Another famous appearance by the legendary Don Knotts was the 1966 black and white film “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”. Perhaps its name might make you think that it was somehow related to the actor’s past profession as a chicken plucker, but the film was actually a romantic comedy-drama, and was originally named “Running Scared”. The film’s cover features Don Knotts in his usual wide-eyed and surprised expression, with the film’s slogan promising “You’ll be scared until you laugh yourself silly – G-G-GUARANTEED!”.
In the film, Don plays as a newspaper typesetter named Luther Heggs, who aspires to become a reporter and decides to write about Simmons Mansion, a haunted house in the fictional city of Rachel, Kansas. He ends up spending the night there, as hilarious encounters and situations ensue. His girlfriend in the film, Alma Parker, was a relatively small-time actress, who went on to appear in just a few more films before deciding to concentrate on TV shows after a horseback riding accident.
The On-Screen Persona
Don Knotts portrayed many characters throughout his long-lasting career, however, almost all of his roles featured characters that had many characteristics in common. While some actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Joaquin Phoenix and Tom Hardy attempt to take as many varied roles as possible, some actors like Knotts favor finding their voice (or expression in his case) and use it as their go-to personality whenever they act in films and shows. Don’s characters were all nervous and anxious men who had really bad social skills and low self-esteem. He would often appear doing his iconic wide-eyed star expression whenever a situation would cause him stress.
Other unique features that made his characters memorable were his high-pitched voice and whiny but hilarious complaints. Overall, his ability to convey a large set of emotions through nothing but his facial expressions made him very entertaining and relatable. Knotts’ over-the-top characters and his consistent acting persona made him a funny and reliable actor, both for audiences and for filmmakers. This consistency and dependability led him to get cast in numerous roles throughout his long and fruitful career, as it was always a “safe bet” to go with an actor like him where you know what you’re going to be getting. Knott’s persona is quite famous, and often gets parodied to this day on shows such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”.
Appearances in Hollywood Squares
The popular actor appeared four times in the famous television game show, Hollywood Squares, a tic-tac-toe game with prizes. Although the game show eventually lost its popularity due to much more intense and serious shows such as “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, it’s still remembered fondly for its comical nature and light entertainment qualities. Hollywood Squares was ranked in 2013 as the 7th greatest game shows of all time by TV Guide, and for good reasons.
The game show was quite a hit at the time and helped pioneer the game show format and inspire other shows that followed. It was quite rare for anyone to appear twice on the show, which goes to show just how talented and lucky Don Knotts was, as he went on to appear not once but a total of four times on Hollywood Squares.
His Final Awards Ceremony
One of Don’s last public appearances occurred in 2004 at the TV Land Awards, just two years before the actor eventually passed away. He was 79 at the time of the event and appeared with Andy Griffith, the star of The Andy Griffith Show who played alongside him for almost 250 episodes. They were playing alongside each other for so long, that the show transitioned from being filmed in black and white to color during its 160th episode!
Unfortunately, many people commented that Don Knotts appears to be much older than Andy Griffith, despite being just two years his senior. The event was a very positive and fun experience for Knotts, and he even managed to receive a TV Land Legend Award during the ceremony, thanks to many of his fans voting for him as the number one choice for that award on TV Land’s website.
The Andy Griffith Show
One of the most important acting opportunities in Don Knotts's life was his role as Barney Fife, the deputy and cousin of Sheriff Andy Taylor (portrayed by Andy Griffith). His role in the popular show landed him five Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Comedy. Don was initially disappointed for being put in the show as comedic relief rather than a serious character but was still happy to get a chance to work on the show.
Unfortunately, the popular actor signed a contract in 1965 with Universal Studios which made him unavailable for further appearances on the show, since he was under the impression that the show was over. The Andy Griffith show ended up running for a few more years, and Knotts later commented that he deeply regretted having to leave the show.