Jack Dodson's TV career started because Andy Griffith completely forgot who he was
The TV star famously had a problem keeping track of names.
Everyone knows that Andy Griffith frequently found character actors for The Andy Griffith Show by going out to see plays and nightclub performances by talented entertainers.
When Griffith attended these shows, he didn’t just sit back and enjoy. If somebody put on a performance that struck him as memorable, he would make sure to go backstage and tell that actor straight to their face how fine that performance was.
That’s exactly what happened to Jack Dodson when Griffith caught him acting in a play called "Hughie."
Dodson was so excited to have Andy Griffith there shaking his hand that after he left the theater, he gushed to his agent about Andy’s high praise.
Dodson’s agent heard what happened and quickly set things in motion, trying to make the most for Dodson out of the brief exchange.
The agent reached out to The Andy Griffith Show producers and asked if Dodson could get a guest role on the show since he’d impressed Griffith so much.
Dodson told The Palm Beach Post in 1978 that the producers gave his agent the cold shoulder, not because Griffith was a snob not willing to stick his neck out for another actor, but because Griffith was famously terrible at remembering names.
The story goes that producers asked Griffith about Dodson, and Griffith drew a blank, telling them he didn’t know any Dodson.
Producers then relayed that message to Dodson’s agent, and Dodson, though surprised, decided he’d just let this one go.
Fate, on the other hand, had other plans.
After a little time passed, Griffith was chatting with a friend about how the performances he saw in "Hughie" were some of the best he had seen in a long time. His friend apparently was familiar with the stars’ names in that play and asked him, "You mean Jason Robards and Jack Dodson?"
When he heard Jack Dodson’s name, it caused Griffith’s entire face to fall. He realized he had made a grave mistake.
To make up for his forgetfulness, Griffith went above and beyond.
He helped created the Howard Sprague character just for Dodson, and Dodson said after that, he never struggled to find TV work again.
Dodson only worked with Griffith in Mayberry for a few years before the series ended. For Dodson, Mayberry R.F.D. kept him in the role of Howard Sprague for three more years beyond that and it’s still the actor’s most recognizable TV role.
In the Seventies, Sprague appeared in movies, continued taking on guest roles on hit TV shows in both comedy and drama, and joined the cast of the short-lived series All’s Fair. He also memorably snagged a recurring role on Happy Days as Ralph Malph’s dad.
By the mid-Eighties, he’d appeared on just about every TV show you can think of, and he even reprised his role as Howard Sprague in the TV movie Return to Mayberry before passing away in 1994.
As he predicted in 1978, he never stopped acting on TV after that fateful day when Griffith finally remembered meeting him and gave him his big break in Mayberry.