Q: Regarding “The Andy Griffith Show,” how come nobody knows who the actor who played Mr. Swamp is? I have never been able to find out anything about this actor. Any information would be helpful.
Answer: That is a question that has stumped “The Andy Griffith Show” fans for decades now.
The character — a round-faced, jolly looking fellow with slicked-back dark hair — is an extra, appearing in the background of many episodes throughout the show’s run, always in a non-speaking role (more on this later). The generally-accepted spelling of the character’s name is Mr. Schwamp, based on the spelling that was used by screenwriter Everett Greenbaum, who co-created the name with co-writer Jim Fritzell. Some later scripts spelled the name “Schwump” instead.
“Although he appeared in over two dozen episodes, both black and white and color, he never spoke a single word,” author J. Mark Powell wrote in a blog post about the mystery. “Not even once, although Andy and Barney frequently refer to him by name as ‘Old Man Schwamp’. ... He smiles in acknowledgement of his name from time to time, but that’s all.”
Even Jim Clark, the co-author of “The Andy Griffith Show Book” and the “presiding goober emeritus” of the Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club, is stumped.
“Over the years, I’ve asked everybody affiliated with the show that I’ve encountered if they know the name of the actor who played Mr. Schwamp,” Clark said.
“I’ve asked Andy Griffith, producer Aaron Ruben, assistant director Bruce Bilson — who worked closely with the extras — and all the actors. Most remember Mr. Schwamp. And Andy liked what Mr. Schwamp added to scenes so much that he would request that he be included, whether sitting on bench in front of the courthouse, attending a party, or dancing with the Fun Girls from Mt. Pilot.”
Despite long-standing rumors that the actor was a friend of Griffith’s who was allowed to fill in as an extra, or a contest winner who was given a small walk-on role, there is no clear answer.
The show’s crew tried to give Mr. Schwamp a line one time in the seventh-season episode title “The Lodge,” Clark said, but the actor was so nervous about the sudden leap to a speaking part that he could not deliver the line and it was given to another actor. “And with that went his chance to have his name listed in the credits,” Clark said.
“I thought I had a good prospect of identifying the actor one time when I came across a script with a call sheet that listed extras being used. All of the extras were listed by their real names, except for Mr. Schwamp, who was referred to only by his character name. Somebody connected with the show obviously knew how to find Mr. Schwamp when needed, but I’ve never found that person or Mr. Schwamp’s real name. It remains the Holy Grail of Mayberry minutia.”
As Powell wrote in his blog post on the mystery, “And so Old Man Schwamp stares back at us from a half century old spool of celluloid. The chubby face grins and his eyes twinkle. He clearly enjoys knowing what we don’t know and probably never will.”
You can see a picture of Mr. Schwamp and read theories about who played him at mayberry.fandom.com/wiki/Mr._Schwamp.