‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Elinor Donahue Says Don Knotts Stole Her Line

by Lauren Boisvert

On “The Andy Griffith Show,” Elinor Donahue played Ellie Walker, the pharmacist. She was supposed to be a love interest for Andy Taylor, but Donahue asked to be let go from her 3-year contract. According to Donahue, she needed a break from acting after the success of “Father Knows Best.” On that show, she played the eldest daughter, Better Anderson.

As for “The Andy Griffith Show,” she was on the first season for 12 episodes. And, in a 2006 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, she mentioned that Don Knotts actually “stole” lines from her.

Not so much stole, as they were given to him instead of her. She said in the interview that Andy Griffith said the writers didn’t know how to write for her. She denies that, saying “I didn’t give them anything to write for.”

“It was Don Knotts and he that just clicked, and I don’t think they ever felt that that was what was going to happen,” she goes on to say. Donahue tells the story of them sitting around the table reading scripts, and “Andy would say, ‘why don’t we give Ellie’s line to Don and have Don say that.'”

Her lines were taken away more and more, given to Don Knotts instead. “But they worked when Don said them,” Donahue said. “They were funny when Don said them, they weren’t funny when I said them, I’m not funny […] it just worked, it evolved.”

She ended by saying, “Don was wonderful to work with,” so it seems there were no hard feelings between them. She did the interview two weeks after Don Knotts died in 2006. “The world of comedy,” Donahue continued, “has lost a great person.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Don Knotts Always Made Time for Family

Even when he was at the height of his fame, Don Knotts made time for his family. Karen Knotts, Don’s daughter, wrote a book in Sept. about her relationship with her dad. She included what it was like growing up with a famous father.

When asked about his busy schedule, she answered that he always made time for her and her brother. “He was gone a lot, but he was always checking in on us,” she said. “And no matter how long it took, he would always come home […] And he always made time for us when he wasn’t working. I never felt neglected at all. Neither did my brother. And we did get to go on the set too, which was great.”

In a different interview, Karen recalled her father asking her to run lines with him. “I remember watching and listening to him rehearse,” she said. “He asked me to run lines. At the time, I already knew I wanted to act, so I would try to act it out and he’d say, ‘No, no, no. Just give me the lines straight, no inflection, nothing, otherwise you throw me off.’ I was just part of that process.”