February 25, 2006

Goodbye to Don Knotts.

Everyone loved the brilliant comic actor Don Knotts. He was 81.

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 Bea 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."
More here:
In Knotts' hands, Fife was a fully realized stooge, a hick-town Don Quixote who imagined himself braver, more sophisticated and more competent than he actually was. His utter lack of self-control led him into desperate jams that usually culminated with Fife at the end of his rope, bug-eyed and panting with anxiety. Sheriff Taylor allowed his deputy to carry just one bullet, which he was obliged to keep separate from his service revolver due to past trigger mishaps.

Asked how he developed his most famous character, Knotts replied in a 2000 interview: "Mainly, I thought of Barney as a kid. You can always look into the faces of kids and see what they're thinking, if they're happy or sad. That's what I tried to do with Barney. It's very identifiable."...

[T]he actor did not recall his childhood fondly.

"I felt like a loser," he recalled in a 1976 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "I was unhappy, I think, most of the time. We were terribly poor and I hated my size."
Thanks for making us happy, so many times!

UPDATE: The NYT runs a correction: it's "Aunt Bee, not Bea."


SippicanCottage said...
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Sanjay said...

Funny, I was thinking about him earlier this week --- remembering the sort of comedy team shtick he used to have going with Tim Conway (I'm 34 btw). Conway's still kicking, right?

Jacques Cuze said...

Don Knotts is Dubya

(your linky pagey commenty thingy on your borders post is all brokey)

sonicfrog said...

Mr. Knots, you will be fondly remembered by many generations.

Yes, Conway is still touring w/ Harvey Korman last I heard.

Dave said...

Good post. Had forgotten who this guy was.

Mark said...

Man, did I ever get a lot of laughs out of Don Knotts. I remember as a kid going to the drive-in theater with my parents and brother to see "The Reluctant Astronaut". At the age of 6 or 7 I thought that was about the funniest thing I'd ever seen. It's still funny. I am really going to miss him.

Mark Daniels said...

I loved Don Knotts. But my wife couldn't stomach him. She just found him annoying.

Isn't it funny how two people with similar tastes can have such different reactions to the same actor's perfromances?

Of course, I remember Knotts also for his work with Steve Allen back in the 1950s. He and that entire troupe will go down in TV history along with other great comedy ensembles like the Goonies, Monty Python, Laugh-In, Your Show of Shows, and the original cast of SNL.

Mark Daniels

Ruth Anne Adams said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I've fixed the comments on the Borders post now, so go ahead!

Ruth Anne: that's so wrong!

Russell said...

Ruth Anne: boo, hiss. (Although, when Roy Orbison died I did say "I guess they Wilbury him in a few days.")

alikarimbey said...

When I was living in a dorm, everyone watched Threes a company in the lobby. I found that everyone wanted to see Mr. Furley (Don Knotts). Once I began to laugh at his jokes, I was told to watch old episodes of Andy Griffith. I did and I still do. It is one of the most enjoyable tv shows. I found it formula simple - small town, stories about people there, and no offensive behavior. It is strange that that show has no successor today.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Sometimes only after they die does it hit you how great some people were. Don Knotts really was great. The films he did with Tim Conway in the 70s and early 80s weren't great, but they still have some great comic moments, especially The Prize Fighter. If anyone remembers the dinner scene with the mobster's senile mother, you know what I'm talking about.

Icepick said...

Ruth Ann, that may top "tungsten cheek". The horror, the horror....

Johnny Nucleo said...

Just remembered: Don Knotts said he was sad he couldn't sing and dance but he does a musical number with Conway in The Prize Fighter. It's been a long time, but I remember it was kind of sweet. I think they're supposed to be drunk in the scene. Also, doesn't he do a few numbers in The Incredible Mr. Limpet?

reader_iam said...

Well, Ann, you did like Ruth Anne's "Rest in Peas," after all! (And Ruth Anne, irreverent or not, I think this latest makes a three-way-tie for your best, which also includes the other one I just referenced. You know what the third one is.)

On a serious note:

Don Knotts--anyone who was able to bring that many laughs to so many generations of viewers is great in my book. He was under-rated, IMHO.


Pancho said...

In a prophetic move, I suppose, my 12 y.o. stepson, Jack, just gave me a DVD set of the early Andy Griffith Show classics. The ones in black and white and with Barney. A tribute to the show and it's characters that Jack enjoys watching Andy, Barney and the gang with me today. I watched them in the orginal series when I was his age.

Ann Althouse said...

Reader: "Well, Ann, you did like Ruth Anne's "Rest in Peas," after all!"

I didn't actually feel sad when the guy that did the Jolly Green Giant's voice died.

As to Don Knotts not getting credit, he did get full credit for what he did back when the AG show was originally on, and people were delighted to see him back on TV again in Three's Company. I suppose his movies were underappreciated, however, but they were children's movies. I think Jim Carrey has repeatedly said that he got his inspiration from Don Knotts, and if you look at Jim Carrey and think about Don Knotts, you can really see it.

Frank Borger said...

My favorite from the Steve Allen days.

Steve: "What's your name/"

Don: (stuttering) Ka-Ka-Ka-Ka Be-Be-Be-Be J-J-J-Johnson

Steve: What do you do for a living?

Don: I'm a Dy-Dy-Dy-Dynamite Lo-Lo-Lo-Loader.

Steve: What does the K B stand for?

Don: Ka-Ka-Ka-Ka Boom

Todays "humor" leaves me in "duh" mode.

Goatwhacker said...

Man, did I ever get a lot of laughs out of Don Knotts. I remember as a kid going to the drive-in theater with my parents and brother to see "The Reluctant Astronaut".

For me it was The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. I was young enough to be scared whenever that organ started playing and for months my friends and I were going around saying "And we even used Bon Ami!".

Knotts seems to inspire fond memories, for me much more so than Capt. Kangaroo, Mr Rogers, etc. Maybe because we often saw him with family or friends as opposed to sitting alone watching the TV?