‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Don Knotts Said He Once Met a Real-Life Barney Fife ‘Acting Efficient, Loving His Job’

by Joe Rutland

Don Knotts beautifully played Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show.” When asked if he’d ever met a real-life Fife, Knotts said yes.

“I ran into one in my hometown (of Morgantown, W.Va.), a perfect deputy Barney — ordering people around, acting efficient, loving his job,” Knotts said according to a MeTV article.

“They had a parade for me, and the deputy helped put everything together,” Knotts said. “After the parade dispersed, the deputy drove the sheriff and myself back, and along the way the deputy hits the siren.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Recalls Chat With Hometown Sheriff

Knotts, who played Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” for five seasons, then related an exchange he had with the Morgantown sheriff.

“In the back seat, the sheriff looks at me and says plaintively, ‘I wish he wouldn’t do that,'” Knotts said.

Barney Fife loved to let a little bit of authority get to his head on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Remember when he arrested pretty much everyone in Mayberry, including Opie and Aunt Bee? What about the times he tried bossing Otis the Drunk (played by Hal Smith) around in the courthouse?

Those types of moments are what made Knotts’ character that more lovable. He wanted to do his best, even it meant looking foolish at times.

Knotts Left TV Role To Go Star In Number of Movies

Don Knotts would go on from his full-time role as Fife to star in movies. Knotts thought Griffith was going to end the series after five seasons. But Griffith changed his mind, and Knotts already had sought out work because he thought he’d be out of work.

He landed a movie deal with Universal Studios and ended up making films like “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” “The Reluctant Astronaut,” “The Shakiest Gun in the West,” and others.

A lot of the characters in Knotts’ movies would pretty much have similar characteristics to the Fife role. Always a big fidgety, nervous, and never quite sure of things, the movie roles would stick to a formula people knew Knotts by on TV.

Speaking of TV, Knotts did return to prime-time sitcom land by playing Ralph Furley on “Three’s Company” for a few seasons. Knotts also appeared as Fife again in the TV movie “Return to Mayberry.” It brought together Griffith, Ron Howard, George Lindsey, and Jim Nabors one final time.

He died on Feb. 24, 2006, at 81 years old.