Onionhead (1958): Taurog’s Comedy, Starring Andy Griffith

In Onionhead, directed by Norman Taurog, Andy Griffith plays Al Woods, a frivolous college student, who loves girls and parties. (Never mind that Griffith is too old to play an undergrad).

When his academic record and grades decline, and his relationship with his girlfriend Jo Hill (Erin O’Brien) sours, Al joins the Coast Guard as an assistant cook on the SS Periwinkle,

He naively expects to sit out WWII peace and quiet, but, instead, he runs afoul of navy protocol and rigid officer Red Wildoe (Walter Matthau, early on in his career), who’s determined to put Al in his place.

In or out of trouble, Al remains a stubborn individualist.  Soon, he is attracted to Wildoe’s fiancee Stella (Felica Farr, wife of Jack Lemmon), which further complicates his life.

The strong supporting cast includes Roscoe Karns as Al Woods’ crusty father, James Gregory as the skipper of the Periwinkle, and Joey Bishop as a stereotypical guy from Brooklyn.

In his third major feature, “Onionhead,” Andy Griffith plays a character that combines elements of his charming and ingenuous Will Stockdale in the smash comedy, “No Time for Sergeants,” and the hotheaded man of Lonesome Rhodes in Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd,” the movie that made him a star and still represents his most powerful work.

The movie has some good moments, but it suffers from excessive running time, lack of sufficient humor, and unexciting direction by Taurog (who has made some good pictures in the 1930s and 1940s).

“Onionhead” acknowledges the U.S. Coastal Guard cooperation in making the movie more authentic.



Running time: 111 Minutes.

Directed by Norman Taurog


Andy Griffith as Al Woods

Felicia Farr as Stella

Walter Matthau as “Red” Wildoe

Joe Mantell as “Doc” O’Neal

Ray Danton as Ensign Dennis Higgins

James Gregory as the “Skipper”