This delightful Andy Griffith scene was a nod to Paul Hartman's early career
The handyman had a heap of dancing experience in those shoes.
You probably didn't realize ol' Emmett Clark had it in him. Up to that point, the middle-aged Mayberry handyman was best known for repairing (or trying to repair) toasters and vacuums at Emmett's Fix-It Shop. But near the end of The Andy Griffith Show, mama's boy Howard Sprague finally found his freedom. After his mother moves away, Howard converts his place into a swinging bachelor pad. Now, a beaded curtain leads you into his hip den, where a cow-print couch sits atop a polar bear rug. Jazz and rock spin on the hi-fi.
So, Howard throws a shindig. After Howard cuts a rug with Helen Crump, Emmett takes her for a twirl. The two twirl around the room until Emmett spins off for some show-off solo moves. He does a little soft-shoe. He snaps his fingers to the rhythm. He slaps his hands on his knees and does the Charleston. He stumbles into the next room.
In reality, Paul Hartman, the actor behind the Emmett character, would not have stumbled. This charming little number was a way for the sitcom to pay tribute to Hartman's roots.
Early in the 20th century, in his youth, Hartman partnered with his sister to form a dance duo. In 1922, he teamed with Grace Barrett, his future wife, to create a vaudeville routine. He later starred with Bob Hope on Broadway, in Ballyhoo of 1932 and Red Hot and Blue. Paul and Grace were such a hit on the big stage, they headed for Hollywood.
The Hartmans landed their own sitcom in 1949, The Hartmans (At Home), which wedged excuses into each episode for the couple to dance. The show was swiftly canceled, but that bad news hardly compared to the cancer diagnosis Grace received in 1952. Paul Hartman landed another sitcom with King Kong damsel Fay Wray, dubbed The Pride of the Family. Not long after the show's single season, Grace passed away.
Hartman returned to Broadway, but found the pace hard to keep up in his '50s. Small sitcom roles better fit his lifestyle. In 1967, late in the show's run, he turned up in Mayberry, quickly becoming one of the most beloved characters of Andy's color era. A handful of episodes before the finale, Hartman showed off his moves.
That would not be the end. Emmett kept up his good work in Mayberry R.F.D. His costar Ken Berry shared a background in tap and dance. No wonder then that the two would work up a soft-shoe routine in "All for Charity." The 1970 episode aired just a few short years before his death. But Hartman proved you're never too old to dance.