Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don Knotts who played Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show

Born Jesse Donald Knotts in 1924, Don as he was called, grew up in West Virginia.  His most famous role was that of Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" for which he won five Emmy awards.  He shared the set with Andy Griffith and Ron Howard. The "little" Ronny Howard was Don's distant cousin. He was also well known as "Mr. Furley" the building manager on "Three's Company".

Don Knotts as "Barney Fife" in "The Andy Griffith Show"

Prior to his days on the big screen and TV, Knotts did a ventriloquist act which he took with him when he joined the US Army.  He got his first on-screen appearance when he starred in "Search for Tomorrow" in 1953 which he continued for two years.  A couple of years after that stint ended, he began building an incredible resume of TV and film credits including 9 episodes of "The Steve Allen Plymouth Show" until 1960 as well as "The Bob Cummings Show" and "No Time for Sergeants" in 1958.  

Don Knotts as "Barney Fife" in "The Andy Griffith Show"

It was in 1960 he began his signature role as Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show".  He continued for 141 episodes until 1968. In parallel into the 60s some of his credits include "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis", "The New Steve Allen Show", "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963), "the Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964), 5 episodes of "The Red Skelton Hour", and "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966) which is one of my personal favorites.  In 1966 he appeared in "Mchale's Navy" with Ernest Borgnine, Joe Flynn and Tim Conway.  Other 1960s movie credits include "The Reluctant Astronaut" in 1967 and "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1968).

"The Andy Griffith Show" cast members: Don Knotts (Barney Fife), Ron Howard (Opie Taylor), Andy Griffith (Sheriff Andy Taylor)

He continued into the 70s with appearances in "The Bill Cosby Show", "The New Andy Griffith Show", "How to Frame a Figg", "The Man Who Came to Dinner", "Here's Lucy", "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975), "No Deposit, No Return" (1976), "Gus", "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo" (1977), "Hot Lead and Cold Feet" (1978), "Fantasy Island"
with Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize, "The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again" (1978), and "The Prize Fighter" (1979).

Don Knotts in the 1960s

Don Knotts in "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo"

In 1979 through 1984 he starred as Ralph Furley, the building manager for the unlikely trio of Jack, Janet, and Chrissy who made of the primary character's of "Three's Company".  His co-stars where John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Summers, and Priscilla Barnes.

"Three's Company" cast members, Front: Joyce DeWitt (Janet), John Ritter (Jack), Ann Wedgeworth (Lana)  Back: Don Knotts (Mr. Ralph Furley), Richard Kline (Larry) , Suzanne Somers (Chrissy)

After the "Three's Company" ended in 1984, Don Knotts appeared in the star studded "Cannonball Run II" which included among many: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jamie Farr, Marilu Henner, Telly Savalas, Shirley MacLaine, Susan Anton, Catherine Bach, Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar, Jackie Chan, Tim Conway, Tony Danza, Jack Elam, Richard Kiel, Ricardo Montalban, Jim Nabors, Charles Nelson Reilly, Frank Sinatra, Joe Theismann, Mel Tillis, Abe Vigoda, Fred Dryer, Arte Johnson, and Cheech Marin.

Knotts continued through the 80s with "Inspector Gadget" (TV show 1985), "Return to Mayberry" (1986), "The Love Boat"
starring Gavin MacLeod, Lauren Tewes, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Jill Whelan, and Ted Lange (1987), "What a Country" (1987), "She's the Sheriff" (1988). The 90s began with "Newhart" (1990), "Fish Police" (1992), 15 episodes of "Matlock" with Andy Griffith, "Step by Step" (1993), "Big Bully" (1996), "101 Dalmations: The Series" (voice 1997), and "Pleasantville" (1998).

The new millennium found Don Knotts doing many voice overs and TV movies such as "Tom Sawyer", "Fatherhood", "That '70s Show", and the voice of Wormie in 8 "Hermie & Friends" videos which was his last work.  

Don Knotts died of lung cancer in February 2006.  Aside from his family, one of the last people to be with him just before he passed was his friend Andy Griffith.


  1. As a child growing up I always had a deep respect and love for Jesse Donald Knotts.I always looked forward to his new movies especially "The Ghost and Mr Chicken" and of course :The Incredible Mr Limpet". Im 43 now bt still enjoy seeing him on reruns. We without a doubt lost a truly talented man who brought joy to so many people in all his cooky roles. I still feel my heart break a little when I think of him and know he is no longer with us. I was avery lonely child and Mr knotts made a little girl smile and feel not quite so lonely
    Always loved and forever missed
    Your in heart always
    Kristine Smith

  2. its funny how i just wrote the other comment a few days ago and now im watching its a mad mad mad mad world it hasnt been on in years ......wil wonders never cease lol

  3. Don Knotts as Barney Fife was one of the all-time best comedic actors. Over the years, I've read that off-camera he was an incredibly generous person who was not at all like his Barney character. I'm 51 now and I think "The Andy Griffith Show" is still one of the best shows that was ever on TV.

    If you're younger and you've never seen the show, watch 2 to 3 episodes and you'll be hooked. Great writing, great cast, great show!!!