8 arresting facts about Hal Smith of The Andy Griffith Show
He was the Pancake Man, Santa Claus and an inspiration for Scotty on Star Trek.
Otis Campbell appeared in more episodes of The Andy Griffith Show than Gomer Pyle. He may have been the town drunk of Mayberry, but give the character his due respect. He delivered a lot of laughs.
Hal Smith was brilliant as the typically inebriated — and typically incarcerated — fellow. But Otis was also one of the few recurring characters on the show who was married, oddly enough.
Smith passed away 25 years ago. To celebrate this many of many talents — and voices — let's dig into his career.
1. He began his showbiz career as a singer.
Smith grew up in Massena, New York, way up on the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border. While in high school in the 1930s, Smith got his name in the local papers as a singer. The teenage "Harold Smith" joined a group called Johnny Morrison & His Krazy Kats, crooning tunes and doing impressions. One of his signature numbers was "The Prisoner’s Song," for which he would come out on the stage dressed as a prisoner. Talk about foreshadowing! Three decades later, he would spend plenty of time behind bars on The Andy Griffith Show.
2. One of his first big TV roles was "The Pancake Man"
After working as a DJ at WIBX in Upstate New York and serving in the United States Army Special Services during World War II, Smith made the move out West to Los Angeles. There, he landed a job as "The Pancake Man," hosting a children's show sponsored by the International House of Pancakes restaurant chain (later simply known as IHOP). The Brady Bunch episode "The Winner" would pay tribute to this part of Smith's history, casting him as a similar kids' TV host named the Kartoon King.
3. He was Santa Claus for both the Bradys and the Flintstones.
Speaking of The Brady Bunch, did you know Smith portrayed another child favorite on the sitcom? He was Santa Claus, too! Cindy sits on his lap in "The Voice of Christmas." Outside of Otis Campbell, Smith's most recurring character on television was undoubtedly Ol' Saint Nick himself. Smith played Santa more than a dozen times, in both live-action (The Apartment, The Miracle of the White Reindeer) and animated (Casper's First Christmas, Yogi's First Christmas, etc.) productions. He was even Bedrock's own Santa Claus, voicing the character in The Flintstones series ("Christmas Flintstone") and the 1977 special A Flintstone Christmas.
Images: The Everett Collection / Warner Bros.
4. Scotty on Star Trek was inspired by one of his characters.
See if this character sounds familiar: a Scottish spaceship engineer with a heavy accent. Sorry, Montgomery Scott, you were not the first. The 1962–64 series Space Angel, one of those primitive "moving human lips" cartoons from the creators of Clutch Cargo, featured a character named Taurus, a space engineer with a thick Scottish accent. Some believe that Gene Roddenberry took inspiration from Taurus and modeled Scotty after the character — who was voiced by Hal Smith!
5. He was the voice of Goofy, Elmer Fudd and dozens of other cartoon characters.
Smith truly was the "Kartoon King," and not just on The Brady Bunch. The actor voiced countless cartoon characters for just about every major animation house, from Disney to Hanna-Barbera. He is perhaps best known as the voice of Owl in the original Disney Winnie the Pooh features. The man of many voices was also an ace substitute. He took over the role of Goofy after the original voice Pinto Colvig died. (Smith memorably voiced the dog in Mickey's Christmas Carol.) He also took over as Elmer Fudd after Arthur Q. Bryan passed away. Elsewhere, he voiced everyone from Goliath in Davey and Goliath to Flintheart Glomgold and Gyro Gearloose in DuckTales.
Image: The Everett Collection
6. He was in an X-rated movie
In a role as far from Mayberry as you can get, Smith turned up in a 1976 pornographic film titled Once Upon A Girl, an X-rated spoof of classic fairy tales. Most of blue elements were animated, but Smith appeared in live-action segments as Mother Goose — on the witness stand in court.
Image: Severin Films
7. He played a character named Otis on Fantasy Island.
The Fantasy Island episode "Thank God, I'm a Country Girl" is most notable for starring Loretta Lynn. It was her only acting role on a live-action TV series. But the episode also featured an appearance by Hal Smith, and paid tribute to his career in two subtle ways. For starters, his character was named Otis. Secondly, he wore a chef's outfit much like that of the Pancake Man.
8. He played Otis Campbell in a Nineties music video.
Smith slipped back into his Otis threads for a cameo in the 1991 Alan Jackson video "Don't Rock the Jukebox." This came five years after the Andy Griffith Show reunion movie Return to Mayberry, in which we learned that Otis had sobered up and become an ice cream man. In the music video, however, he is clearly drunk. Did Alan Jackson kick Otis off the wagon?
Image: Sony Music Entertainment