One of the most influential filmmakers in Hollywood owes a great deal of his success today to one man who molded his early career - that man was Andy Griffith who passed away today at the age of 86.

Griffith came from a small town in North Carolina, and that upbringing became the influence for his signature TV series of the 60s - The Andy Griffith Show.  For 10 seasons (if you include the 1st season of Mayberry RFD which had Griffith tie up the loose ends of his show) and over 250 episodes, Griffith established a classic TV show that is still seen in syndication today (TV Land weekdays around Noon).

Ron Howard got his first break in TV thanks to Andy, playing his son Opie on his show.  His tweet today shows what Griffith meant to him - "His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life.  I'm forever grateful."

Howard has taken what he learned from Andy and has only become one of the biggest filmmakers in Hollywood today (his next project has Howard producing and directing Rush starring Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde - due out next year).  Howard told MSNBC that on his own films he tries to create a comfortable setting where actors and crew can feel confident and do their best possible work, and says, "Without getting up and making speeches, I try to create that environment, as Andy did."

Griffith also helped Don Knotts become an award winning actor as Barney Fife (5 Emmy Award wins between 1960-1966), and  Don later became known in the late 70s and early 80s as Ralph Furley on Three's Company (also seen on TV Land these days).  Their friendship saw them reunite on Andy's other hit show - Matlock.

For 9 seasons between 1986-1995, Ben Matlock was a fixture on NBC.  Once again Griffith helped another young actor become bigger - Clarence Gilyard had his first movie success in Die Hard (playing the behind the scene brains of the heist Theo), then came his run on Matlock which led to his 8 seasons on Walker Texas Ranger as Chuck Norris' right hand man.

One of Griffith's last roles was in the 2007 movie Waitress - worth renting with Keri Russell, Jeremy Sisto, Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO)  and Nathan Fililon (Castle on ABC).

Andy Griffith came from a different era of television, but he still lives in TV reruns and through the work of others.  His impact can and will be felt for a long time to come.