Andy Griffith may have been the star of The Andy Griffith Show, but he wasn’t the audience’s favorite character! Many lovable and comedic characters populated the show’s town of Mayberry. One of the most popular of these characters was Floyd Lawson, or Floyd the barber. Sadly, Howard McNear, who played the character of Floyd the barber. And ended up suffering two separate strokes over the course of it’s eight-season run, resulting in his 1969 death. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at how Howard McNear suffered TWO strokes during The Andy Griffith Show.
Floyd the Barber Was One of Mayberry’s Best Residents
The Andy Griffith Show premiered to American audiences in 1960. And it quickly became a favorite amongst television viewers across the country. The show focused on the character of Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith. Andy was the sheriff of the show’s setting of Mayberry, and he was also the widowed father of Opie, portrayed by Ron Howard.
Andy and his son Opie were certainly the main characters on The Andy Griffith Show. They were often overshadowed in the hearts of the audience by Mayberry’s other residents. One of the show’s most popular characters quickly became Floyd Lawson, who was better known as Floyd the barber. Experienced television actor Howard McNear portrayed the character of Floyd the barber.
Howard McNear Brought Floyd to Life
Prior to being cast as Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show, Howard McNear had been through a long and storied career on both radio and television. Sadly, Howard’s work on The Andy Griffith Show ended up being his last. As the actor tragically passed away during the series’ filming. Thankfully, Howard appeared in plenty of the show’s 249 episodes. The actor appeared in 80 episodes of the series overall. With his final appearance being in the show’s 219th episode.
Howard McNear’s departure from The Andy Griffith Show was caused by his worsening condition after a debilitating stroke that he had suffered several years earlier. And it had left half of his body paralyzed. Resulting in him being absent for over a year of the series’ filming. During this block of time, Howard was absent for a period of 40 of the show’s episode.
Surprisingly, Howard McNear ended up returning to The Andy Griffith Show for a significant chunk of time following his original stroke. The actor did this both because he wanted to get back to work. And because Andy Griffith himself was desperate for the actor’s return. According to Andy, there was a major dearth of comedy on the series in the wake of Howard’s absence. Although Howard wasn’t the focal point of the show and was only a supporting character that made sporadic appearance. He brought a comedic element to the series that couldn’t be replaced.
Howard McNear Suffered a Stroke During Filming
Howard had been brought onto The Andy Griffith Show in 1961. And while the show was still in it’s first season after premiering the prior year. Forgetting the period where Howard was out of commission as a result of his first stroke. The star then continued reprising the character of Floyd the barber until 1967. Howard’s first stroke occurred in 1963, and it left the entire left side of the actor’s body paralyzed. The actor then took a break from filming for nearly two years before making his return. However, upon Howard’s return, the crew of The Andy Griffith Show had to work around the fact that the actor could only use the right side of his body. Instead of writing Howard’s stroke into the series, the crew simply filmed him from the side.
Both The Andy Griffith Show’s fans and creative staff seemed to be pleased with the results of filming Howard McNear from the side. And the actor subsequently continued reprising the role of Floyd the barber on the series until around the time of his death several years later. Prior to Howard’s return to the series following his first stroke. Andy Griffith and the show’s creative team had tried out different ways of making the show work without the beloved character. There was even one episode where a stand-in was used for the character when Opie gets a haircut.
The Andy Griffith Show Couldn’t Work Without Floyd
Andy Griffith tried to make The Andy Griffith Show work without Floyd the barber. He claimed that the show lacked comedy without the character. Thankfully, he was able to get Howard to return, but not for long! Howard’s condition would continue to worsen after returning to The Andy Griffith Show. And it got to the point where he couldn’t perform. Shortly afterwards, he suffered the fatal stroke that would cause him to pass away. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Howard Continued Performing While Paralyzed
Many were surprised when Andy Griffith made the decision to bring Howard McNear back onto The Andy Griffith Show after the latter had suffered his debilitating stroke in 1963. However, Andy simply felt that Howard was an integral enough part of the show that it was worth filming around the actor’s paralysis. Howard’s longtime wife had agreed that it would probably be good for the veteran actor to get out and start working again. So Howard was brought back on!
Floyd the Barber Returns!
Howard’s return to The Andy Griffith Show came in 1965, and he would sadly pass away two years later. His final appearance on the show would come shortly before his passing. And it was apparently tragic for his costars on the series to watch as the actor slowly lost his ability to function. Upon fist returning to the series, Andy Griffith claimed that Howard’s mind remained sharp despite the fact that he could only use half of his body. Although Howard was only able to use his right hand. He was still able to make the classic comic gestures that the audience had grown to love him for.
Besides Andy Griffith, Jack Dodson also shared that he had difficulty watching as Howard McNear’s condition worsened following his return to The Andy Griffith Show in 1965. Jack played the character of Howard Sprague. Howard McNear was mentally sharp upon his initial return to the series. His mental state deteriorated over the following years leading up to his fatal stroke. Jack Dodson claims that it was heartbreaking to witness Howard film the scene that would end up being his last. Apparently, Howard had a very hard time remembering his lines, and he grew quite frustrated with himself. It became obvious that he couldn’t keep going.
Howard’s Final Appearance
Following the last scene that Howard filmed, he left the set of The Andy Griffith Show and never came back. Of course, he would wind up suffering his fatal stroke shortly afterwards. Howard’s very last episode of the series was it’s aforementioned 219th, which was named “Goober’s Contest”. In the episode, Goober and Wally organize a sweepstake competition to draw business to their filling station. Floyd the barber ends up winning the contest. And he gets a much larger cash prize than Goober and Wally were intending due to the two accidentally telling the person in charge of filling the envelopes the wrong amount for the first-prize winner.
The Actor Started Out on Radio
Howard McNear’s final appearance was as Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show. The actor had actually gotten his start as an action star on radio serials. Howard’s biggest success in radio was on the series Gunsmoke, in which Howard was the first actor ever to portray the character of Doc Charles Adam. Of course, that character would end up being portrayed by actor William Conrad by the time that Gunsmoke was brought over to television.
Following Howard’s radio days, the actor broke out into television in the early 1950s. He appeared in many different shows before getting his gig as Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show. He even appeared on Gunsmoke for a few episodes, though not in the role of Doc. Besides Gunsmoke and The Andy Griffith Show, Howard could also be seen in such television series as The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Real McCoys, and I Love Lucy. He even featured in seven episode of The Jack Benny Program.
Howard’s Personal Life
Howard McNear married his first and only wife, Helen Spats, in 1926. The two ended up remaining married until Howard’s death from the aforementioned fatal stroke many decades later. Following Howard’s 1969 death, the majority of the actor’s former coworkers from The Andy Griffith Show attended his funeral. Despite the fact that Howard was sorely missed, The Andy Griffith Show producer Richard Linke later recalled that the funeral had been an oddly joyous one. According to him, there was more laughter at Howard McNear’s funeral than any other funeral that he had ever been to. Of course, this laughter came not because those attending were overjoyed at the prospect of Howard passing away. But instead because the actor had been such a consistently hilarious presence in his life that the funeral attendees couldn’t help but laugh as they remembered him.
Howard McNear was so hilarious that Andy Griffith still wanted him on The Andy Griffith Show even after the Floyd the barber actor had lost the ability to use half of his body. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Howard McNear suffered two separate strokes over the course of The Andy Griffith Show. And that he filmed many episodes of the series without the use of the left side of his body? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!