What You Probably Didn’t Know About Don Knotts

If you’ve ever watched The Andy Griffith Show, it’s likely you’re familiar with Deputy Barney Fife, right down to the bullet he carries in his shirt pocket. What you may not know is that Don Knotts, the actor who played Barney, actually wanted to be a ventriloquist. He read books on ventriloquism, practiced with sock puppets, and saved his money until he could afford to buy a dummy. When he was old enough, Knotts joined the military. His talent was immediately recognized and he was placed in the entertainment corps. He served in the Army during World War II and toured the Western Pacific islands as a comedian with the G.I. variety show Stars and Gripes. Unfortunately, he grew to hate his dummy Danny, and eventually threw it overboard. In 1946, he was discharged from the Army and began to pursue a career in entertainment. He got his first break on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow and was on the show from 1953 to 1955. In 1958, he made his film debut in the film No Time For Sergeants, and by 1960 he had landed the role of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. He continued to act until 2005, when macular degeneration in both eyes caused him to become virtually blind. He passed away on Feb. 24, 2006 at the age of 81 of complications of lung cancer. A statue honoring him was unveiled in 2016 in front of The Metropolitan Theatre in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia.