Jack Dodson's TV career started because Andy Griffith completely forgot who he was

The TV star famously had a problem keeping track of names.

Everyone knows that Andy Griffith frequently found character actors for The Andy Griffith Show by going out to see plays and nightclub performances by talented entertainers.

When Griffith attended these shows, he didn’t just sit back and enjoy. If somebody put on a performance that struck him as memorable, he would make sure to go backstage and tell that actor straight to their face how fine that performance was.

That’s exactly what happened to Jack Dodson when Griffith caught him acting in a play called "Hughie."

Dodson was so excited to have Andy Griffith there shaking his hand that after he left the theater, he gushed to his agent about Andy’s high praise.

Dodson’s agent heard what happened and quickly set things in motion, trying to make the most for Dodson out of the brief exchange.

The agent reached out to The Andy Griffith Show producers and asked if Dodson could get a guest role on the show since he’d impressed Griffith so much.

Dodson told The Palm Beach Post in 1978 that the producers gave his agent the cold shoulder, not because Griffith was a snob not willing to stick his neck out for another actor, but because Griffith was famously terrible at remembering names.

The story goes that producers asked Griffith about Dodson, and Griffith drew a blank, telling them he didn’t know any Dodson.

Producers then relayed that message to Dodson’s agent, and Dodson, though surprised, decided he’d just let this one go.

Fate, on the other hand, had other plans.

After a little time passed, Griffith was chatting with a friend about how the performances he saw in "Hughie" were some of the best he had seen in a long time. His friend apparently was familiar with the stars’ names in that play and asked him, "You mean Jason Robards and Jack Dodson?"

When he heard Jack Dodson’s name, it caused Griffith’s entire face to fall. He realized he had made a grave mistake.

To make up for his forgetfulness, Griffith went above and beyond.

He helped created the Howard Sprague character just for Dodson, and Dodson said after that, he never struggled to find TV work again.

Dodson only worked with Griffith in Mayberry for a few years before the series ended. For Dodson, Mayberry R.F.D. kept him in the role of Howard Sprague for three more years beyond that and it’s still the actor’s most recognizable TV role.

In the Seventies, Sprague appeared in movies, continued taking on guest roles on hit TV shows in both comedy and drama, and joined the cast of the short-lived series All’s Fair. He also memorably snagged a recurring role on Happy Days as Ralph Malph’s dad.

By the mid-Eighties, he’d appeared on just about every TV show you can think of, and he even reprised his role as Howard Sprague in the TV movie Return to Mayberry before passing away in 1994.

As he predicted in 1978, he never stopped acting on TV after that fateful day when Griffith finally remembered meeting him and gave him his big break in Mayberry.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 PM & 8:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

34 Comments

Post a comment
Matte8L4CK 8 months ago
I know a lot of fans don't like Howard, but I find his pathetic existence hilarious. I also feel a little sorry for him so I rooted for him to succeed. In contrast, I always found Barney extremely annoying. He was a bad friend and betrayed Andy numerous times, he didn't follow orders and was terrible at his job to the point where he was a danger to himself as well as everyone else. He cheated on Thelma, but expected her to be faithful and he was oblivious to all of his shortcomings yet presented himself as a know-it-all....there was just nothing likeable about Barney to me, where I saw Howard as a "lovable loser".
DZee 8 months ago
Dodson was hilarious in the Happy Days episode where Fonzie went to his office to get his eyes checked. When Fonzie told him he couldn't read the eye chart.... Dodson said "what are you blind..read the chart."
Nala92129 8 months ago
Helen Crump, Howard Sprague, Clara Edwards sucked all the life, warmth & humor out of TAGS.
eddiecantorfan Nala92129 8 months ago
What about Warren Ferguson
Who temporarily replaced
Barney Fife?
Couldn’t stand the character
My favorite Oldies Song is PRETTY LITTLE
ANGEL EYES by CURTIS LEE .
Does anyone else have a favorite Oldies song?
PS -My 2 Favorite Beatles songs are:
P.S. I Love You
Do You Want To Know A Secret?
Jack Dodson and Alan Oppenheimer
BOTH played Mickey Malph on Happy Days.
Also Richard Sinatra played Corporal
Boyle on GOMER PYLE USMC for one
Episode only and then Roy Stuart played
Cpl Boyle for three years (1965-1968).
I liked the Mayberry RFD episode where
Howard Sprague was the Dream Spinner
Reading poetry and Goober and
Emmett sent him a phony letter
Signed Melissa.
BrianThetubewatcher 8 months ago
Dodson’s performance as Howard on Gary Shandling’s Show was a classic! He was exactly Howard, but in the much more hip setting, his character seemed funny in a whole new way.
BrianThetubewatcher 8 months ago
At a former workplace, I did a perfect Howard Sprague impression, starting it with, “Well, actually Goober..,” and then proceeding to explain some fact. Is often end it with “Mother and I were discussing this very point last night.” I cracked the whole place up, but I wish I could have been known for a character a little cooler. We joked that one-person 2-hour performance as Howard might not make it, though we’d call it “Spraguemania!”
Nala92129 8 months ago
Never cared much for the Howard Sprague character, nor for Clara Edwards, nor for Helen Crump, nor for Clint Howard's character, (can't recall his name on the show.) I'm also wondering why so many guest stars & actors on the show had very pronounced NY or Brooklyn accents.
You didn’t like Leon, the kid with the sandwiches? I agree, his role was a little silly.
Pacificsun 8 months ago
Neat story! Hope these backstories continue, thank you!
RichLorn 8 months ago
He owes much of his success to his bow ties.
MikeyMello 8 months ago
How about Dodson’s other character in TAGS…..Ed Jenkins the insurance guy. So bizarre to me that a popular character could somehow be recast like that. It’s the episode where Aunt Bee thought she lost an expensive piece of jewelry and he came by with their claim check.
ETristanBooth MikeyMello 8 months ago
Ed Jenkins was his first appearance on TAGS. He was re-cast as Howard, and I suppose they assumed that everyone would forget about Ed, who was only in the one episode.
EricFuller 8 months ago
Lest we forget he role in "The Getaway" as the milk toast vet married to Sally Struthers.
RobertM 8 months ago
Jack Dodson also appeared in an episode of "Matlock".
Zip 8 months ago
I guess they are not kidding when they say Dodson was all over television.
I myself remember seeing him on two of my favorites, Mama's Family and Newhart.
He played Gus the "Rayhound" bus driver(and janitor of the depot) in the episode where Bubby runs away... or plans to.
And he played on the very first episode of Newhart as the realtor who shows the Inn to Dick and Joanna.
One thing I noticed about Jack Dodson was how tall he was. I don't think Andy Griffith was a small guy, but as you can see by the above pic in the article, he still had to look up to Howard. And Bob Newhart was a rather tiny guy, and Jack towers above him as you see if you watch that first Newhart episode.
Zip Zip 8 months ago
Ok, that's supposed to say "Bubba" not "Bubby". Maybe Bubby could have been Bubba's kid if Mama's Family would have lasted longer so Bubba could get married.
Gary 8 months ago
He also did to Barney Miller’s, one in which she slit his barber‘s throat. Lol
Zip Gary 8 months ago
Yikes! That sounds like a gruesome plot for a sitcom.
Moverfan Zip 8 months ago
He also killed his wife..."but they don't know about that".
harlow1313 8 months ago
I model my swinging bachelor lifestyle after the svelte Howard Sprague.
justjeff harlow1313 8 months ago
My condolences...
JHP harlow1313 8 months ago
I really enjoy the sarcasm - Jack Dodson aka Howard Sprague (yeah forgettable as was the rest of the characters on the color Andy's - painful to watch only if your can stay awake:)

for those andy fans out there - watch "crime free mayberry" and then "old sam" - see/hear anything strange?
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Props to Andy for hooking up Jack Dodson AKA Ralph Malph’s dad (-:
daDoctah Runeshaper 8 months ago
I'm guessing it was Ron Howard who got them to consider Dodson for the role of (snicker!) Mickey Malph.
Michael daDoctah 8 months ago
Thanks. I was wondering what Mr. Malph's first name was.
Runeshaper daDoctah 8 months ago
You could totally be right with that! Good thought!
Moverfan Michael 8 months ago
Mrs. Mslph's first name (at least according to the one time Mr. C mentioned her) was...yep, Minnie.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?