The Andy Griffith Show's Jud Fletcher: TV's great late bloomer

Burt Mustin had a long life and an amazing career

It's never too late to start a legendary career in television. Just think of how many Golden Girls there could have been if nobody ever thought they were too old to give acting a try. Barnaby Jones could have his septuagenarian squad. Matlock could've been its own genre.

You're never too old. Don't take our word for it. Just take a look at the life and career of Burt Mustin, The Andy Griffith Show's Jud Fletcher. For ol' Burt, fame and fortune were a retirement plan. He had a rich and interesting 67-year-long life before beginning his Hollywood career.

Mustin was born in 1884. Mayberry is a slow, old-fashioned place, but the nineteenth century is ancient even by Aunt Bee's standards. Prior to trying his hand at acting professionally, Mustin was a Pittsburgh resident. The Pennsylvania town is where he was born, raised, and spent the majority of his professional life. In Pittsburgh, Mustin was a car dealer, a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a singer in a barbershop quartet. 

"I always had the fever for this [acting] business," said Mustin. "I played lead character types in Pittsburgh and gradually went into musical comedy — Gilbert and Sullivan, and Victor Herbert things."

However, life and the times intervened and, for the time being, Mustin was unable to make a living of it. "I would have pursued acting, but life then was stage work. The best you could hope for was either jumping around or a New York run. And New York was no life for my dear wife — I just don't love the field enough to do that to her. She always wanted a home, and that's what we had."

Instead, the actor focused on his family and his place in his community. He was a recognizable resident in Pittsburgh even before he stepped onto the silver screen. But when the time was right, Mustin and his wife packed their bags and headed west for California. 

There he found that there was quite a demand for character actors. Over the next 20 years, Mustin found roles in 63 movies and appeared on television over 400 times. The busy schedule, though, didn't tire him out. To hear Burt Mustin put it, his business was good for him.

"Undoubtedly, it's being so active that's kept me from being senile."

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31 Comments

WayneKeith 7 months ago
Mustin appeared in more episodes with Beaver Cleaver than he appeared with Barney Fife.
daDoctah 8 months ago
I'd kind of like to see a story on as many actors as MeTV or whoever can come up with who got into the business late in life. Burt would definitely be top of the list, but you could probably also count on the likes of Walter Brennan (who I'm told actually exaggerated his age, removing his false teeth to look older than he was), Merie Earle and Clara Peller. (Anyone who suggests adding Charles Lane will quickly discover that while he was still working a year before his death at 102, his first credited film role -- under his real name of Levison -- came when he was a mere lad of 26.)
kkvegas 8 months ago
TV Land's tribute to Burt Mustin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw6aVBq422Y
George58 8 months ago
He also played in a brief scene in the movie, "The Ghost & Mr Chicken" but was not in the closing credits (he didn't speak in the movie). With all the old TV series he was in, I'm surprised he never was on "Perry Mason"?
tootsieg 8 months ago
Burt Mustin was amazing. I think he was on the Tonight Show with Roger Moore and Sean Connery. Very funny episode.
Bapa1 8 months ago
Should have been a regular on Laugh-In.
daDoctah Bapa1 8 months ago
He was, for one episode late in season five (after both Arte Johnson and Henry Gibson had left the show). He was paired with fellow senior Queenie Smith.
Jon daDoctah 8 months ago
Mustin & Smith were paired again for the 1971 variety show THE FUNNY SIDE, where they played 1 of 5 couples representative of US couples, representing Sr. Citizens. I imagine the LAUGH-IN appearance was to promote THE FUNNY SIDE.
CoreyC 8 months ago
Burt was a great character actor: LITB, AITF, TAGS, Dragnet and The Brady Bunch( the Jesse James episode).
MichaelGreene CoreyC 8 months ago
Mustin was in Dragnet(II) twice. First, as a burglar, the second time as an apartment house manager where a murder took place...his knowledge of police procedure drives Friday and Gannon crazy...until they take him to their office, and their C.O. (played by Art Balinger) recognizes Mustin's character by name...Mustin's character was a long-time Chicago police detective who retired as a Deputy Chief...both had worked together in the past. The last shot shows Mustin and Balinger at a desk, reminiscing about old cases, as Friday and Gannon leave.
ArchieB CoreyC 8 months ago
I knew him initially as the fireman Gus, on " Leave it to Beaver."
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Burt was a cool dude.
My friend, from what I've read in this article, I do believe that Burt Mustin would make a great subject for a wonderful documentary - telling of his life and career; TBH, I believe someone should get a Kickstarter project going on this very idea.
That's a very interesting idea indeed!
harlow1313 8 months ago
Burt was eye-candy for the ladies, and gay chaps.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 8 months ago
So in essence would the same be said for "Merie". Eye candy for the male audience?
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Cheerio Meredith for we fellows.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 8 months ago
"Cheerio Meredith for we fellows."
---------------------------------
Andybandit 8 months ago
I remember him in GA, Adam-12, AITF, and TAGS. He was a good actor.
CaptainDunsel 8 months ago
Lt. Mustin, 1903, Pennsylvania Military College

https://pennsylvaniamilitarycollege.org/burt-mustin-03-character-actor/
Today, Pennsylvania Military College is Widener University, still based in Chester, PA.
Burt looked rather resplendent in his uniform, I dare say!
Thanks for the heads-up, Michael - I shall research this later today.
LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Love many of the roles Burt Mustin played. He didn't seem to like Hippies ( well in character anyway) on Adam-12.
teire 8 months ago
My favorite of his roles is as Gus the fireman on Leave It To Beaver.
cperrynaples 8 months ago
I think I mentioned before that Mustin graduated from Pennsylvania Military College! It later became Widener University, my alta mater! When I was a freshman, they renamed the theater in his honor after his death!
A much deserved honor for Burt, my friend.
justjeff 8 months ago
Talk about people unable to separate an actor from his or her character... Toward the end of the article, the MeTV "writers" (?) lay down the following gem:

"Instead, Fletcher focused on his family and his place in his community."

Ummm... Jud Fletcher was his character on TAGS... you were [allegedly] writing about Burt Mustin!
joeyjoejoe justjeff 8 months ago
He played every part the same , he was just an old coot
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