Jesse Donald Knotts (July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006) was an American comedic actor best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (a role which earned him five Emmy Awards), and as landlord Ralph Furley on the television sitcom Three’s Company in the 1980s.
Death of Don Knotts
Don Knotts died at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from pulmonary and respiratory complications related to lung cancer. He had been undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the months before his death, but had gone home after he reportedly had been getting better. Long-time friend Andy Griffith visited Knotts’ bedside a few hours before he died. His wife and his daughter stayed with him until his death.
Knotts’ obituaries cited him as a huge influence on other entertainers. Musician and fan J.D. Wilkes said this about Knotts: “Only a genius like Knotts could make an anxiety-ridden,passive-aggressive Napoleon character like Fife a familiar, welcome friend each week. Without his awesome contributions to television there would’ve been no other over-the-top, self-deprecating acts like Conan O’Brien or Chris Farley.”
Knotts is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
His hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia, has begun creation of a statue of the actor that will be placed in a special memorial park along the river and Don Knotts Boulevard.
Don Knotts – Funniest Moments as Barney Fife
Don Knotts’ Biography & Filmography continues next page
Knotts was born in the university town of Morgantown, West Virginia, the son of Elsie L. (née Moore) and William Jesse Knotts. His father’s family had been in the United States since the 17th century, originally settling in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.His father had been a farmer, but suffered a nervous breakdown and lost his farm. The family (including Don’s two brothers) was supported by Don’s mother, who ran a boarding house in town. Knotts’ father suffered from schizophrenia and alcoholism and died when Don was 13 years old. Some time later, Knotts graduated from Morgantown High School.
At 19, Knotts was drafted into the Army and served during World War II as part of a traveling GI variety show and as a nurse, including in the Pacific Theater.
After performing in many venues (including a ventriloquist act with a dummy named Hooch Matador), Knotts got his first major break on television in the soap opera Search for Tomorrow where he appeared from 1953 to 1955. He came to fame in 1956 on Steve Allen’s variety show, as part of Allen’s repertory company, most notably in Allen’s mock “Man in the Street” interviews, always as a man extremely nervous. The laughs grew when Knotts stated his occupation — always one that wouldn’t be appropriate for such a shaky person, such as a surgeon or explosives expert.
In 1958, Knotts appeared in the movie No Time for Sergeants alongside Andy Griffith. The movie, based on the play and book of the same name, began a professional and personal relationship between Knotts and Griffith that would last for decades.
Andy Griffith Show
In 1960, when Griffith was offered the opportunity to headline in his own sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), Knotts took the role of Barney Fife, the deputy — and originally cousin — of Sheriff Andy Taylor (portrayed by Griffith). Knotts’ five seasons portraying the deputy on the popular show would earn him five Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy.Andy Griffith Show
The actor was married to college sweetheart Kathryn (Kay) Metz from 1947-64 and to Loralee Czuchna from 1974-83. He had two children from his first marriage, Karen and Thomas. He was married to actress Francey Yarborough at the time of his death.
No Time for Sergeants (1958)
Wake Me When It’s Over (1960)
The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961)
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) (cameo)
Move Over, Darling (1963)
The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)
Rowan & Martin at the Movies (1968)
The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
The Love God? (1969)
How to Frame a Figg (1971)
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
No Deposit, No Return (1976)
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)
Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)
The Prize Fighter (1979)
The Private Eyes (1981)
Cannonball Run II (1984)
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987)
Big Bully (1996)
Cats Don’t Dance (1997)
Tom Sawyer (2000)
Chicken Little (2005)
Air Buddies (2006)
Search for Tomorrow (1953-1955)
The Steve Allen Show (1956-1960)
The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1965, 1966, 1967)
The New Steve Allen Show (1961-1963)
The Don Knotts Show (1970-1971)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1972)
The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)
I Love a Mystery (1973)
Steve Allen’s Laugh Back (1975)
Fantasy Island (1978-1979)
Three’s Company (1979-1984)
The Little Troll Prince (1985)
Return to Mayberry (1986)
What a Country (1987)
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987)
Timmy’s Gift: A Precious Moments Christmas (1991)
Jingle Bells (1999)
Hermie: A Common Caterpillar (2003)
Odd Job Jack (2003)
8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter (2003)
Hermie and Friends (2004)
Robot Chicken (2005)
That 70’s Show (2005)
Las Vegas (2005)