‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Don Knotts Was Drafted into World War II, Brought His Comedy to Pacific Troops

by Katie Maloney

When you’re passionate about comedy, you find ways to incorporate humor into every aspect of your life. That was certainly the case for actor and comedian Don Knotts.

Before he hit it big on The Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts was simply one of four children growing up in Morgantown, West Virginia. While in high school, Knotts started performing as a ventriloquist at venues around his hometown. Once he graduated, Knotts attended West Virginia University for a while before embarking on an entertainment career in New York. In 1943 Knotts was drafted but he never saw combat.

Instead, Don Knotts worked in a special services unit and spent most of his time touring the Pacific Islands and entertaining troops as a comedian in a G.I. variety show. His time in the military sparked his interest in comedy. So, after the war, Don Knotts ditched ventriloquism and dove fully into the world of comedy. He spent years working his way up the show biz ladder booking a few roles in radio and on Broadway. Then, in 1960 Don Knotts landed the role of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. Knotts won five consecutive Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actor in a television series. He quickly became an icon and the rest is comedy television history.

Do You Remember When Don Knotts Just Disappeared From The Andy Griffith Show?

During the fifth season of The Andy Griffith Show, Don Knotts left to pursue a career in the movies. But his last scene on the show is far less climactic than one would expect. During the scene, Helen Crump, Andy’s girlfriend who is also Opie’s schoolteacher, comes to visit Andy. She shares that Opie just got a high score on a test. Both Andy and Helen agree that Opie is on track to continue excelling in school. Then Barney interrupts to say that there are some downsides to being ambitious in school. He explains that one “A” could lead Opie to want more “A’s” which could cause him to stay up late and strain his eyes. Then he’ll need glasses. Andy quickly interrupts Barney and asks him to grab a cup of coffee for Helen. As Barney pours the coffee in another room, he continues to list the potential dangers involved with Opie becoming overly ambitious. When he returns to give Helen her cup of coffee, he discovers that both Andy and Helen have left and he was talking to himself the whole time.

And that’s it. There’s no storyline that explains that Barney is leaving. He simply appears in the scene and then vanishes forever. There’s no indication at all that this is the last time audiences will see him as a regular on the show. However, Knotts did guest star on the show five times after he left. Additionally, Don Knotts appeared on the spin-off Mayberry R.F.D. So, it wasn’t a total goodbye for Barney and fans of The Andy Griffith Show.

Don Knotts final episode on The Andy Griffith Show.