The late comic star was certainly one of the greats, with a true knack for humor that everyone will remember – he gave us so many laughs throughout the years.
Don became one of the most well-known faces in the United States after his breakthrough with The Andy Griffith Show. But he was always guarded about his personal life. Many truths about him were only uncovered after his unfortunate demise in 2006…
Don Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1924, and grew up in poverty. Don’s father was a farmer, and his mother was 40 years old when he was born.
He had a difficult start in life. When Don was born, his dad had a psychological breakdown. He was also a violent guy, allegedly pursuing his kid with a knife once.
These horrific incidents, obviously, damaged the young Don, and he became rather reclusive, always seeking to defend himself from external dangers. Don carried those personality qualities with him throughout his life, despite the fact that he was viewed as entirely different while acting on stage.
Don had four brothers, two of them died while they were young. Earl, his older brother, died while he was just 13 years old. Earl had pneumonia, which was a terrible condition that killed many individuals at the time (this being before antibiotics were a mainstream medication). William, another of Don’s brothers, died at the age of 31.
Don was nurtured by his mom at a boarding house that the family owned and maintained. Despite his childhood’s sadness, he acquired a rare capacity to make others laugh. Even as a child, he had the ability to put a smile on everyone’s face. But it would be a long time before he could share his talent with the public in Hollywood.
Don began his career as an ordinary, hardworking worker, plucking chickens. Don was interested in ventriloquism even before he attended high school and was routinely performing in churches and at other gatherings.
Don finally went to New York to try to establish a reputation for himself as a comic, but he was a complete failure. He returned to West Virginia, depressed, and volunteered in the United States Army during World War II.
Soon after, he exploited his enlistment to advance his ambitions, traveling and playing for the soldiers in a performance called Stars and Gripes with his doll Danny “Hooch” Matador.
For his actions, he got multiple medals and served in the western Pacific Islands until 1946. Don never handled a weapon and was never engaged in combat, yet he played a vital role in easing the troops’ daily lives and making them laugh at a difficult time.
Don went home and relocated to New York, where his career would take off. Don got a foothold in the entertainment world because to his ties in the Special Service Secret Branch. He made his start in the soap opera Search For Tomorrow, where he appeared from 1953 until 1955.
Don likely had no idea that his role as Deputy Barney Fire on The Andy Griffith Show would affect his life forever. Don was a big hit as the skinny, wiry, and high-strung deputy.
From the start, it was assumed that Andy Griffith would play the humorous lead and Don would play the straight guy. But, as it turned out, they both felt it was better to switch positions.
Don and Andy had great chemistry, but Don departed the popular series in 1965, believing there would be no more episodes.
Don obtained a deal with Universal Studios and produced many films for them. Don returned to television in 1979, as Landlord Ralph Furley in Three’s Company, his second most recognized role.
Don reconnected with Andy Griffith in the 1980s for the television movie Return to Mayberry, in which he reprised his role as beloved deputy Barney Fires.
Don was still busy in the 2000s, although he was mostly doing voice work by then. He was the voice of Scooby-Doo in a video game, among other things. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000.
In his last years, the iconic actor fought lung cancer and all of the difficulties that came with it. He died at the age of 81 in a Los Angeles hospital and was buried at Westwood Memorial Park.
Karen, Don’s daughter, shared revelations from her father’s deathbed a few years ago. Karen couldn’t stop giggling at her dad’s incessant wisecracks when she visited him.
In a recent interview, the daughter went into more detail about when she did the “forbidden”—laughing on your dad’s deathbed is, obviously, a massive no-no under normal conditions.
Karen claims that her dad never lost his sense of humor, even though he knew he was dying. But she does have one regret. She was relating this tale to a filmmaker named Howard Storm, and he said she should have remained and laughed out loud, she said. That’s why comedians exist! She felt he was correct; she should have simply stood there and laughed.
Don had three marriages and two kids—one daughter and one son. Karen, his daughter, has followed in her father’s footsteps and works as an actor. Don apparently didn’t want his daughter to be in show business, but he couldn’t stop the gifted Karen.
She recalled watching and listening to him practice.
When Karen published her memoirs, much of her dad’s life became public, including details that few knew about but may have guessed about.
Above everything, Don was shaped by his difficult upbringing.
Don suffered from hypochondria and macular degeneration throughout his life. Don was a “very quiet guy,” according to Betty Lynn, one of Don’s co-stars on The Andy Griffith Show. Very nice. Nothing like Barney Fife.
Don sought treatment to help him overcome his difficulties.
Don Knotts’ legacy carries on in a variety of ways, including a statue in his birthplace of Morgantown.
It’s a prop that represents the screenplay for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which he wrote around the same time. It’s a homage to his cinematic work in his left hand and a nod to his TV work with the Andy Griffith Show with the prop for Barney Fife in his right hand, says artist Jamie Lester.
The 5-time Emmy Award winner was also given “Don Knotts Boulevard” in Morgantown.