Allan Melvin quietly became ''one of TV's most recognizable faces''

The actor appeared regularly on major sitcoms from the 1950s to the 1980s, but he called his popularity ''a cult thing.''

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"I think we better get ahold of Andy," Gomer says urgently to Barney in The Andy Griffith Show episode "Andy's Vacation."

The inept duo has been placed in charge of the jail while Sheriff Andy takes a rare day off, and with already one dangerous prisoner in the cell, things are going just about how you'd expect: not the best!

Gesturing to the prisoner, Gomer protests Barney's decision, warning, "This feller's a mean one!"

Playing the prisoner is Allan Melvin, a character actor who today is best known for comedic roles on sitcoms like The Brady Bunch and The Phil Silvers Show.

On The Andy Griffith Show, though, Melvin frequently was cast as various tough guys, stepping in as some of Mayberry's biggest menaces.

"I didn't really play that many heavies in my career, besides a guest appearance on Route 66, but I was always a heavy on Andy," Melvin once said, according to interviews quoted on The Andy Griffith Show fan podcast Two Chairs, No Waiting.

Melvin said he got cast on the show after befriending The Andy Griffith Show co-creator Aaron Ruben, back when Ruben was writing episodes of The Phil Silvers Show (a.k.a. Sgt. Bilko).

"Aaron was very helpful in my career, and Bilko was a wonderful experience," Melvin said.

On The Phil Silvers Show, Melvin played Corporal Steve Henshaw, appearing in every episode. It was Melvin's only permanent sitcom cast role, but according to the book The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time, it helped launch Melvin's career, leading him to become "one of the finest and most recognized character actors in the history of American Television."

Melvin met Phil Silvers while both were performing in the Broadway show Stalag 17. Silvers saw him perform and asked him to be on The Phil Silvers Show, and that was that. No audition necessary.

It was Melvin's energy that drew Silvers to him. Melvin strived to match Silvers on the sitcom.

"Phil had this wonderful background in burlesque," Melvin said. "And he had this physical thing. He would crank himself up. We'd bust into a scene like we were shot from guns."

This is part of why Melvin said the comedy of Phil Silvers endures today.

"A Bilko [episode] could still be funny 50 years from now," Melvin said. "Funny is funny. It's as simple as that."

After The Phil Silvers Show ended in 1959, Melvin's next major TV role would come on Route 66 in 1961, followed by appearances on The Andy Griffith Show, starting in 1962.

Although he only guest-starred in eight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Melvin is quoted on Two Chairs, No Waiting as saying, "It seemed like I was on it more than I was," perhaps because we saw him in different seasons, from the second to the eighth.

The Andy Griffith Show roles gave him steady work and regular visibility on one of the most popular TV shows in the country.

"I always enjoyed doing the show," Melvin said. "We had a lot of fun doing it, and they were a great bunch. Andy and I hit it off right away, and between Aaron and Andy, I never, for a moment, felt like the new kid on the block."

After The Andy Griffith Show, Melvin scooted over to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., where he played the recurring role of Sgt. Charley Hacker. He continued doing steady work on sitcoms, moving away from dramatic roles for good, as his voicework career simultaneously picked up after voicing the popular cartoon character Magilla Gorilla.

When Gomer Pyle ended in 1969, The Brady Bunch welcomed Melvin as Sam the Butcher, who, of course, became Alice's eventual husband. "Wasn't Sam wonderful?" Ann B. Davis sighed in a Television Academy interview.

"Allan Melvin, neat guy, very tall," she described him. "He was just a nice, open, big guy, and it was fun to play with him."

Most fans of The Brady Bunch know that after Melvin retired from onscreen roles after All in the Family ended in 1983, The Brady Bunch had to find a new Sam for A Very Brady Christmas in 1988. Lewis Arquette was cast to fill in the role.

Later, Davis told the Television Academy that, for her, that reunion just wasn't the same without the original Sam.

"I don't care how I acted — I knew that wasn't Sam," she said, complaining even the actors' heights were dramatically different. Can you blame Alice for just wanting to be back in Sam's arms?

Melvin was happy with the acting career he had, deciding to retire after playing prominent roles on a variety of popular sitcoms and voicing memorable cartoons for decades. Even though he never joined another cast after his first TV show, he carved a place for himself in the heart of a great many TV fans.

"I'm a household face," Melvin said, explaining that fans approached him all his life, saying, "'Hey, Henshaw,' or 'Hey, Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch.'" He humbly called his popularity among classic TV fans "a cult thing."

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James 9 days ago
He also provided the voice to magilla gorilla.
Wiseguy 9 days ago
All in the Family ended in 1979. It was Archie Bunker's Place that ended in 1983.
jeremylr 10 days ago
"Although he only guest-starred in eight episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Melvin is quoted on Two Chairs, No Waiting as saying, 'It seemed like I was on it more than I was,' perhaps because we saw him in different seasons, from the second to the eighth."

Allan also did an episode of the spin-off series "Mayberry R.F.D." in 1970--"Hair"--and finally he's not the bad guy. He's Mayberry's new barber who recommends fix-it-man Emmett buy a toupee!

When you also tabulate Allan's Gomer Pyle USMC sojourn as Sgt. Hacker [16], you have 25 total credits in the Mayberry family. Not too shabby.
Mike 11 days ago
All these comments - and nobody's mentioned several appearances Allan Melvin made on PERRY MASON?
Once he was a tough private eye.
Another time he was a meek groundskeeper.
I'll have to look up the third time later.
And he did a lot of very serious roles on other series (many in the MeTV inventory).
AgingDisgracefully Mike 10 days ago
And NEVER was he incompetent, irrelevant or immaterial!
JohnBates 12 days ago
He was Bluto in the late 70's Popeye cartoons,produced by Hanna-Barbera.
OldTVfanatic JohnBates 11 days ago
That’s right, and he voiced Thule the Lion Man on Flash Gordon
Dario 12 days ago
Melvin was also well-known for doing Liquid Plumber commercials for years, as well as doing the voice of Drooper on The Banana Splits cartoon show(1968-70).
harlow1313 Dario 11 days ago
Well, he was no Ty-D-Bol Man.
Dario harlow1313 10 days ago
That's true! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
Pilaf 12 days ago
He was a member of the Tribe. Of course, he got hired over and over. Like hotel keys, you saw the same actors over and over again, complete with Brooklyn accents.
lynngdance 12 days ago
On a COMPLETELY RANDOM NOTE!! (please don’t criticize me for this being off-topic.) As most of us know, ABC is show the last episodes of Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek (😖😭) well anyway since we are remembering the wonderful Alex Trebek I think this would be a good time to show some of the (many) of his funny moments!! (In Gifs 😆)
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lynngdance lynngdance 12 days ago
Well I was going to post more Gifs but it’s taking like 45 minutes just to post these because of the slow internet, so this will have to be enough 🙂
Wiseguy lynngdance 9 days ago
Jeopardy! is in syndication. It may be on your local ABC station but it isn't on the ABC network.
Shipwreck7 lynngdance 7 days ago
Thanks for posting. He was a truly great man. He’ll be missed.
lynngdance Shipwreck7 7 days ago
Your welcome, and yes, he was truly great. He will be missed, I know I’ll never forget him. Alex, wherever you are, we love you ❤️🕯🌹
JHP 12 days ago
"we call barney the chicken" - which would have been an improvement

Hint hint - BRING Back Phil Silvers SHOW!
Bowl300 12 days ago
I remember him as a bully to Barney on Andy Griffith. He got flipped by the Judo Instructor. He thought it was Barney.
RickBrosh Bowl300 11 days ago
He was also one to Howard Sprague in a later episode when he played Howard's girlfriend's unfriendly ex-boyfriend.
FrankensteinLover 12 days ago
He was such a Great Actor and fit in no Matter what his Role was. His Reruns on Gomer Pyle and The Andy Griffith Show are still just as good Today.
Pacificsun 13 days ago
MeTV you need to bring back The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54 (back to back) during the earliest overnight hours!! Like when you retire Highway Patrol!
Yes! Highway Patrol might be the drudgiest, boringist show on MeTV. I'd love to see Phil again on his iconic series! Many future guest stars went on to bigger things. Dick Van Dyke was one. After that, MeTV could put a shorter-lived series "Car 54, Where Are You" that had the funniest cops in tv history, since the Keystone Kops (silent era). Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynne, pre-Herman Munster) and the hilarious Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross, with his "ooh! ooh!" line) ruled the cops genre from Sep. 1961 to 1963. It boasted one of the most memorable and funniest theme songs ever heard: "There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights. There's a traffic jam in Harlem that's backed-up to Jackson Heights. There's a Scout troop short a child, Khrushchev's due at Idlewild! Car 54, Where Are You?" It should have been nominated for Best Theme Song (and won) if there was such a category! Idlewild Airport was sadly going to be re-named JFK in early 1964. As a treat, Al Lewis ("Grandpa Munster") appeared as "Officer Leo Schnauser" before teaming up with Fred Gwynne the year after it ended in April 1963, and 60 episodes.
Moverfan MadMadMadWorld 12 days ago
Most amazing discovery in Car 54--Herman Munster was a hunk!
Fuming Pacificsun 12 days ago
Both the Phil Silvers show and Car 54 are on, back to back early in the morning, but they're on another network. I agree on Highway Patrol but I get a kick out of Broderick Crawford's bull in a china shop acting, its awful. It's like he cant wait for the scene to end and get a stiff drink
harlow1313 Moverfan 12 days ago
According to Lilly, Herman was a hunk a hunk of burning love!
Pilaf MadMadMadWorld 12 days ago
I disagree! Love me some Broderick Crawford!
Pacificsun 15 hours ago
This comment has been removed.
Pacificsun 13 days ago
His secret was that he's very likeable no matter the role. (In normal times) would you have coffee with the guy in your house?? It's that kind of familiarity!
Big3Fan 13 days ago
I've always enjoyed Mr. Melvin's work. He could play good guys and bad guys equally well. On TAGS alone he played town thugs, escaped prisoners, an army recruiter, a hotel detective, an illegal produce vendor and a member of a stolen car ring. No typecasting this guy.
TheDavBow3 13 days ago
He'll always be Sgt. Hacker to me. 😊
geatornez82 TheDavBow3 13 days ago
He'll always be Magilla Gorilla to me.
daDoctah geatornez82 12 days ago
And Drooper (the lion) from the Banana Splits. (Fleegle the dog was Paul Winchell and Bingo the ape was Daws Butler. I don't know how Don Messick managed not to be part of that cast.)
geatornez82 daDoctah 12 days ago
Wasn't he Snorky the elephant?
That's what I thought. I don't think there was a show produced by Hanna-Barbera in the 60's and 70's that Don Messick wasn't a part of!
LittleMissNoName 13 days ago
He also played Rob's old army buddy on The Dick Van Dyke show.
JHP LittleMissNoName 12 days ago
and a suspected criminal - but was a jeweler on DVD show
"Shave and a haircut. Two bits."
MarthaWashington JHP 10 days ago
I remember that one, Didn't "Rob" think he was a thief, but he only wanted to finish engraving something. And that "Rob" didn't recognize him because he was the person who controlled the lights from above and couldn't be seen in the Army
Yes! That episode recently ran a Sunday night one or two weeks ago.
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