When it comes time to memorialize the greats of Toobworld, I usually freeze up and depend on the already published obituaries found online to make sure that justice is served their tributes. I'm more comfortable in writing up reports and studies of their actual work.
And so it is with the "Hat Squad" bios for both Don Knotts and Darren McGavin, although I have contributed a few o'bservations throughout them.
There will be more posts in my voice to come when I examine their work in shows like 'The Andy Griffith Show', 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker', 'Three's Company', and 'Riverboat'.
Don Knotts, who kept generations of TV audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" and would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley on "Three's Company," has died. He was 81.
Griffith, who had visited Knotts in the hospital before his death, said his longtime friend had a brilliant comedic mind and wrote some of the show's best scenes.
"Don was a small man ... but everything else about him was large: his mind, his expressions." He truly was a giant in Toobworld, having won five Emmy awards for his performance as Deputy Barney Fife.
Griffith told The Associated Press on Saturday, "Don was special. There's nobody like him. I loved him very much. We had a long and wonderful life together."
The 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.
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." (Although to be fair, Don Knotts was no longer in the cast by the time the show signed off.) 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.
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.
As such, it's a shame that we never got to see him appear in an episode of 'St. Elsewhere' as the father to one of the main characters, as did many of his fellow alumni from the 'Steve Allen Show'.
He became well-known for his "nervous man" shtick in the "Man-on-the-Street" segments that were a staple of Allen's show. His character in the segments was a very nervous man obviously uptight about being interviewed on camera. He developed this into the fidgety, high-strung persona that he limned successfully for the rest of his career.
When "The Tonight Show" moved to Hollywood in 1959 with new host Jack Paar, Don also moved to California as a regular. However, he was soon cast in Andy Griffith's new TV series about a small-town sheriff in the role that would make him a legend.
For playing Deputy Barney Fife, Don was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor five times from 1961 to 1967, winning each time,
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."
Although Don Knotts made a lot of movies, (and one - "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" - is one of my favorites), only one film has a true Toobworld feel to it. 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.
However, another movie and the Broadway play it was based on, also served a vital role in connection to his career in Toobworld. Destiny intervened when he was cast in the small role of the psychiatrist in the Broadway play "No Time For Sergeants," which starred Andy Griffith, who would play a large part in Don's future career. Don also appeared in the film adaption of the play with Griffith.
About five years after his arrival in New York City came his series TV debut on "The Steve Allen Show." 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.
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.
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."
But he was wrong, of course. His performance as Barney was pure music, a character symphony.
Associated Press writer Vicki Smith in Morgantown, W.Va., contributed to this report, as did John C. Hopgood in a biography for the IMDb.com.
"What a Country" (1986) TV Series .... Principal F. Jerry 'Bud' McPherson (1987)
"Three's Company" .... Ralph Furley (1979-1984)
"Laugh Back" (1975) TV Series .... Various
"The Don Knotts Show" (1970) TV Series .... Host
"The Andy Griffith Show" .... Deputy Barney Fife (1960-1965)
"The New Steve Allen Show" (1961) TV Series .... Regular
"The Steve Allen Show" (1956) TV Series .... Mr. Morrsion
"Search for Tomorrow" (1951) TV Series .... Wilbur Peterson (1953-1955)
TV RECURRING ROLES
"Matlock" .... Les Calhoun (1988-1990)
Quints (2000) (TV) .... Gov. Healy
I Love a Mystery (1973) (TV) .... Alexander Archer
Cinderella at the Palace (1978) (TV) .... Himself
Return to Mayberry (1986) (TV) .... Barney Fife
- The Second Family (2005) TV Episode (voice) .... Mr. Mauzer
Jingle Bells (1999) (TV) (voice) .... Kris
"101 Dalmatians: The Series"
- Shake, Rattle and Woof/Cadpig Behind Bars (1997) TV Episode (voice) .... Dog Catcher
Timmy's Gift: Precious Moments Christmas (1991) (TV) (voice) .... Titus
The Little Troll Prince (1985) (TV) (voice) .... Professor Nidaros
- Ghost Catchers (1985) TV Episode .... Male M.A.D Agent
"Wait Till Your Father Gets Home"
- Don Knotts, the Beekeeper (1974) TV Episode (voice) .... Himself
"The New Scooby-Doo Movies"
- The Spooky Fog (1972) TV Episode (voice) .... Himself
- Guess Who's Knott Coming to Dinner? (1972) TV Episode (voice) .... Himself
The 3rd Annual TV Land Awards (2005) .... Paul Young ("Desperate Classic Housewives" skit
"Hallmark Hall of Fame"
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (1972) TV Episode .... Dr. Bradley
LEAGUE OF THEMSELVES
- Operation Rich in Spirit (2005) TV Episode (voice) .... Himself
- Hit Me! (2005) TV Episode .... Himself
The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry (2003) (TV) .... Himself/Barney Fife
"8 Simple Rules... for Dating My Teenage Daughter"
- Come and Knock on Our Door (2003) TV Episode .... Himself
Andy Griffith Show Reunion (1993) (TV) .... Himself
"George Burns Comedy Week"
- Disaster at Buzz Creek (1985) TV Episode .... Himself
"The Muppet Show"
- Episode #2.1 (1977) TV Episode .... Himself
Joys (1976) (TV) .... Don Knotts
"The Late Summer Early Fall Bert Convy Show"
- The Premiere Telecast (1976) TV Episode
"The Captain and Tennille"
- Episode #1.11 (1976) TV Episode
Dinah Shore: In Search of the Ideal Man (1973) (TV) .... Himself
"The Flip Wilson Show"
- Episode #3.22 (1973) TV Episode .... Himself
- Episode #3.1 (1972) TV Episode .... Himself
"Make Your Own Kind of Music!"
- Episode #1.1 (1971) TV Episode .... Himself
"The Hollywood Palace"
- Episode #7.16 (1970) TV Episode .... Himself - Host
- Episode #5.24 (1968) TV Episode .... Himself - Host/Singer/Comedian/Sketch Actor
- Episode #1.5 (1964) TV Episode .... Himself - Comedian
"The Andy Williams Show"
- Episode dated 18 October 1969 (1969) TV Episode .... Himself
"The Leslie Uggams Show"
- Episode dated 5 October 1969 (1969) TV Episode .... Himself
Rowan & Martin at the Movies (1968) .... Himself
"The Andy Williams Show"
- Episode dated 15 January 1967 (1967) TV Episode .... Himself
- Episode dated 10 December 1963 (1963) TV Episode .... Himself
- Episode dated 2 April 1966 (1966) TV Episode .... Himself
"The Danny Kaye Show"
- Episode #1.3 (1963) TV Episode .... Himself
TV GUEST APPEARANCES
"Odd Job Jack"
- American Wiener (????) TV Episode .... Dirk Douglas
- Who Killed Good Time Charlie? (1994) TV Episode
"Step by Step"
- Christmas Story (1993) TV Episode .... Deputy Fief
- Seein' Double (1990) TV Episode (uncredited) .... Iron
"She's the Sheriff"
- Hair (1988) TV Episode .... Moe
"The Love Boat"
- Crew Confessions/Haven't I Seen You?/Reunion (1979) TV Episode .... Herb Grobecker
- Pentagram/The Casting Director (1979) TV Episode .... Felix Birdsong
- Trouble, My Lovely/The Common Man (1978) TV Episode .... Stanley Scheckter
- Lucy Goes on Her Last Blind Date (1973) TV Episode .... Ben Fletcher
"The New Andy Griffith Show"
- Pilot (1971) TV Episode (uncredited) .... Barney Fife
"The Bill Cosby Show"
- Swann's Way (1970) TV Episode .... Leo Swann
- Andy and Helen Get Married (1968) TV Episode .... Barney Fife
"Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre"
- The Reason Nobody Hardly Ever Seen a Fat Outlaw in the Old West Is as Follows (1967) TV Episode .... Curly Kid
"The Joey Bishop Show"
- Joey's Hideaway Cabin (1964) TV Episode .... Barney Fife
"The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"
- Rock-A-Bye Dobie (1960) TV Episode
"The Bob Cummings Show"
- Bob and Schultzy at Sea (1958) TV Episode
[Thanks to IMDb.com]