Brush up on your Don Knotts lore with daughter Karen Knotts’ new book.
Widely beloved funnyman Don Knotts, best known for his 1960s role as the hapless but lovable Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show, got his start as a ventriloquist in Morgantown—the Metropolitan Theatre was his hometown stage. In 2012, we caught up with his daughter, Karen Knotts, who followed him into acting. Her father had passed away in 2006 and, when we met her, she was touring with her one-woman variety show, Tied Up in Knotts, telling the story of growing up as the daughter of Don Knotts.
Now Karen Knotts has gathered her recollections of her father in the book Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me. In it, Knotts tells of her father’s difficult childhood years in the 1920s and ’30s in Morgantown, his escape into comedy, and his growth as an actor in many dozens of television programs and feature films. She recounts behind-the-scenes stories of cast and crew and shares personal memories of household-name celebrities whose lives were touched by her father—including Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Tim Conway, John Waters, Barbara Eden, and Jim Carrey.
Knotts told us that her father loved Morgantown—he spoke of it all the time and showed her around proudly during a visit when she was 9. Return the love by reading Tied Up in Knotts, released on September 21.
Which Don Knotts Film Are You?
Morgantown’s native funnyman, Don Knotts, made dozens of films for TV and cinema over his seven-decade career. Sometimes Knotts was a voice actor, and he often appeared as a comical sidekick—but he was at his lovable best starring as the overconfident bumbler or the reluctant hero.
Take our quiz—or just read about the films below.
There’s a Knotts film for every personality type.
Which one are you?
The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)
It’s mid-1941, and milquetoast bookkeeper Henry Limpet would love to join the U.S. Navy, but he’s been rated 4-F—unfit for service. What he most wants is to become a fish and, on a trip to Coney Island, he falls in the water and gets his wish. Limpet the fish helps the Navy sink Nazi U-Boats, forcing the Germans to deal with the Allies’ new secret weapon. It’s all in good campy fun. This was Warner Brothers’ last animated film and, according to IMDB, Stephen Hillenburg studied the film’s backgrounds for Spongebob Squarepants.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
Luther Heggs is a typesetter for his small-town newspaper, but he aspires to be a reporter. He gets his big break when the editor asks him to spend the night at the Simmons mansion—the site, 20 years earlier, of an infamous murder–suicide. His story would be timely because of the anniversary and also because the family heir, Nick Simmons, has returned to town to tear the mansion down. Heggs’ account of his terrifying night in the house leads Simmons to sue for libel—but Heggs, nudged by the social machinations of his friend Kelsey, figures out what really happened that night long ago.
The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
Luther Heggs is a typesetter for his small-town Jesse W. Heywood graduates from dental school in Philadelphia in 1870 and goes west “to fight oral ignorance.” Meanwhile, stagecoach robber Penelope “Bad Penny” Cushing is offered a pardon if she will track down a ring of gun smugglers. She tricks Heywood into a fictitious marriage as a disguise, and, with Cushing’s help, he becomes the heroic “Doc the Heywood.”
The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
Three orphaned siblings are forced on a confirmed bachelor in the 19th century boomtown of Quake City, California. After an earthquake, the children find a huge gold nugget. Their newfound wealth causes more problems than it solves, so they agree to give the gold to two hapless outlaws—but the only way the outlaws can get the gold is to steal it from the bank vault where it’s being held for safekeeping. What could go wrong?
Break out the Jiffy Pop! All of these films can be rented on Amazon Prime for far less than the price of a movie out. Double feature op: If you watch The Apple Dumpling Gang, follow it up with The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again
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