Don Knotts (Barney Fife) dies at 81

Marc

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#1
From USAToday:

Don Knotts, TV's lovable nerd, dies at 81

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don Knotts, the skinny, lovable nerd who kept generations of television audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, has died. He was 81.

Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said Paul Ward, a spokesman for the cable network TV Land, which airs The Andy Griffith Show, and another Knotts hit, Three's Company.

Unspecified health problems had forced him to cancel an appearance in his native Morgantown in August 2005.

The West Virginia-born actor's half-century career included seven TV series and more than 25 films, but it was the Griffith show that brought him TV immortality and five Emmies.

The show ran from 1960-68, and was in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings each season, including a No. 1 ranking its final year. It is one of only three series in TV history to bow out at the top: The others are I Love Lucy and Seinfeld. The 249 episodes have appeared frequently in reruns and have spawned a large, active network of fan clubs.

As the bug-eyed deputy to Griffith, Knotts carried in his shirt pocket the one bullet he was allowed after shooting himself in the foot. The constant fumbling, a recurring sight gag, was typical of his self-deprecating humor.

Knotts, whose shy, soft-spoken manner was unlike his high-strung characters, once said he was most proud of the Fife character and doesn't mind being remembered that way.

His favorite episodes, he said, were "The Pickle Story," where Aunt Bee makes pickles no one can eat, and "Barney and the Choir," where no one can stop him from singing.

"I can't sing. It makes me sad that I can't sing or dance well enough to be in a musical, but I'm just not talented in that way," he lamented. "It's one of my weaknesses."

Knotts appeared on several other television shows. In 1979, he joined the cast of Three's Company, also starring John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt.

Early in his TV career, he was one of the original cast members of The Steve Allen Show, the comedy-variety show that ran from 1956-61. He was one of a group of memorable comics backing Allen that included Louis Nye, Tom Poston and Bill "Jose Jimenez" Dana.

Knotts' G-rated films were family fun, not box-office blockbusters. In most, he ends up the hero and gets the girl — a girl who can see through his nervousness to the heart of gold.

In the part-animated 1964 film The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Knotts played a meek clerk who turns into a fish after he is rejected by the Navy.

When it was announced in 1998 that Jim Carrey would star in a Limpet remake, Knotts responded: "I'm just flattered that someone of Carrey's caliber is remaking something I did. Now, if someone else did Barney Fife, THAT would be different."

In the 1967 film The Reluctant Astronaut, co-starring Leslie Nielsen, Knotts' father enrolls his wimpy son — operator of a Kiddieland rocket ride — in NASA's space program. Knotts poses as a famous astronaut to the joy of his parents and hometown but is eventually exposed for what he really is, a janitor so terrified of heights he refuses to ride an airplane.

In the 1969 film The Love God?, he was a geeky bird-watcher who is duped into becoming publisher of a naughty men's magazine and then becomes a national sex symbol. Eventually, he comes to his senses, leaves the big city and marries the sweet girl next door.

He was among an army of comedians from Buster Keaton to Jonathan Winters to liven up the 1963 megacomedy It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Other films include The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966); The Shakiest Gun in the West, (1968); and a few Disney films such as The Apple Dumpling Gang, (1974); Gus, (1976); and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, (1977).

In 1998, he had a key role in the back-to-the-past movie Pleasantville, playing a folksy television repairman whose supercharged remote control sends a teen boy and his sister into a TV sitcom past.

Knotts began his show biz career even before he graduated from high school, performing as a ventriloquist at local clubs and churches. He majored in speech at West Virginia University, then took off for the big city.

"I went to New York cold. On a $100 bill. Bummed a ride," he recalled in a visit to his hometown of Morgantown, where city officials renamed a street for him in 1998.

Within six months, Knotts had taken a job on a radio Western called Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders, playing a wisecracking, know-it-all handyman. He stayed with it for five years, then came his series TV debut on The Steve Allen Show.

He married Kay Metz in 1948, the year he graduated from college. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1969. Knotts later married, then divorced Lara Lee Szuchna.

In recent years, he said he had no plans to retire, traveling with theater productions and appearing in print and TV ads for Kodiak pressure treated wood.

The world laughed at Knotts, but it also laughed with him.

He treasured his comedic roles and could point to only one role that wasn't funny, a brief stint on the daytime drama Search for Tomorrow.

"That's the only serious thing I've done. I don't miss that," Knotts said.

Knotts began his entertainment career as a ventriloquist in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia, and began working as a stand-up comedian entertaining troops after enlisting in the Army during World War Two.

He landed a small role in the Broadway play "No Time for Sergeants," marking the first time he worked with Griffith, who was the play's star. Griffith and Knotts also worked together in the 1958 movie version of "No Time for Sergeants."

Knotts began perfecting his twitchy, high-strung persona in 1956 as a regular in man-on-the-street interview segments on "The Tonight Show" during Steve Allen's years as host. From there, he ended up on Griffith's new show, which premiered in 1960.

Knott's Fife loved to flaunt his authority in small-town Mayberry and always dreamed of solving a big case but was so inept that Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor would not allow him to keep his gun loaded. Instead, Barney carried a single bullet in his shirt pocket.
 
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Craig H.

#2
One of the old school, who could entertain young and old alike, at the same time.

If you have never seen "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", you have missed a fantastic movie. Every time I've seen it, my sides hurt from laughing.
 
J
#3
Will Miss him ...

Isn't it great though to have such a wonderful body of work to remember him by.

So Long Barn' ... and give Aunt Bea a Kiss when you see her.

James
 

Marc

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#4
I watched an episode this AM where Otis sued after falling in the jail and a shyster lawyer got to him. The jail cell looked like it was decorated by Aunt Bea (another wonderful personality). I think it was on TV Land on satellite. I think they're doing a special Tuesday or Tuesday night (they call it a 'Marathon') of Andy Griffith episodes.

Craig H. said:
If you have never seen "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", you have missed a fantastic movie.
A comedy who's who classic. Even Buster Keaton was in that.

I have a bunch of comedy classics I've recorded off of Turner Classic Movies. Buster Keaton, Burns and Allen, Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, every Marx Brothers, Max Lindner, WC Fields, about 80 Three Stooges shorts and all their 'major' movies, a bunch of Charlie Chaplin movies, --- etc. I love comedy.

As to 'Barney', in the US he is a classic in and of himself. I guess to me he is sorta a person in my mind that I grew up with who brought out strong emotions. In the bios they call it 'self depreciating' humour. I can say he has, and continues to, make me laugh even knowing the episodes practically by heart.

Don Knotts appeared in the following productions:

* Big Bully (1996), role - Principal Kokelar
* Cats Don't Dance (1996) (voice)
* Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987) (voice)
* "What a Country" (1986) TV Series
* Return to Mayberry (1986) (TV), role - Barney Fife
* Cannonball Run II (1984)
* Private Eyes, The (1980), role - Inspector Winship
* Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The (1979), role - Theodore
* Prizefighter, The (1979), role - Shake
* Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978), role - Denver Kid
* "Three's Company" (1977) TV Series, role - Ralph Furley (1979-1984)
* Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), role - Wheely Applegate
* Gus (1976), role - Coach Venner
* No Deposit, No Return (1976), role - Bert
* Apple Dumpling Gang, The (1975), role - Theodore Ogelvie
* I Love a Mystery (1973) (TV), role - Alexander Archer
* How to Frame a Figg (1971)
* "Don Knotts Show, The" (1970) TV Series
* Love God?, The (1969), role - Abner
* Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), role - Jesse W. Haywood
* Reluctant Astronaut, The (1967), role - Roy Fleming
* Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The (1965), role - Luther Heggs
* Incredible Mr. Limpet, The (1964)
* It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), role - Nervous Man
* Move Over, Darling (1963), role - Shoe Clerk
* Last Time I Saw Archie, The (1961), role - Captain Little
* "Andy Griffith Show, The" (1960) TV Series, role - Barney Fife (1960-65)
* Wake Me When It's Over (1960), role - Sergeant Warren
* No Time for Sergeants (1958), role - Corporal Brown
* "Steve Allen Show, The" (1956) TV Series
* "Search for Tomorrow" (1951) TV Series

RIP
 
J

JerryStem

#5
The Incredible Mr. Limpet was one of my favorite movies as a kid in the 70's/80's. If it were on again this weekend I'd probably watch it again.

Liked him as Barney, Mr Furley got on my nerves sometimes... But as a fish, top notch!

Jerry
 
R

ralphsulser

#6
I actually remember seeing Don Knots do the "Man in the street" interviews with Steve Allen on the Tonight Show, it was the funniest bit, he was so nervous.
 
#7
Craig H. said:
If you have never seen "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", you have missed a fantastic movie. Every time I've seen it, my sides hurt from laughing.
I agree. It's getting a bit old, but not hurting from the fact. Lots of unforgettable scenes in it, but my favourite is where the stunt pilot Frank Tallman slams that Beechcraft through a billboard.

/Claes
 
S

Sleepless

#8
See ya Barn'

He was definitely a unique character. There doesn't seem to be too many of his type, or his unique-ness, to come along very often. I introduced my daughters to Mr. Limpet when they were about 7 and 8 (about 4 years ago) and they still love that show.

BTW, I read that Aunt Bee was not the most pleasent person to be around. Even Andy Griffith was quoted as saying that he wasn't sure why but she didn't seem to care much for him.
 
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