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‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How the Cast Reacted When Learning of JFK’s Death on Set

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How the Cast Reacted When Learning of JFK’s Death on Set

For those old enough to remember, learning about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination remains one of the most profound moments of their lives. Most people can vividly remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with when the press broke the news. That is true for the cast of The Andy Griffith Show.

On Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy was driving in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, when he was gunned down by Lee Harvey Oswald. Shots were fired just after 12:30 PM. The driver rushed Kennedy to Parkland Memorial Hospital, and he was pronounced dead at 1 PM.

At that same time, the cast and crew of The Andy Griffith Show were busy filming Season 3 of their hit series. Just as it did for the rest of the country, time stood still when news of the assassination reached them.

Don Knotts Lifted the Spirits of ‘The Andy Griffith’ Cast and Crew

In the book Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me, Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts, recalled that day with the help of Jackie Joseph, who played Ramona Ankrum. She said that everyone was laughing through a scrip reading before they heard the shocking news.

“I’m just sitting in the room with them; it was such a tickle,” she remembered. “And they enjoyed the read-through just like they were enjoying watching a show. You know, they were just laughing, getting a kick out of each other. I mean it continued; it went on and on. They were enjoying it while doing it. And nobody laughed at Don more than Andy. He was just hysterical.”

“And then the awful news came that President Kennedy had been shot,” he continued. “One of the assistants in the office came in and, you know, just such a pall came over the room. Everybody was stunned.” 

Joseph said that rehearsal shut down early. Everyone went home and spent the weekend with their families as they watched the story unravel on television.

The team returned on Monday, still feeling uneasy and mourning the loss of the president. It was Knotts who pulled them out of their gloom.

Joseph noted, “Everybody was so professional and Don got everybody laughing, just by acting, by just doing his part.”