Don Knotts: 1924-2006

Don Knotts, the irrepressible comic actor who won five Emmys as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, died Friday night in Los Angeles; he was 81. Knotts died of pulmonary and respiratory complications at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, and had recently suffered health problems that kept him from making an appearance at his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia, last August. Knotts started out in entertainment as a ventriloquist before returning to college and then enlisting in the army at the onset of World War II. After the war and college, he returned to New York and pursued a career in radio and television; he nabbed a part as a psychiatrist in the Broadway play No Time for Sergeants, which starred actor Andy Griffith. He reprised his role in the film version, and after moving to Los Angeles, was cast opposite Griffith in the actor’s eponymous sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. The show ran from 1960-1968, and Knotts won an unprecedented five Best Supporting Actor Emmys in a row as manic deputy Barney Fife, a role for which he would forever be identified. After leaving the show, Knotts embarked on a film career, appearing in family-friendly films such as The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Reluctant Astronaut and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, among others. His career in the 70s was marked primarily by Disney films such as The Apple Dumpling Gang and No Deposit, No Return, until he joined the sitcom Three’s Company in the middle of the show’s run as the bumbling landlord Mr. Furley, forever interfering in his tenant’s lives. After Three’s Company, Knotts made innumerable appearances in television shows and occasionally films; one of his most notable recent roles was as a mysterious television repairman who sets strange events in motion in the film Pleasantville. Knotts was married twice, to Kay Mets from 1948-1969, with whom he had two children, and to Lara Lee Szuchna from 1974 to 1983.

Don Knotts will be missed.