Sunday, May 6, 2012

George Lindsey Passes On

George Lindsey, best known for his role as Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D.,
died today at the age of 83.

George Lindsey was born in Fairfield, Alabama on 17 December 1928. He grew up in Jasper, Alabama and attended the Kemper Military Academy in Booneville, Missouri. He attended Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama) in Florence, Alabama, majoring in biological science and physical education. After he graduated Florence State College he served in the United States Air Force for four years. Following his service in the Air Force, he was a history teacher and head basketball coach at Hazel Green High School in Hazel Green, Alabama for a year. Afterwards he studied acting at the American Theatre Wing in New York City.

Mr. Lindsey appeared as one of the impostors on the game show To Tell The Truth. He also became a stand up comic. It was in 1963 that he made his television debut in an episode of The Rifleman. In the Sixties he would guest star on such shows as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It was in 1964 that he first appeared as friendly, childlike, none too bright mechanic Goober Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show. Introduced as Gomer Pyle's cousin, Goober became one of the regular characters on the show. He made a guest appearance on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. in the role and continued to play Goober on the follow up to The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., from its debut in 1968 to its cancellation as part of the Rural Purge in 1971.  George Lindsey also appeared in the film Ensign Pulver (1964). In 1962 he appeared on Broadway in All American.

In 1971 George Lindsey began a twenty year run on Hee-Haw. There he played essentially the same character he had on The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D.--Goober.  During the Seventies he guest starred on such shows as The New Andy Griffith Show (once more as Goober Pyle, even though Andy Griffith was playing a wholly different character), Gunsmoke, Banacek, Love American Style, Movin' On, and M*A*S*H.  In 1978 he appeared as Goober Pyle in a pilot for a spinoff from The Andy Griffith Show--Goober and the Truckers' Paradise. He provided voices for the Disney animated features The Aristocats (1971), Robin Hood (1973), and The Rescuers (1977). Mr. Lindsey also appeared in the movies Snowball Express (1972),  Charley and the Angel (1973), and Treasure of Matecumbe (1976) .

In the Eighties George Lindsey appeared on the shows Fantasy Island, CHiPS, and Herbie the Love Bug. He also appeared in The Andy Griffith Show reunion show, Return to Mayberry. He appeared in the films Take This Job and Shove It (1981) and Cannonball Run II. In the Naughts he appeared in the movie When I Find the Ocean (2006). In the teens he provided voices in the three part anime series Starzinger in 2011.

George Lindsey is so identified with the role of Goober Pyle that it is sometimes hard to picture himself in any other role. Indeed, he played Goober in 86 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, 58 episodes of Mayberry R.F.D., one episode of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., one episode of The New Andy Griffith Show, and one television pilot. Arguably, he played essentially the same character for 71 episodes of Hee-Haw. While he may be best known for playing one character, however, there can be no doubt of Mr. Lindsey's talent. In fact, those who watch a good deal of vintage television know that before he played Goober on The Andy Griffith Show, George Lindsey mostly played heavies. He was quite capable of giving impressive performances. In The Alfred Hitchcock Hour he was quite good as Juke Marmer, a country bumpkin who remembers a traumatic experience from his childhood. He also had a memorable appearance on M*A*S*H., playing a crude, unrefined surgeon who takes Hawkeye's place.

Indeed, while George Lindsey's most famous character, Goober Pyle, was not particularly bright, Mr. Lindsey himself was a very intelligent, articulate man. If the fact that he received a degree in biological science was not enough to prove such, one need only to watch interviews with him. I can remember one such interview in which through logic and simple statistics he proved CBS was wrong to cancel every single rural comedy in the Rural Purge of 1971. Indeed, in some ways I think it was Mr. Lindsey's talent and intelligence that allowed him to play Goober so well--only someone who was intelligent enough to reason how such a character would think and then have the talent to make the performance convincing could have done it successfully. Sadly, in some respects, it seems that George Lindsey was too successful in playing Goober. Although he played many other roles, some often far removed from that of Mayberry's congenial mechanic, it is Goober Pyle for which he is best known. He should really be remembered for much more.

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