Mayberry's mysterious Mr. Schwamp also popped up on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
There are now more clues to the identity of this ''unknown'' extra.
Read to Me
It's hard to imagine any secret being kept for 60 years. It's near impossible to believe that a television actor can remain unknown for six decades. Yet, somehow, a familiar Mayberry face continues to perplex fans of The Andy Griffith Show. Just who in the heck was Mr. Schwamp?
Think of all the books written about The Andy Griffith Show, all the interviews conducted with cast and crew. Try to fathom how many words have been written about Mayberry on the internet, in fan blogs, Wikia pages, podcasts and this very website. There's even an annual festival devoted to the sitcom, Mayberry Days. And nobody knows the identity of "Mr. Schwamp"? People have asked the casting director, talent agents, writers, directors, actors from the show. Shucks, someone even posed the question to Andy Griffith himself. No answer.
First, before we dig deeper into the enigmatic Schwamp, let's explain who we are talking about for anyone who might not know.
The fellow made his first appearance in season four's "My Fair Ernest T. Bass." Known for his grin and toupee, this heavy-set older gentleman can be spotted at Mrs. Wiley's tea party. He continues to turn up in the background — at dances, sitting in restaurants, kicking back on the bench outside the courthouse. He never says a word.
For years, fans called him "Mr. Schwump," until an unearthed script explained that his name was, indeed, "Schwamp." He would appear in 26 total episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, in both black-and-white and color.
But the Schwamp was not contained to Mayberry. He even made it across the country to California.
Remember, the spin-off Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. largely took place at the fictional Camp Henderson on the West Coast. Nevertheless, Mr. Schwamp rears his head a few times on the military comedy.
He is found most easily in "Gomer, the Welsh Rarebit Fiend," dining in the restaurant. The waitress serves him in the foreground, as Gomer sits in the background. It's the rare shot of our mystery man close to the camera. A few episodes later, in "One Of Our Shells is Missing," he zips through the frame in a flash in the Army Surplus Store. Then, in "Gomer, the Beautiful Dreamer," Schwamp has another blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo, shopping in the background of a crowded grocery store. "Gomer, the Welsh Rarebit Fiend," seen above, offers the best view of him.
His appearance on Gomer gives some hints to his identity, perhaps. All these episodes aired rather close together in 1967. Was he just around the set for that span of production? Is he somehow tied to creators involved in those three episodes?
Because here's our theory — someone has to know who this guy is. It seems shocking that a television production that was "like family" could forget the name of a fellow who was around the set so much. And "Mr. Schwamp" was around more than we might have realized.
In 2019, some charming, insightful behind-the-scenes film footage hit YouTube. This home footage came from the camera of Rance Howard, father to Ron and Clint. We see cast and crew filming around Mayberry's iconic lake (in reality Franklin Lake in Franklin Canyon Park).
Lo and behold, in two shots, a man with a remarkable resemblance to Mr. Schwamp can be seen lounging around the set. Like he belongs there. Like he is part of the production, or in the employ of someone on the cast. He leans against a car reading a newspaper. He smokes a cigarette in sunglasses and Ronny Howard plays between takes.
Some have theorized that this mysterious extra was close to Andy Griffith or the show in some way, and his "unknown" identity has been kept as an in-joke for more than half a century. Either that, or everyone involved has a bad memory.
What do you think? Is that Mr. Schwamp in the home footage? Is his secret identity a conspiracy?