‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Don Knotts Suffered from Degenerative Eye Disease That Blinded Him Later in Life

by Megan Molseed
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He’s probably best known as the lovable but bumbling deputy Barney Fife in the 1960s television series “The Andy Griffith Show.” While the actor may be most recognizable for the break-out role, Don Knotts has easily become one of the most memorable and beloved faces of Hollywood.

According to an article in The Fence Post, Knotts was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called senile macular degeneration. The condition is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Upon hearing his diagnosis, Knotts feared that this would be the end of his acting career. However, with some extra focus and accommodations, Knotts was able to stick with the career he loved so much. Shortly after the diagnosis, Don Knotts starred in the hit movie “Pleasantville” starring Reese Witherspoon and Tobey McGuire.

Don Knotts Was a Natural Comedian

Born on July 21, 1924, in West Virginia, Knotts found an interest in performing at a fairly young age. According to Biography, the actor began to dabble in comedy before he was even in high school. Young Don Knotts even tried his hand as a ventriloquist for a while.

Shortly after his freshman year of college, Don Knotts joined the U.S. Army and toured as a comedian with a G.I. variety show called “Stars and Gripes.”

A Collaboration That Led To a Perfect Partnership

In 1955, Knotts first collaborated with Andy Griffith on the broadway comedy “No Time For Sergeants.” In this time, Knotts would regularly appear on “The Steve Allen Show.” When the popular NBC show relocated to Hollywood, Knotts followed. Shortly after the move, Knotts teamed up with Andy Griffith in a film version of “No Time For Sergeants.”

Knotts joined the cast of the “Andy Griffith Show” in the first season. The actor stayed on as the Mayberry deputy under Griffith’s Sheriff Andy Taylor for five seasons. Knotts won a total of five Emmys for his Barney Fife role. Three during the first five seasons of the hit series when he was a regular player, and two more when he returned to guest star in 1966 and 1967.

In 1964, Don Knotts landed his first role as a leading man in the hit film “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” This role led to Knotts starring in other famous movies such as the 1966 film “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

In the late 1970s, the actor returned to television when he began his run as the oddball landlord, Mr. Furley on the series “Threes Company.” Knotts stayed in this role until the show’s end in 1984.

Knotts would later reunite with Andy Griffith in the hit series “Matlock.” In the show, Don Knotts portrayed the nosy neighbor of Griffith’s title character, Ben Matlock.

Knotts passed away from complications related to lung cancer in February 2006 at age 81 years old.

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