Don Knotts

Don Knotts Headshot

Actor • Comedian

Birth Date: July 21, 1924

Death Date: February 24, 2006

Birth Place: Morgantown, West Virginia

In a typical Hollywood paradox, Don Knotts proved quite adept at securing steady work playing the frantically nervous and incompetent. After great success in the 1960s as a TV second banana, Knotts spent much of the second half of that decade as a feature comedy star. Nevertheless, the small screen proved the more hospitable home. His Deputy Barney Fife, a bumbling but benign braggart, provided many of the laughs on the hugely successful rustic sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68).

Knotts' high-pitched whine provided comic counterpart to the soothing cracker-barrel homilies delivered by Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor for five seasons. Revealingly, Andy never let his deputy carry more than one bullet--and in his shirt pocket at that! Nonetheless, Knotts racked up an impressive winning streak of Emmys for "Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy," taking home the statuette for 1960/61, 1961/62, 1962/63, 1965/66 and 1966/67. Griffth would also credit his co-star for writing many of Barney Fife's most inspired comic scenes.

Knotts got his first taste of showbiz in the Army during WWII while serving in the South Pacific Theatre of Operations. More specifically, he was a comedian in a touring G.I. variety show called "Stars and Gripes." After the service, Knotts went to college where he earned a teaching degree but turned down a fellowship, opting to move to NYC to pursue acting. He found work in radio and TV, doing a stint on a soap and on the children's show "Howdy Doody," as Tim Tremble, a nervous friend of Buffalo Bob.

Knotts gained some attention with sketch appearances on "The Gary Moore Show" and, from 1956-60, gained further exposure as part of the ensemble of "The Steve Allen Show," a superior NBC comedy variety series. In between TV assignments, Knotts made his Broadway debut in 1955's "No Time for Sergeants," his first collaboration with Griffith. He reprised the role of Manual Dexterity Corporal for TV on CBS's "The US Steel Hour" and the 1958 feature (his film debut). The latter again paired him with Griffith who subsequently hired Knotts to co-star in his sitcom.

Knotts left "The Andy Griffith Show" to pursue a feature career. He had fared well in supporting roles, notably playing a mousy shoe salesman in the Doris Day vehicle "Move Over, Darling" (1963), but his TV success gave him leading man status beginning with "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964). This innocuous family film--a live-action/animation blend about a wimpy bookkeeper and fish-lover who becomes a war hero after magically transforming into a dolphin-- was no great shakes but remains a fond memory to many thirtysomethings who watched TV in their youth.

His subsequent films were also low-budget kiddie fodder whose titles tell the tale: "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966), "The Reluctant Astronaut" (1967) and "The Shakiest Gun in the West" (1968). The latter, a remake of the 1948 Bob Hope vehicle "The Paleface," was one of his better efforts. Knotts' 60s film career concluded with "The Love God?" (1969), helmed by "Sgt. Bilko" creator Nat Hiken, in which he played a take-off on PLAYBOY's Hugh Hefner named Abner Peacock.

After a brief return to TV as the host and star of the comedy-variety series "The Don Knotts Show" (NBC, 1970-71), the 70s found Knotts in more juvenile film fare, sometimes paired with Tim Conway in broad comedies. The duo of TV veterans appeared in six features together (as of 1996) beginning with the Disney Western comedy "The Apple Dumpling Gang" (1975). Knotts had to return to TV to enjoy a more high profile project.

Joining the hit "sexy" sitcom "Three's Company" in 1979 as busybody landlord Ralph Furley, Knotts stayed for five seasons, often clad in a ridiculous leisure suit, leering and bugging out at the amorous hijinks of his youthful tenants. He put his badge back on to reprise the role of Barney Fife, now engaged and running for sheriff, in the hugely popular reunion TV-movie "Return to Mayberry" (NBC, 1986), and the character was revisited once more in 2003's "The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry" (NBC, 2003). He and Griffith were subsequently reunited on the latter's NBC courtroom drama series "Matlock."

From 1988-92, Knotts played the recurring role of pesky neighbor Les Calhoun, the self-proclaimed "King of Plastic."

Knotts has also appeared in numerous specials throughout his long TV career, often as the star. He has also done stage and voice work. Knotts returned to movies--albeit direct-to-video--as Principal Kokelar in the high school comedy "Big Bully" (1996). He fared much better with his pivotal role as a mysterious TV repairman in "Pleasantville" (1998). Knotts continued to appear often on television, playing himself on former co-star John Ritter's ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules..." in 2003, as well as on a 2005 episode of the NBC series "Las Vegas."

He then lent his quavery vocals to Disney's CGI-animated feature "Chicken Little" (2005) as Mayor Turkey Lurkey, which was released a few months before the actor's death in early 2006 at age 81.

Credits

The Andy Griffith Show Christmas Special

Actor
Show
2015

Hermie and Friends

Actor
Wormie
Show
2010

Hermie & Friends: To Share or Nut to Share

Voice
Wormie
Show
2006

Air Buddies

Voice
Movie
2006

Robot ChickenStream

Guest Voice
Series
2005

Hermie & Friends: A Fruitcake Christmas

Voice
Wormie
Movie
2005

Chicken LittleStream

Voice
Mayor Turkey Lurkey
Movie
2005
37%

Fatherhood

Guest Voice
Show
2004

Las VegasStream

Guest Star
Series
2003

Tom Sawyer

Voice
Mutt Potter
Movie
2000

Quints

Actor
Gov. Healy
Movie
2000

Jingle Bells

Voice
Kris
Show
1999

Jingle Bells

Actor
Kris
Movie
1999

PleasantvilleStream

Actor
TV Repairman
Movie
1998
86%

Johnny BravoStream

Guest Voice
Series
1997

Big Bully

Actor
Principal Kokelar
Movie
1996

Burke's Law

Guest Star
Show
1994

Matlock: The Picture

Actor
Les Calhoun
Movie
1992

Matlock: The Assassination

Actor
Movie
1992

Pinochio and the Emperor of the Night

Voice
Movie
1987

Pinochio y el Emperador de la Noche

Voice
Movie
1987

Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night

Voice
Gee Willikers
Movie
1987

The Little Troll Prince

Voice
Professor Nidaros
Movie
1987

MatlockStream

Guest Star
Series
1986

Return to Mayberry

Actor
Barney Fife
Movie
1986

NewhartStream

Guest Star
Series
1982

Walt Disney

Actor
Bert Delaney
Show
1981

The Private Eyes

Actor
Inspector Winship
Movie
1980

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again

Actor
Theodore Ogelvie
Movie
1979

The Prize Fighter

Actor
Shake
Movie
1979

Fantasy Island

Guest Star
Series
1978

Hot Lead and Cold Feet

Actor
Denver Kid
Movie
1978

Mule Feathers

Voice
Narrator/The Mule
Movie
1978

Que le meilleur gagne

Actor
Movie
1978

Three's CompanyStream

Actor
Ralph Furley
Series
1977

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo

Actor
Wheely Applegate
Movie
1977

The Sonny and Cher Show

Guest
Variety Show
1976

Gus

Actor
Coach Venner
Movie
1976

No Deposit, No Return

Actor
Bert
Movie
1976

The Apple Dumpling Gang

Actor
Theodore Ogelvie
Movie
1975

The Girl With Something Extra

Guest Star
Series
1973

Yo Amo un Misterio

Actor
Movie
1973

I Love a Mystery

Actor
Alexander Archer
Movie
1973

The New Scooby-Doo MoviesStream

Guest Voice
Series
1972

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Actor
Dr Bradley
Movie
1972

Cómo Engañar al Sr. Figg

Actor
Movie
1971

Racunovoda u Nevolji

Actor
Movie
1971

How to Frame a Figg

Actor
Hollis Alexander Figg
Movie
1971

The Love God?

Actor
Abner Audubon Peacock IV
Movie
1969

Here's LucyStream

Guest Star
Series
1968

Showtime

Host
Show
1968

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

The Shakiest Gun in the WestStream

Actor
Dr. Jessie Heywood
Movie
1968

The Don Knotts Special

Actor
Show
1967

The Reluctant Astronaut

Actor
Roy Fleming
Movie
1967

The Ghost and Mr. ChickenStream

Actor
Luther Heggs
Movie
1966
67%

The Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors Show

Host
Show
1965

The Incredible Mr. LimpetStream

Actor
Henry Limpet
Movie
1964
40%

Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre

Actor
Show
1963

The Danny Kaye ShowStream

Guest
Variety Show
1963

The 15th Emmy Awards

Host
Show
1963

Move Over, DarlingStream

Actor
Shoe clerk
Movie
1963

McHale's Navy

Guest Star
Series
1962

The Joey Bishop ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1961

The Last Time I Saw Archie

Actor
Capt. Harry Little
Movie
1961

The Andy Griffith ShowStream

Actor
Barney Fife
Series
1960

The Andy Griffith ShowStream

Guest Star
Barney Fife
Series
1960

Wake Me When It's Over

Actor
Sgt. Percy Warren
Movie
1960

I've Got a SecretStream

Guest
Game Show
1952

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