The ''hobo'' of The Andy Griffith Show actually lost his teeth serving in World War II
Ironically, you might recognize Douglas Fowley better as a famous gunfighting dentist.
Read to Me
It takes range for an actor to convincingly play both a legendary lawman and a friendly hobo. It helps if he can remove his teeth.
Douglas Fowley was serving in the United States Navy during World War II. He was aboard an aircraft carrier when an explosion knocked out his teeth. The dental setback hardly slowed his career as an actor. In fact, he ended up portraying one of the most well-known dentists in American history.
John Henry "Doc" Holliday will forever be known for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The legendary shootout overshadows the curious fact that Holliday held a degree in dentistry and practiced his craft in Griffin, Georgia.
Several actors had played Doc Holliday onscreen before Fowley landed the role in 68 episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. Here he is alongside star Hugh O'Brian as the titular lead.
He looks far different from his appearance on The Andy Griffith Show a few years later, no? At the top of this post, you can see Fowley as the "Hobo" in "Opie and His Merry Men." Barney calls him "Weary Willie." Fowley had a technique for playing such characters.
"I had a false upper plate, having lost my upper teeth prematurely in mid-life," he explained to Western Clippings in 1994. "I started playing old character roles by removing my false upper plate, adding a beard, voice and gait to match my interpretation."
He put this physical trait — not to mention his war experience — to memorable use in the 1949 film Battleground. In the movie, Fowley played Private "Kipp" Kippton who continually clacks and loses his false teeth through the story.
Fowley was so adept at shifting gears as an actor, he played an entire different "Doc" on Wyatt Earp even — as he was playing Doc Holliday.
"He'd take his teeth out… let his beard grow, whiten his hair and play the old wizened doctor [Doc Fabrique] with a lotta humor," Hugh O'Brian recalled to Western Clippings. "He was quite versatile."
Since we're focusing so much on mouths, we would be remiss if we didn't mention Fowley's tie to… KISS. Yes, the band with all the makeup.
Fowley's son, Kim Fowley, became a notorious figure in rock 'n' roll. The eclectic and controversial producer managed the all-girl group the Runaways and co-wrote the KISS song "King of the Night Time World" with Paul Stanley. It appears on the band's 1976 album Destroyer. We wonder if they sold that in Mayberry?