‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Don Knotts and Andy Griffith Met and Became a Beloved Comedy Team
On classic comedy series The Andy Griffith Show, sheriff of Mayberry Andy Taylor and his deputy Barney Fife were not only work colleagues. They were also best friends.
The same was true of the actors who portrayed the two men in real life, up until death.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ marked its 60th anniversary since the show’s premiere
The classic comedy series debuted in 1960 in a world not yet faced with a presidential assassination and cultural turmoil.
As author Richard Kelly noted in his 1981 book, The Andy Griffith Show, “Unlike so many programs that begin with a slick pilot and then degenerate, the Griffith Show actually improved with time. Beneath its simple rustic setting lies a high degree of sophistication.
“The acting, writing, production, directing, and scoring were painstakingly worked out and blended to produce one of the more popular and artistic creations of the 1960s.”
How Don Knotts and Andy Griffith met
According to Daniel de Visé, author of 2015’s Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, the two men met while working together on Broadway in a 1955 production of No Time for Sergeants.
It wasn’t until 1960 that Knotts saw his old friend again on television one night on the Danny Thomas sitcom, The Danny Thomas Show. It was through that series that The Andy Griffith Show came to be and to introduce the country to Andy, Mayberry, and eventually Don Knotts.
De Visé wrote, “As Don beheld Andy on [television], ‘the wheels in my brain began to whirl,’ Don recalled. The part of Sheriff Andy Taylor seemed perfect for Andy. A show like that would be honey to the sponsors, with all its homespun charm. And Don wondered if there might be a place for him in Mayberry.
“A part on Andy’s new show just might rekindle Don’s career—and revive his old friendship with Andy. Don had always hoped he and Andy might work together again someday. Then, he placed a call to New York [and] told Andy how much he’d enjoyed the pilot. Then he asked, ‘Listen, don’t you think Sheriff Andy Taylor ought to have a deputy?’”
What Don Knotts thought of Andy Griffith
In his 1999 interview with the Archive of American Television, Don Knotts spoke on Griffith’s expressiveness and his appreciation of a good laugh.
Knotts said of his former show partner, “[Andy] was fun. I think Andy had the time of his life on that show. Andy was very expressive.
“His wife used to say to me, ‘Don’t sit in front of Andy at the movies! If something funny hits him, he’ll hit you right on top of the head.’ That’s the way he is; he’ll hit the wall. If I said something funny to Andy, he’d run clear across the sound stage. He’s just very demonstrative. He’s fun to be around.”
“Though their Mayberry partnership lasted only until 1965, the two remained best friends for life,” de Visé wrote. “Andy was with Don in 2006 at his deathbed.”