Did you know Rambo's mentor once rescued The Andy Griffith Show?
Richard Crenna saved the day in 1963. He also brought a new perspective to Mayberry — and rethought the front door. Did you notice?
In the Sixties on The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy was prone to short, quippy speeches to teach his boy Opie right from wrong.
In the 1982 movie Rambo: First Blood, Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) did not believe in such brevity. Instead, he made long, heated speeches any time his old friend and mentee John Rambo acts out.
Both the sheriff and the colonel were trying to share the value of their experiences. You may not know it, but Crenna and Griffith have crossed paths well before the colonel started setting Rambo right.
In 1963, Crenna helped rescue The Andy Griffith Show at a key moment when leadership was desperately needed.
Richard Crenna is a prolific actor who started acting in the 1950s, appearing on shows like I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best, and joining the casts of shows like Our Miss Brooks and The Real McCoys.
On The Real McCoys, Crenna got a chance to try his hand at directing, and it turned out he had a knack for it. But he didn't really go for any directing jobs — until The Andy Griffith Show came calling.
By the end of the third season of The Andy Griffith Show, Bob Sweeney had directed nearly 90 percent of the episodes. His mark on the series was huge, but it was time for him to move on, and the show needed someone else to step in, right when the show had hit peak popularity.
Crenna didn't see it coming when he got the call asking if he would step into Sweeney's very large shoes.
"I would be pleased and proud," Crenna told the Television Academy he said at the time. He explained that he didn't feel pressured to outdo Sweeney, but to match him.
"I was not anxious to make it better," Crenna said. "I was anxious to keep it as good as it was."
In his very first episode, he knocked it out of the park with "Opie the Birdman." He said he was told that it became Andy Griffith's favorite episode. It also happened to be Crenna's favorite work he did on the show.
It turned out that Crenna had a novel way of looking at Mayberry, even suggesting they bring in a crane to get a dramatic shot above the bird's nest, looking down on Opie from above. Everyone thought he was crazy to add the expense, but decades later, everyone still remembers the shot. You can see it in the image above.
"It was the first time a crane had ever been used on The Andy Griffith Show," Crenna boasted. "Everyone said, 'Oh, my god, this is gonna cost us a fortune,'" Crenna remembered with a chuckle. "So I said, 'Get on a ladder.' I was very cocky about all that."
However, Crenna said he considers another decision to be his actual contribution to The Andy Griffith Show, and it's something you may have never even noticed.
"The only contribution I really made to The Andy Griffith Show was the front door of the house," Crenna said, explaining that, "[The front door] opened the wrong way for me."
The problem, in his mind, was that the front screen door swung out toward the camera, so any time characters walked out onto Andy's porch, they had to maneuver around the door.
"Why is that door opening that way?" Crenna asked. "This doesn't make any sense."
And then he made the kind of call that directors get to make: "I said, 'Change the door.'" The Andy Griffith Show co-creator Sheldon Leonard was appalled by this gall.
"You changed the door?" Leonard asked Crenna, apparently upset because the door had a very distinct squeak.
"Yes, I did," Crenna said, telling Leonard they could add the squeak in post-production if they felt that strongly.
Crenna must have lost the argument, at least initially, because the screen door of the Taylor house swings outward towards the camera throughout the black-and-white seasons. However! In season six, the screen door was missing entirely. Take a look.
Crenna directed eight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show during the span of time following Sweeney's departure, including the fan-favorite "Citizen's Arrest" and "Barney and the Cave Rescue."
Through the rest of his career, Crenna only directed a few more projects for TV in the Sixties and Seventies, though, as his acting career continued thriving until he passed away in 2003.
Coming to The Andy Griffith Show remained a bright spot in that life-long career, though.
"We felt very much of a family feeling," Crenna said. "I knew everybody. I knew Andy, I knew Don Knotts, I knew all of them, so going in there, it was anything but uncomfortable."
And as for directing Ron Howard in what is surely his most memorable episode ever, Crenna said, "Ron Howard was a wonderful kid actor."
"One of those that you knew would go onto something else," Crenna said. "He was an actor. He was not just a cute kid."