  Did the head honchos at CBS prevent it from happening?).

Andrew Samuel Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina on June 1, 1926, the only child of Carl Lee Griffith and his wife, Geneva (It is interesting to note that Andy was born on the very same day and year as Marilyn Monroe).  His parents were so poor that they were unable to take proper care of their child.  As a result, Andy had to live with relatives until his father obtained work as a carpenter and they were able to afford a new house.

Although he had originally intended to become a Moravian preacher, young Andy graduated with a degree in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1949.  During his college years, he became involved in drama and musical theatre. Before launching his career as an entertainer in the early 1950s, Andy made his living as a high school music teacher in North Carolina..  He began his show business career by writing comic monologues and performing them at civic clubs.

In 1953, Andy Griffith had a hit record with the comic monologue "What It Was, Was Football."  He moved to New York City where he made regular appearances on Ed Sullivan's Talk of the Town and The Steve Allen Show.  He made his television debut in 1954 as a guest monologist on Sullivan's show.  In 1955, he became a Broadway star with the comedy No Time for Sergeants for which he earned a Tony nomination.

Andy made his big screen debut in 1957's A Face in the Crowd opposite Patricia Neal. The film, directed by Elia Kazan, featured Griffith as a homespun drifter named Lonesome Rhodes who, thanks to an enterprising local radio produces (Neal), becomes an outspoken political pundit and media sensation.

With the dawn of a new decade, Andy rose to stardom with his own television series. The Andy Griffith Show ran from 1960 until 1968.  It was a spin-off from a  episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas.  In "Danny Meets Andy Griffith" (Season 7, Episode 20), Danny is arrested in Mayberry by Sheriff Taylor for a traffic violation.  The episode aired on February 15, 1960.

The Andy Griffith Show was a huge hit and it became a mainstay of 1960s American television.  Griffith left the show after the 1967-1968 season in order to pursue a film career and other interests.  He reprised his role as Andy Taylor in a 1986 television reunion special entitled "Return to Mayberry"  He also appeared in two other reunion specials in 1993 and 2003.

After the success of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy made several failed attempts to return to television stardom::  The Headmaster (1970-71), The New Andy Griffith Show (1971) on CBS, Salvage (1980) and the Western comedy series Best of the West (1981-82) on ABC.  In Headmaster, he portrayed Andy Thompson, the headmaster of the Concord School, a private California high school with high academic standards.  In The New Andy Griffith Show, he reverted to his small town country boy role as Andy Sawyer, who returns home to become interim mayor of Greenwood, North Carolina after working in the state capital.  Lee Meriwether portrayed his wife in the series.

Griffith and Merriwether 

Andy finally had another hit in 1986 with the courtroom drama Matlock.  In that murder mystery series, Griffith starred as Ben Matlock, a good-natured but crafty Atlanta lawyer.  Matlock was a Harvard-educated, Perry Mason-like defence attorney.  He would always prove the innocence of his clients with some last-minute revelation.  The show aired on NBC from  1986 until 1992 and on ABC from 1993 to 1995.  Andy's old friend, Don Knotts, appeared as Les Calhoun, Matlock's annoying neighbour, for 17 episodes from 1988 until 1992.  Knotts, who passed away on February 24, 2006 at the age of 81, also played Barney Fife in the very first episode of The New Andy Griffith Show.

Andy Griffith was married three times.  His first wife, Bray Edwards, was a fellow actor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The couple wed on August 22, 1949 and they adopted adopted two children: a son, Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr., born in 1957, and a daughter, Dixie Nan Griffith.  Their son, Andy Jr. (known as Sam), was a real estate developer and he died of alcohol abuse in 1996.  Barbara and Andy divorced in  1972.

In 1973, Andy Griffith married for a second time, to Greek actress Solica Cassuto. That marriage ended in 1981.  On April 12, 1983, Andy wed Cindi Knight, whom he met during the filming of the television movie Murder in Coweta County.  Cindi was with him at the time of his death.


* In 1983, Andy Griffith was stricken with Guillen-Barre syndrome, a debilitating muscular disease that left him paralyzed.for months.  After undergoing private rehabilitation, he made a full recovery and was able to resume his acting career.

* Andy Griffith appeared in an episode of the TV drama Dawson's Creek entitled "A Winter's Tale" (Season 4, Episode 14).  The episode aired on February 7, 2001.and Andy played a friend of the ailing Arthur Brooks (Harv Presnell), who was Dawson Leery's (James Van Der Beek) mentor.

* Andy's hometown of Mount Airy is widely thought to be the inspiration for Mayberry.  Not surprisingly, Mount Airy's website highlights the town's similarity to Mayberry in order to promote tourism.  A blurb on the site reads as follows:

Step back to a simpler time when you visit Mount Airy.  Actor Andy Griffith grew up here, and it's no co-incidence that a stroll down Mount Airy's Main Street reminds people of the town of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.

Mount Airy boasts an Andy Griffith Museum which contains memorabilia and props from the set of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.   The town also features Mayberry landmarks such as Floyd's Barber Shop and Wally's Garage.

Editor's Note:  Official records, including Andy Griffith's death certificate, were released on July 5, 2012.  They reveal that the cause of his death was a heart attack.

- Joanne