Fans of The Andy Griffith Show would see Hal Smith in public and ask him if he was sober

"I don't know if they think I'm an actor or a drunk," he said.

CBS Television Distribution

A man is certainly not the character that he plays, but sometimes he's a good enough actor that he leaves people with that impression.

In today's television, a character like Otis on The Andy Griffith Show might be cause for alarm, with some overly concerned viewers worrying the character would leave a bad impression on those watching, especially if they were children.

In fact, these murmurings did exist during the original airing of The Andy Griffith Show, despite the fact that creator Sheldon Leonard was doing nothing to imply that a character like Otis is someone to be envied or worshipped. This was only emphasized by the fact that Hal Smith, best known for playing Otis, couldn't have been farther from the character in his everyday life.

According to an interview with The Miami Herald, Smith was willing to wager that he drank less than the typical man, and especially less when compared to his fellow actors.

Still, this didn't stop people from assuming that Smith was exactly like his character in real life.

"Strangers come up to me and ask if I'm sober," Smith said. "Others are surprised to see me walking the streets, figuring I should be in jail."

It was a concern that didn't just affect Smith, but his family as well. "My boy goes to a private school and when I take him there, the other kids give me funny looks," Smith said to The Times Recorder. "I don't know if they think I'm an actor or a drunk. I am sure my boy knows this is show business."

Even so, Smith was happy with his role as Otis, mainly for its ease. 

"I do a show on the average of once every three weeks and I think that's good," he said. "The town drunk could get obnoxious."

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7 Comments

QazWiz 16 days ago
too bad those tv fans didn't listen to kids radio....
decades he was the Christian lead actor for Adventures in Odyssey.
i had the impression IRL Hal was an IFB, most of which swear off strong drink.
this actually is common in "Hollywood" where real life being extreme opposite of their character (think about Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor who in Real Life is more Leftist than "Meathead")
an actor who's character is opposite them often succeeds by thinking "how would i act?" ...then doing opposite
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 24 days ago
One of the first episodes of "Adam 12" featured Hal Smith as a drunk driver who gets pulled over by Reed and Malloy. It was easy to recognize him, he was wearing the clothes he usually wore as Otis Campbell!
For generations tourists in LA would drop in to police stations and ask for Sgt. Friday,
or Officers Malloy and Reed. The desk sergeants were trained to say -
"they're on vacation, I'll tell them you dropped in".
I don't know if this still goes on, but it was still happening in the 1990's.
Yes he was a good actor,it's amazing people confuse the role with the actor.
He played a fey florist on "Peter Gunn", so I guess that makes him gay too.
edcrumpacker 24 days ago
Interesting article. I've seen Hal Smith on a few old westerns when he wasn't playing a drunk, yes he was a great actor.
Speaking of actors playing drunks, my other favorite would be Foster Brooks. He plays a marvelous drunk also.
Yes and also Raymond Allen
FrankensteinLover 25 days ago
Hal Smith was wonderful and such a good actor.
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