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Howard Morris: The Actor Behind Ernest T. Bass, Mayberry's Trouble-Making Mountain Man

Screengrab from YouTube

The Andy Griffith Show had so many memorable characters that lived in its fictional town of Mayberry. From Gomer Pyle to Deputy Barney Fife, there were some unique characters that consistently kept viewers laughing week after week. But let's not forget the memorable Ernest T. Bass, the trouble-making mountain man played by Howard Morris.

Whenever Ernest T. would show up in Mayberry and exclaim, "Howdy do to you and you. It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T.!" Sheriff Andy Taylor and Barney Fife knew they had their work cut out for them. As Don Knotts' character, Fife, would say, "He's a nut!" As the self-proclaimed "best rock thrower in the county," Ernest T. would frequently throw them through windows and wreak a bit of havoc in the tiny town. But it was all in good fun. He was also known for trying to impress women that he was romantically pursuing, despite it never really working out. Especially when he serenades poor Charlene. 

Even though he's a trouble maker, Andy Taylor tries to take Ernest T. under his wing and help him find his way. In one memorable episode, he attends Helen Crump's elementary school class and is awarded an honorary "diploma." Despite only appearing in a total of five episodes throughout The Andy Griffith Show, he quickly became a fan favorite, even reprising his character in the made for TV film Return to Mayberry. 

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The Bronx, New York native first started making a name for himself on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, a sketch comedy series in the early '50s. He was reunited with Carl Reiner, who served in the same United States Army Special Services unit in World War II. Morris was classically trained as a Shakespearean actor, but he really found his footing in the comedy world. Outside of Andy Griffith, he also appeared on the TV show The Twilight Zone, The Nutty Professor starring Jerry Lewis, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Polly Bergen Show, and the James Garner film Boys' Night Out. Mel Brooks even cast him in a few of his films -- High Anxiety, History of the World, Part I and Life Stinks.   

Morris also had a prominent career as a voice actor. He worked on many Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Atom Ant and Magilla Gorilla. He was also involved in the comic book series Beetle Bailey and was the voice of Jughead Jones on The Archie Show. Morris also played the voiceover roles of Wade Duck on the Disney show DuckTales and Flem on the Cartoon Network series Cow and Chicken.

Outside of acting he also had a successful directing career -- The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Get Smart, One Day at a Time, Bewitched, Laverne & Shirley and the Doris Day film With Six You Get Eggroll. His voiceover career also made him qualified for some voice directing gigs on Tom and Jerry, Goin' Coconuts and more. 

Morris passed away in 2005 but left behind a comedic legacy in front of the camera and from the voiceover booth. Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will always remember him best from those five iconic performances as Ernest T. Bass, which will always bring a smile to our faces.

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Howard Morris: The Actor Behind Ernest T. Bass, Mayberry's Trouble-Making Mountain Man