March 8, 2006 by

Don Knotts


Categories: Actors

dknotts.jpgDon Knotts, the Emmy Award-winning actor who entertained generations in television shows, movies and on stage, died on Feb. 24 of pulmonary and respiratory complications. He was 81.
Born Jesse Donald Knotts in Morgantown, W.Va., Knotts broke into show business as a ventriloquist. After graduating from high school, he moved to New York City with only $100 in his pocket. He hoped to find work as an entertainer, but within a few weeks, Knotts returned home and enrolled at West Virginia University. A year later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent World War II performing for the troops in the Pacific theatre as a comedian with the Special Services Branch.
Knotts completed his education after the war, earning a degree in theatre. He then moved back to New York City and used his Army contacts to score gigs at area comedy clubs and roles in radio dramas. From 1953 to 1955, Knotts was a regular on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow.” In 1956, he made his Broadway debut playing the psychiatrist in “No Time for Sergeants,” a play that starred Andy Griffith. That same year, Knotts also landed a job doing “man-on-the-street” segments for “The Tonight Show” with Steve Allen. When the program moved to Hollywood in 1959, Knotts did too.
Knotts would eventually appear in seven TV series and more than 25 films, but he was best known for playing the bumbling, high-strung deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” The hit series, which ran from 1960-1968, earned Knotts five Emmy Awards. Millions of Americans laughed at his comedic antics on “The Andy Griffith Show” — during its original broadcast and in reruns.
A perfectionist, Knotts was known for practicing his lines over and over, trying out different inflections and emotions until he found the one that best suited the character and story. His care for the craft helped him earn success on the big screen, with starring roles in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” “The Reluctant Astronaut,” “The Shakiest Gun in the West,” “The Love God?” and “How to Frame a Figg.” Knotts did stage work in the 1970s before being cast as dorky landlord Ralph Furley on the popular 1980s TV sitcom “Three’s Company.”
Knotts remained busy in the final years of his life, touring with plays, appearing as a recurring guest on Griffith’s “Matlock” series, tackling small roles in movies (“Cannonball Run II,” “Pleasantville”) and providing voices for cartoons (“Hermie & Friends,” “Chicken Little”). His autobiography “Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known” was published in 1999.
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19 Responses to Don Knotts

  1. Dave

    I always felt bad for him. I thought the anxiety exhibited by his characters couldn’t possibly be completely acted. I hope he was a happy man because he brought me a great deal of happiness watching him on television.

  2. Harriette

    I am really going to miss Mr. Don Knotts; he has brought us tears and joy into our lives. We are going to miss him very much. May the Lord give strength to his family.

  3. Lauri O'Haver

    When I was a little girl, I watched a movie where Don Knotts played a double role as a real man and a cartoon fish. For the longest time, I couldn’t remember the name of the movie, but I NEVER forgot that it was Don Knotts that made me love it so much. As an adult, I recalled the title, and my son fell in love with it too. Since that movie, I have never missed an opportunity to enjoy his work. Mr. Don Knotts will always have the power to cross generations. He is timeless. He will be missed so much.

  4. Bundy in Pa.

    Miss you Barn, God Bless. Still watch the Andy Griffin Show reruns. My all time favorite is when you and Floyd were held hostage by the 3 escaped women convicts at your fishing cabin. Always brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.

  5. Evelyn

    I’ve always loved watching Mr Knotts in all his movies & especially on The Andy Griffith Show.I believe that show probably made so many of us fans think of him as just plain ol’ Barney Fife, altho nothing was just plain ol’, about him, cause’ he was such a precious character.He is truly missed.In deep respect, thanks to all concerned who have made it possible for us to express our devotion for him.

  6. David

    Don Knotts created the greatest character in TV history, Barney Fife. It takes a great actor to do that — even if it is a comic character. What he does with Barney has a timeless appeal, and is as funny today as ever. Credit goes to Andy Griffeth, too, for working with Don and allowing Barney to shine.

  7. Eddie Cintron

    After watching a Andy Griffin show it made your day a whole lot nicer. It touched on real life situations at times with a touch of humor. I do not watch modern day comedy they do not match the great stature of comedy. Don Knotts created a character that will not be forgotton I Am collecting all of the shows will miss good ol Barney Fife and Andy Griffin.

  8. Eddie Cintron

    Andy griffin showed that in times of turmoil one can have a sense of humor and overcome obstacles. andy griffin came down with Gillian Burre which leaves ones body paralyed and on a respirator. After recovery he want on to star in Matlock. What a INSPIRATION.

  9. sandy robertson

    I loved Don Knotts, in the role of Barney Fife. Don really brought the character to life. Don appeared to be a nice guy, I liked him a lot and I was deeply sadden by his death. I also enjoyed him in the comedy threes company too. Don is truly missed, but I’m glad that his memory live on though the reruns.

  10. karen

    He was a funny man and we all will miss him dearly. with our regard to his widow…he brought us such laughter in difficult times and we needed a good laugh he was there like the apple dumpling gang and as barney fife…we will surely miss him but always remember him well….

  11. Brian Huddleston

    I keep watching, and keep watching and it never gets old. It just makes you feel good. It has put so many smiles on my face. We will miss you and your ability. Thank you.

  12. John Boyle

    What a talent for making a show so funny and causing one to forget your troubles for a while I have watched for many years in real time and reruns, I doubt there will ever be another Don Knotts ( Barney ) in my lifetime. God Bless

  13. FamousTonyC

    Don Knotts was a true comic genius. He made us laugh without feeling sarcastic or mean-spirited. His comedy was wholesome, original and genuinely-funny. The world of entertainment grew a bit dimmer without Don to shine his light on everyone. Rest in peace, Mr. Knotts. The world loves you still.

  14. Cathy

    I start work at 7:00am, I get up at 3:30, to
    be ready, so I could watch you at 4:30am til
    6:00am on the Andy Griffith show, never miss it
    you make my day. I hope WGN does not change there
    programming, I’d be very upset, you are dear to
    my heart Barney

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