Fans of the Andy Griffith show immediately recognize the supporting characters like Otis, Floyd, and Goober, and many know the names of the actors that portrayed them (Hal Smith, Howard McNair, and George Lindsay, respectively), but when asked which character Allan Melvin portrayed, they will often stop and scratch their heads a bit.
Some will say he was a grocery clerk, some name him as an army sergeant, and some will claim he was a farmer selling vegetables along the side of the road. Still others will say he was a criminal, a detective, or a bully.
The answer of course is: all of the above. Allan Melvin appeared in eight different episodes of the Andy Griffith show but played a different character each and every time. No one in Mayberry seemed to notice that the same guy kept showing up over the years with a different name (sometimes nameless) and profession. When Gomer left to join the Marines, he went along also, as Gunnery Sergeant Carter’s rival, Sergeant Charley Hacker. In fact, Allan’s identity crisis in TV land spanned decades as he was a recurring character on some of the most watched shows in television history including “The Phil Silvers Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and “All in the Family/Archie Bunker’s Place.” He is probably most known for being “Sam, the Butcher” on the Brady Bunch. He also provided the voices for several cartoon characters including “Magilla Gorilla.”
As far as seeing Allan in Mayberry, he first appears in Episode # 50, “Jailbreak,” where he plays a notorious criminal named “Clarence ‘Doc’ Malloy,” who was captured by a state inspector and placed in the Mayberry jail.
Allan then shows up again in Episode #57, “Andy and Barney in the Big City.” This time he’s not a criminal, but a hotel detective in “Capital City” named Bardolli. “Capital City” must have had great rehabilitation program and job placement service to convert “Doc” Malloy into a detective.
We next see Allan back in Mayberry in Episode #73, “Lawman Barney.” This time Allan calls himself “Neil” and has left the detective field for a farmer’s field. He and a buddy are selling their vegetables along the side of the road. Barney clearly is against this make-shift “farmer’s market” as it is a violation of “17B Article 4,” and asks them to move on, but they just poke fun.
When Barney decides to buy a car (Episode #90, “Barney’s First Car”), Allan has given up on vegetable farming and is now working for Grandma Walton (Ellen Corby); the ringleader in a Mt. Pilot car theft and resale operation. Maybe if Barney would have let him sell his vegetables, he wouldn’t have resorted to stealing cars. Allan is known as Jake this time around.
In Episode #99, “Ernest T. Bass Joins the Army,” Allan is back and has somehow not only enlisted in the army, but has rapidly managed to have been promoted to Master Sergeant. He also has landed an assignment as a recruiter in Mayberry. Allan has to deal with Ernest T. Bass, who is trying to enlist just so he can get a uniform.
In Episode #118, “Andy’s Vacation,” Allan has apparently been discharged from the military and has once again turned to a life of crime. Allan escapes from jail by using the keys that were hanging outside the cell door. Barney and Gomer are arguing and do not notice Allan making a break for it
Barney’s uniform is once again the main focus when we next see Allan in Mayberry. In Episode #135, he now is working at Foley’s market under the alias of “Fred Plummer”, but still has some bad habits because he likes to sweep trash into the street. Barney once again has to “lay down the law,” and writes him a citation. Fred respects the uniform much more than he did as a vegetable farmer but threatens to beat Barney up the moment he catches him not wearing it.
Allan makes his last appearance in Episode #222, “Howard’s Main Event” by once again threatening another of Mayberry’s finest citizens, Howard Sprague. As you may remember, Howard was sweet on Millie Hutchens, a recent arrival in Mayberry who worked in the doughnut shop. This time Allan is “Clyde Plaunt,” Millie’s tough guy ex-boyfriend.
Allan Melvin died at the age of 84 on January 17, 2008. He left his mark on television by demonstrating that you do not have to be the star to make an impression.