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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29 Comments

WayneKeith 10 months ago
Mustin appeared in more episodes with Beaver Cleaver than he appeared with Barney Fife.
kkvegas 11 months ago
TV Land's tribute to Burt Mustin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw6aVBq422Y
George58 11 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 11 months ago
Burt Mustin was amazing. I think he was on the Tonight Show with Roger Moore and Sean Connery. Very funny episode.
Bapa1 11 months ago
Should have been a regular on Laugh-In.
Bapa1 11 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Jon daDoctah 11 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 11 months ago
Burt was a great character actor: LITB, AITF, TAGS, Dragnet and The Brady Bunch( the Jesse James episode).
MichaelGreene CoreyC 11 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 11 months ago
I knew him initially as the fireman Gus, on " Leave it to Beaver."
Runeshaper 11 months ago
Burt was a cool dude.
WonderGeorge Runeshaper 3 months ago
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.
Runeshaper WonderGeorge 3 months ago
That's a very interesting idea indeed!
harlow1313 11 months ago
Burt was eye-candy for the ladies, and gay chaps.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 11 months ago
So in essence would the same be said for "Merie". Eye candy for the male audience?
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 11 months ago
Cheerio Meredith for we fellows.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 11 months ago
"Cheerio Meredith for we fellows."
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Andybandit 11 months ago
I remember him in GA, Adam-12, AITF, and TAGS. He was a good actor.
CaptainDunsel 11 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 11 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 11 months ago
My favorite of his roles is as Gus the fireman on Leave It To Beaver.
cperrynaples 11 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!
WonderGeorge cperrynaples 3 months ago
A much deserved honor for Burt, my friend.
justjeff 11 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 11 months ago
He played every part the same , he was just an old coot
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