The Andy Griffith Show cast heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot while they were on set

"Everybody was stunned."

While our favorite television series don't always cover the more serious issues that afflict our society, that doesn't mean that they don't live through those moments just as we did as viewers. For example, a show like The Andy Griffith Show wouldn't try to cover something as serious as a presidential assassination for a multitude of reasons. Part of what made the show appealing is that it existed in such an idyllic universe, the kind of place we wanted to live instead of our reality. However, its actors and creators, while they played their characters well, were not immune to the trials and tribulations of reality.

Karen Knotts's book, Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me, mainly discusses her father, Don Knotts', life and experiences, including his experience on The Andy Griffith Show. With the amount of time spent on the set of The Andy Griffith Show, it makes perfect sense that sometimes, when events happened, the cast and crew had the opportunity to experience them together. One such event described in Knotts's book was when the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, reached the public while they were on set working on a new episode.

Jackie Joseph, best known for playing Ramona Ankrum in the series, explained that before the news broke, the cast and crew were laughing during the read-through of an episode. Jackie stated, "I'm just sitting in the room with them; it was such a tickle, and they enjoyed the read-through just like they were enjoying watching a show. You know, they were just laughing, getting a kick out of each other. I mean it continued; it went on and on. They were enjoying it while doing it. And nobody laughed at Don more than Andy. He was just hysterical."

Then, suddenly, the mood changed. Joseph explained, "And then the awful news came that President Kennedy had been shot. One of the assistants in the office came in and, you know, just such a pall came over the room. Everybody was stunned."

The decision was made to cut rehearsal short, and the cast and crew returned to continue work after a hard weekend of keeping their eyes glued to the television set, with rapt attention to any news broadcasts and updates.

Still, while the mood was mournful when they returned to the set to shoot, it seemed that the actors were aware of the power that the series had to brighten spirits. No one knew this better than Don Knotts himself, who, despite all the sadness, was able to make others laugh that day. Joseph said, "Everybody was so professional and Don got everybody laughing, just by acting, by just doing his part."

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33 Comments

Cougar90 1 month ago
One of my co-workers several years ago saw President and Mrs. Kennedy in Fort Worth that morning. They got out of school for the day to see him. She said they were screaming, "How can he be dead?! We just saw him three hours ago!!" She was affected by the assassination to the point she was just about to break down just speaking about it.
MadMadMadWorld 1 month ago
The Dick Van Dyke Show had the same stunned experience.
Both these classic comedy sitcoms were on-set rehearing an episode that Friday morning (L.A. time; 10:30am two hours behind the Central Time).
"Happy Birthday and Too Many More" was aired on Wed. Feb. 5, 1964.

TRIVIA: "In the middle of rehearsals for this show, the cast and crew got the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22nd, 1963. The cast then decided to go ahead and film the show, but without a studio audience present. The feeling was that no one would be in the mood to laugh at such a somber and saddened time period."

"This was the second of two episodes that was not filmed and shot in front of a live audience. The other was The Bad Old Days (1962)."


Coldnorth 1 month ago
I believe to this day, everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing etc when they first heard the awful news that he had been shot
sammee 1 month ago
So sad I still watch the reruns which are still in syndication.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Such a sad 😔 day ❤️🙏
Bapa1 1 month ago
Wasn't there an episode of McHale's Navy that featured a character that was a take-off on Kennedy and PT 109, that was suppose to air and the network held off for months before airing it? There was also a Superman comic book story that was supposed to print where Superman and Kennedy were working together to make American kids fit, that they didn't release until a year later with a disclosure.
cperrynaples Bapa1 1 month ago
I don't know about McHale's Navy, but I told the story of Vaughn Meader on The Joey Bishop Show!
MadMadMadWorld Bapa1 1 month ago
"McHale's Navy" (1962-66) did have a short gag on one episode (when the series was stationed at Taratupa in the South Pacific 1962-65; before it dumbly switched the location to Italy for its final 1965-66 season) where Lt. Cmdr. McHale mentioned on the show, with a brief camera view showing from farther away, a young Navy Lt. near his PT-boat (similar to McHale's PT-73). The episode was "Send Us A Hero" (aired on Jan. 17, 1963, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0644928). Kennedy skippered his PT-109 that was famously rammed by a Japanese destroyer on the night of Aug. 2, 1943. In July 1963, Cliff Robertson portrayed Kennedy in the movie released with the same name as the boat. Kennedy himself picked Cliff Robertson to portray him. Kennedy in real life in Aug. 1943 was only 26 (with only 20 more years to live), while Robertson was 39 when filming in early-1963. Cliff Robertson, 88 (Sep. 9, 1923 - Sep. 10, 2011). He was 19 (almost 20) when Kennedy had his PT-boat rammed on Aug. 2 of '43.
A funny thing was when President Kennedy saw early footage of parts of the film, his only complaint was that Cliff Robertson was parting his hair on the right, while JFK parted his hair on the left. Robertson dutifully parted his hair on the left for the film.
One other piece of trivia: It was decided and approved by President Kennedy that Cliff Robertson speak in his natural voice and not try to imitate JFK's Boston accent.
IMDb.com has a middle-rating of 6.6 (out of 10) with 2,973 raters of "PT-109." I was a pre-teen on that Black Friday, and never forgot that horrible date and time, with the Miami Herald in big, black letters in a special that late-afternoon after the official word at 2pm EST: "Kennedy Is Dead."
Bapa1 1 month ago
I was almost six and was walking home from school that day (!?) and my mom and a neighbor were standing outside crying. My mom loved Kennedy and had actually met him in 1960.
Snickers 1 month ago
I was six years old when Kennedy was shot. I look now at the old broadcasts of that day and understand the shock and sadness the world felt at the time.
327053 Snickers 1 month ago
Different world, different times. I was eight years old when the Challenger exploded. Like you, seeing those broadcasts today still brings back those memories of that awful day 😔
Pacificsun 1 month ago
Yes this year will be the 60th anniversary for several classic TV Series. I remember that event in 1963 happening on the birthday of another actor, and during the middle of a shoot, which can be marked by a specific scene. When the production finally agreed it was too painful to continue. And continued on the following Tuesday.
Snickers Pacificsun 1 month ago
In the Gilligan's Island pilot you can see the flags flying at half mast when Kennedy had passed away in the back ground.
cperrynaples Snickers 1 month ago
Yes, I wrote that the pilot was shot that day! Also, an episode of The Joey Bishop Show was destroyed because it featured Vaughn Meader doing his Kennedy imitation! in addition, a DVD episode cut a scene where Rob & Laura were compared to John & Jackie!
Inthe25th 1 month ago
The Andy Griffith Show taught values, especially the earlier seasons when Opie was growing up. Many episodes made us laugh, but a few made us cry; for example, on the first episode when it looked like Aunt Bea was going to leave and Opie runs out to her and says don't leave, you need me, I wept at the special relationship between the two.
MrSchwamp Inthe25th 1 month ago
That was a very sweet comment. Thanks for sharing.
harlow1313 1 month ago
I particularly enjoyed this article. A slice of real life.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Actually, Jackie Joseph is best known as the girl in the original Little Shop Of Horrors! She's still alive!
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Sad Fact: the Gilligan Island pilot was shot that day in Hawaii!
I didn't know that. That's definitely sad.
Irish 1 month ago
Very nice article.
I remember that day as well. I was in 8th grade English class. When the announcement came over the speaker, we were dismissed and I ran all the way home crying. A lot of us did. To this day I have trouble watching footage of the assassination. Do you guys remember where you were when you first heard the news?
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Snickers cperrynaples 1 month ago
I've only seen the raw footage of Oswald's shooting
Cougar90 Snickers 1 month ago
I look at the footage and say to myself, "Why didn't he have a helmet and a bullet-proof vest?"
Snickers Cougar90 30 days ago
At the time I don't think anyone even thought about Oswald getting shot. And have you ever seen how big and bulky the vest were back then?
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