Bernard Fox explained how his memorable Mayberry character followed him for the rest of his life
In just three visits, Malcolm Merriweather became a Mayberry treasure.
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Malcolm Merriweather visited Mayberry only three times, but it wasn't often an Englishman came to town, so the character remains a standout for many fans. According to Bernard Fox, who played the visiting British valet, the opportunity came about because The Andy Griffith Show writer Harvey Bullock had liked Fox's work on The Danny Thomas Show, so they called the actor in to see what kind of funny character he could create in Mayberry.
We first meet Malcolm in the show's third season, which was right about when Andy Griffith had figured out that he played best as the straight man, and he was always looking for ways to pepper in zany characters to the show to play off the good-natured sheriff.
The year was 1963, the episode "Andy's English Valet," and Fox's big entrance comes less than two minutes in when he pedals his bike right up to Andy's squad car parked outside his home, screeches his bike to a stop and calls out words that stick out like a sore thumb in Mayberry: "Excuse me, Constable."
Confused, Andy approaches, hands in pockets, and Fox continues stumbling, "You are the constable, aren't you? I mean, I saw the car with the thingamagig on top and I took it for granted you might be in the way of being the constable."
Andy corrects him, "Actually, I'm the sheriff," and this bit of information tickles the Mayberry tourist who says, "Isn't that wonderful, yeah?" and shares a friendly laugh with the befuddled Andy. It's a charming scene that's quite unlike any other introduction we've had in Mayberry, a town packed full of colorful characters like Otis Campbell, Ernest T. Bass and all those Darlings, but very few out of towners that come from beyond the bordering hills (except a few rambling musiciains and a few times Hollywood came to town).
It's perhaps because Malcolm Merriweather is one of the few characters from overseas who step foot in Mayberry that he remains so memorable to The Andy Griffith Show fans, whom Fox once said in an interview with bewitched.net went to surprisingly great lengths to express their love of the minor Mayberry character:
"On The Andy Griffith Show, I had another nice character, Malcolm Merriweather, that was bicycling across America. And there are people from the South who have actually gone to England, looking for Malcolm Merriweather, to see where he lived. They told them they thought he was still bicycling around in America."
It's funny to think of fans who occasionally flock to North Carolina to celebrate their favorite classic TV show making the haul to England to try to find the home of Malcolm Merriweather, but as Ernest T. Bass actor Howard Morris once pointed out, Mayberry fans are very dedicated.
It's also true that Malcolm Merriweather proved so popular with fans that writers brought him back twice, in "The Return of Malcolm Merriweather" and "Malcolm at the Crossroads," each time finding Fox back in Mayberry and taking on odd jobs and even once finding him at odds with Ernest T. Bass – and prepared to fight, with Goober's help.
And although Fox famously went on to portray Dr. Bombay on Bewitched, in the same interview, he said it was his Mayberry character that stood out to fans who recognized him in one of his final film roles:
"There's a website for The Andy Griffith Show, and somebody sent me a printout that said, 'I was watching Titanic, and all of a sudden - Malcolm Merriweather came on!'"
It just goes to show that Mayberry is a such a small town, everybody has a chance to make their mark, even if they're just passing through by bicycle. Fox summed it up in a podcast interview why Malcolm Merriweather belonged in The Andy Griffith Show universe, "Harvey thought it might be a nice change to have an Englishman coming into Mayberry." Change of pace indeed, we think Constable Andy would agree.