Sunday, February 26, 2006

Don Knotts (July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006)

"The most difficult character in comedy is that of a fool, and he must be no simpleton who plays the part." ~ Miguel de Cervantes

The "Andy Griffith Show" is probably my all time favorite TV show, so the news of Don Knotts death brings back a flood of memories to me.

I always identified with Deputy Barney Fife, maybe more than most people. In some ways I am different than most people who identify with Knotts' character because I didn't particularly like the way in which Barney was portrayed. I felt sorry for him. I couldn't bring myself to laugh at his ineptness.

It hit too close to home.

Don Knotts often said his favorite of all the Andy Griffith episodes was the "Pickle Story", in which Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) canned a batch of pickles for the county fair, which, according to Andy and Barney, and at least two of the judges, tasted very much like kerosene.

If you remember that episode, Barney wasn't portrayed as a bumbling fool. I seem to remember an interview Don did one time in which he listed a few of his favorite episodes, and I remember being struck by the fact that his favorites were episodes where Barney was a hero, or at least, not a fool.

I liked those episodes best, too.

I think Don Knotts felt a certain kinship with his character, and that is why he enjoyed those shows the most.

Later on, I felt sorry for Don Knotts himself, not the character he played, when he portrayed Mr. Furley in "Three's Company" I always felt that role, (and I believe he did, too) was beneath him. I was actually embarrassed for him. It is so sad to be witness to the decline of a brilliant career.

One interesting thing I found out about Don Knotts while searching the internet for info about him was that he served his Country in World war II, collecting some combat medals.

I never saw an interview with him or heard of him ever mentioning his military service, and I think that exemplifies the kind of unselfish, humble attitude that marked this man's great career.

So farewell, Don Knotts, and rest in peace, Barney Fife.


Mary said...

Very nice post, Mark.

The Pickle Story is definitely one of my favorite episodes.

I think something that the "Andy Griffith Show" had that you don't find in today's sitcoms is multi-dimensional characters.

Although Barney was often the bumbling fool, he wasn't just a caricature. He was able to portray a broad spectrum of emotions.

Although Don Knotts was great at providing the laughs, he managed to bring a poignancy to his role that made Barney more than just a clown.

He never let the audience forget that Barney had feelings, that he was a human being. I think that's why Barney Fife is so memorable as a character and so beloved.

Pamela Reece said...

I will always look back on the memory of Don knotts with laughter and smiles. There aren't many who will be so fondly remembered. Rest in Peace, Mr. Knotts.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Thanks for the tribute Mark. Don Knotts and Tim Conway have performed a comedy show here in Myrtle Beach every year since I moved here in 1999. I have intended to get tickets each year and have not for one reason or another. I certainly regret it now! Knotts was truly one of the greats and he will be missed. Thankfully his comedic genious still lives in DVD and daily reruns of The Andy Giffith Show.


MadMustard said...

One of my favorite shows of all time too and they made some good ones back in them 'good old days'.

I always loved the relationship between Andy and Barney. It took Andy's wisdom to bring out the every man's hero in the Fifester.

You can take that bullet out of your pocket now Barney. You won't need it where you are.

Erudite Redneck said...

"Neet? Barn!"

Francis Lynn said...

Don Knotts was also on the Steve Allan Show in the '50s. Think he played the super nervous guy in the "man on the street" skits.

He be koo & caused many a stomach pain from laughter as Barney.

Think he originally was posed to be Andy's cousin, but writers changed that short time later.

And right - Three's Company was anti-climatic to his previous role - but it paid the rent.

Poison Pero said...

One Bullet Barney was one of my favorite TV characters........The fact he always managed to drop that bullet when he needed it was the genius part of the character.

Knotts is just one of the many great old timers who'll be meeting their maker soon.......It's a sad loss for Hollywood to lose such great actors.

Even more unfortunate is they're being replaced by a bunch of no talent pukes.

Little Miss Chatterbox said...

I always liked Don Knotts in everything he was in. I understand what you mean about Three's Company but I even liked him on that. And to me it says a lot when you're willing to do all different roles.

It always urked me that the actor that played the dad on Brady Bunch always acted like that role was beneath him. That show was a famous show but he was "too good" for it.

I did your addition to the book meme on my blog today and picked a book for you :-).

Goat said...

Here's to you, Don, Barney Fife and the Shakiest Gun in the West. If ever the role of comedic foil could become an icon to america, it was Barney. He displayed a humility and silent dignity that is so very rare today, no wonder the Andy Griffith Show has proven so timeless. Barney, Otis, Aunt Bee, Floyd, etal and the ever inflappable Andy provided a glimpse into ourselves, our pasts and futures and a genuine glimpse of the america many of us grew up in.
My favorite episodes involved the Darling's exploits and Earnest T. Bass. A side note, my best friend lived with the Opie tag throughout grade school because he looked just like Opie.
RIP, Don and God Bless!

Cabe said...

Ah Barney alter ego.

Farewell old friend...and remember...

Don't forget to place the keys by the jail cell.


whit said...

It comes in threes:
Don Knotts
Darrin McGavin
Dennis Weaver