Andy Griffith may best be known for playing a small sheriff and a criminal defense attorney. But he also once starred in a western comedy with John Wayne’s son. That film would be “Rustlers’ Rhapsody,” which released in 1985.
Both Griffith and Patrick Wayne had supporting roles in the film. The movie was meant to be a send-up to the great westerns of yesteryear. The film was a parody in a similar vein as the 1980’s “Airplane!” for instance. Just don’t expect a similar success story here. Upon release, critics panned the western comedy, and the movie also barely made back its budget as well.
But “Rustlers’ Rhapsody” should be an interesting afternoon watch for those wanting to see Griffith try his hand at a western. Wayne’s role in the film also gives the flick a bit of legitimacy as a spoof of the types of films his father used to make. The film plays heavily with genre and audience expectations. There’s a heavy dose of meta-commentary that wouldn’t become in vogue until the 1990s and 2000s. For instance, the main character Rex O’Herlihan realizes he’s in a movie.
That character is played by Tom Berenger, often breaking through the fourth wall. Rex recognizes that he’s a singing cowboy in a movie, and his role is to come to town, kill all the baddies, kiss the girl and ride into the sunset. The film breaks down the western to its stereotypes.
Andy Griffith Plays the Villian
But Andy Griffith is certainly playing against type in the film. He plays the head honcho bad guy in the film, Colonel Ticonderoga. Griffith’s character and his fellow colonels don’t take kindly to Rex coming to town and endangering their villainous enterprises.
Griffith gets the opportunity to ham it up during the film. And the actor appears to be having a good time in the role. Meanwhile, to stop Rex, Griffith brings Patrick Wayne’s character to the town. Wayne plays a larger-than-life hero in the story that makes Rex’s character obsolete. Realizing he’s become a sidekick in his own story, Rex opts to leave town.
But the cowboy returns after realizing Griffith and Wayne partnered together. Wayne’s character is actually a bad guy because he’s a lawyer. The entire story is farcical but is definitely an interesting approach to the genre. Where else can you see Andy Griffith ham it up alongside John Wayne’s son in a western?