6 things you probably didn't know about Jack Dodson of The Andy Griffith Show
He actually played two Mayberry characters.
Barney Fife left big shoes to fill. When Emmy-winner Don Knotts left The Andy Griffith Show at the end of season five, the sitcom retooled. For starters, the show made a bold leap into color. The producers made an obvious attempt to replace Barney with another bumbling, by-the-book deputy, Warren Ferguson (Jack Burns). He lasted just 11 episodes.
It would be another cast addition that would help fill the comedic void left not only by Knotts but Jim Nabors, too, who was headlining his own Gomer Pyle spin-off by then.
Jack Dodson made his debut as milquetoast county clerk Howard Sprague in an episode called, well, "The County Clerk." Howard Sprague quickly became a fan favorite and appeared in 37 episodes total. That's more than Mayberry denizens like Otis Campbell, Clara Edwards, Thelma Lou and, yes, Gomer Pyle. A mama's boy, Howard's love life became the focus of several memorable stories. It's hard not to see his influence on TV characters like Principal Skinner of The Simpsons.
Howard Sprague played a major part in Return to Mayberry, the 1986 reunion movie. Perhaps you remember his many shades of hair in his attempts to look younger. His comedic relief was due in large parts to the talents of Dodson. So let's dive deeper into the career of this beloved Andy Griffith Show actor.
1. He made his very first screen appearance in the very last episode of 'Car 54, Where Are You?'
"The Curse of the Snitkins" aired in April 1963 as the 60th and final episode of the hilarious Car 54, Where Are You? While the episode served as a goodbye to characters like Leo Schnauser, it was an introduction to Jack Dodson, who played a construction worker fixing up the police station. Dodson had a few lines in scene with Al Lewis, but went uncredited in the episode. Coincidentally, Richard Mulligan, the TV star best known for Soap and Empty Nest, also pops up in a very early uncredited role.
2. Any Griffith discovered him on Broadway.
A year later, Dodson was earning acclaim on Broadway. Alongside Jason Robards, he co-starred in Hughie, a two-actor play by Nobel laureate Eugene O'Neill. Andy Griffith happened to catch the show in the Royale Theatre and witnessed the Dodson's performance. That's how Dodson got booked for a role in Mayberry.
3. He played another Mayberry character.
Well, when Dodson first showed his face on The Andy Griffith Show, it was as another Mayberry citizen. In the season six episode "Lost and Found," Dodson visits the Taylor house as insurance man Ed Jenkins. Just seven episodes later, Dodson returned as Howard Sprague. Certainly, some viewers probably thought, "Hey, wasn't that guy just selling insurance a couple of months ago?"
4. He was the only other actor from 'The Andy Griffith Show' to appear on 'Happy Days' with Ron Howard.
Ron Howard (and his agent) struck gold again when landed the lead role in Happy Days, which ran for a decade. As Richie Cunningham, he was able to move beyond the public image of "Opie." Surprisingly, just one series regular from The Andy Griffith Show ever appeared on Happy Days. It was Dodson, of course, who had a small recurring role as Dr. Mickey Malph, optometrist father or Ralph.
5. He appeared in a commercial for something called Slime Worms in 1978.
Before Nickelodeon was dumping green slime on heads, Mattel sold tons of its Slime toy in the 1970s. The toy maker introduced its green goop in 1976. It came in a garbage-can-shaped plastic bucket. The sludge proved to be so popular, Mattel launched a Slime Monster board game and various iterations of Slime. One of those was Slime Worms, a tub of slime riddled with plastic worms. Who better to promote the stuff than Howard Sprague himself, Jack Dodson? He played a postman in the 1978 commercial.
6. His wife had a major hand in 'Murder, She Wrote.'
Mary Dodson was an accomplished television art director. Her main body of work was on Murder, She Wrote, but Mrs. Dodson also earned credits on Full House, Taxi and Battlestar Galactica. She also happened to be the younger sister of Fritz Weaver, a wonderful character actor seen in the Twilight Zone episode "Third from the Sun" and Creepshow.
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