From an entertainment standpoint, few things are more irritating to folks in this part of the country than someone faking a Southern accent in a movie or television show.
However, that was never an issue with actor Hoke Howell, who provided the real thing in a long list of credits including performances in two memorable episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” as Pfc. Dudley A. “Dud” Wash.
Wash was the character who married Charlene of the musically inclined Darling Family, much to the chagrin of romantic rival Ernest T. Bass, played by Howard Morris, appearing in “Mountain Wedding” and “The Darlings are Coming.”
In true mountain man fashion, Dud proved to be a worthy foe in refusing to let Ernest T. snatch away Charlene through his usual antics, which was punctuated with the thick Southern drawl Hoke Howell brought to that role.
Howell died in 1997 and never attended Mayberry Days after it was launched in 1990, something being rectified this year with the appearance at the event of his son Stark, 60.
“This will be the first time Dud Wash will be represented,” he said during a telephone interview this week while heading to Mount Airy.
Hoke Howell provided his special touch of down-home realism not only for the Griffith show set in a small North Carolina town, but as a go-to guy whenever Hollywood producers needed to cast other such parts.
“He was kind of a utility player (in that regard),” Stark Howell said, reinforced by the fact that unlike many actors, his dad actually hailed from the South.
“And he would get a lot of Southern accent parts, because he was from Anderson, South Carolina,” Stark added, “the mechanic or the hillbilly.”
While he appeared in only two “Andy Griffith Show” episodes, Hoke Howell — a Georgia native who died in 1997 at age 67 — was one of the hardest-working character actors in the business through the 1960s up to the time of his death. This encompassed about 125 different movies and TV programs, and multiple episodes in some cases.
Howell’s on-screen debut was a bit part in the 1961 feature film “The Hustler” starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason, and his portrayal of Dud Wash came two years afterward.
Fast-forwarding to today, “The Darlings are Coming” and “Mountain Wedding” episodes rank as among the most popular of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“Everyone remembers that,” Stark Howell said, “and everyone mentions Dud Wash.”
That role was good for Hoke’s body of work as well as the series. “I would say that is probably one of the most-remembered roles,” Stark Howell said of his dad’s numerous parts.
“I think that role was a favorite because he was pretty much playing himself,” he added. “It was genuine as far as his accent.”
Stark still has his dad’s original copy of a script from “The Andy Griffith Show,” in which Hoke changed bits and pieces of dialogue so it would be more real and at the same time “kind of made that role his own,” he said.
Strangely, actor Bob Denver — best known as the star of “Gilligan’s Island” — later appeared as Dud Wash in a 1964 episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” titled “Divorce, Mountain Style.”
Stark Howell believes this casting anomaly occurred because the brass at the CBS network were trying to gain exposure for Bob Denver to help propel the “Gilligan” series that was gearing up around the same time. “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Andy Griffith Show” both appeared on that network.
Although Hoke Howell amassed a ton of credits during his career, his life as a character actor proved difficult at times.
Growing up in California, Stark recalls the struggles his dad had with lack of regular employment.
Hoke would audition for the guest cast of various TV shows, then sit at home waiting for a call-back, which sometimes led to waiting for a second call-back. “You have to learn to live with rejection and not take it personally,” Stark said.
He remembers Hoke practicing lines for popular shows such as “CHiPs” and “Quincy,” after successful auditions, and is pleased that his father also landed a role on his favorite program, “The Wonder Years.”
Hoke Howell had guest stints on other well-known shows: “Columbo,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Bewitched,” “Green Acres,” “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Brady Bunch” and many others.
Among his movie roles is that of a preacher in “Grand Theft Auto,” a 1977 release directed by and starring Ron Howard (Opie).
A major breakthrough came with Hoke becoming a regular on the TV series “Here Comes the Brides,” which was on from 1968-70.
“And I think that was when he probably was the happiest — when he went to work every day,” Stark Howell said.
The son also works in the entertainment field, as a storyboard artist for animated productions. He has lent his talents to such entities as Walt Disney and Nickelodeon.
Stark Howell is the father of six children, which he says keeps him young and able to maintain an active lifestyle that includes surfing.
He is relishing his first-ever appearance at Mayberry Days.
“I’m going to enjoy it and go with the flow and will be available (to) contribute to the event,” the visitor pledged shortly before arriving in town. “I’m going to be a part of whatever I can.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.