Burt Mustin of The Andy Griffith Show started his acting career at the age of 67
It's never too late.
Bonanza, that timeless Western series, takes place in the 1860s, about a century before it aired on television. But there was a bit-part actor on the show who was old enough to call Little Joe "Pappy." Burt Mustin also turned up in episodes of Wagon Train ("The Jed Whitmore Story") and Maverick ("The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick"). He was old enough to remember the Old West.
Mustin was born in 1884, making him older than The Rifleman's rifle. He didn't kick off his Hollywood career until he was 67.
After graduating from the Pennsylvania Military College around the turn of the century with a degree in engineering, Mustin became a car salesman. It was a rather new profession. He started out selling Oakland Sensible Sixes, later moving on to Franklins — two brands largely forgotten.
Throughout his career, which led him to him working for the Better Business Bureau, Mustin dabbled in amateur acting and singing. He belonged to the Barbershop Harmony Society and popped up in productions by the Pittsburgh Opera.
Mustin and his wife eventually retired to Arizona. In Tucson, the retiree took in a role in a local production of the play Detective Story. William Wyler — who would go on to direct Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday and Funny Girl — happened to catch the show and offered Mustin a role in his screen adaptation of Detective Story.
Thus, Burt Mustin made his screen debut at the age of 67 in 1951.
He went to appear in dozens of television shows, from Our Miss Brooks to All in the Family. His resume is littered with credits like "Old Man" (My Three Sons, Mary Tyler Moore, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Peter Gunn, Bewitched, Father Knows Best, Emergency!…) with the occasional "Old Timer" (The Texan) or "Old McDonald" (Batman).
But Mustin will be best remembered as a resident of two idyllic TV towns — Mayfield and Mayberry. On Leave It to Beaver, he played Gus the Fireman in 14 episodes. On The Andy Griffith Show, he was Jud Fletcher.
Occasionally, he appeared under a different name — as Old Man Ferguson or Burt — but it seemed as if he was the same character. He even crossed over to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D.
Mustin's television acting career would stretch all the way to 1976, when he turned up in a few episodes of Phyllis, as the boyfriend of Phyllis' mother-in-law. A few months later, in early 1977, he passed away. But what a way to go out — playing a love interest at 92.