The Andy Griffith Show showcases one of the greatest comic teams in television history: Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. The duo played, respectively, Sheriff Andy Taylor and his deputy Barney Fife.
Many fans don’t know that the pair didn’t first meet on the comedy series.
Their first professional partnering actually took place on the Great White Way.
Don Knotts and Andy Griffith met in ‘No Time for Sergeants’
The two actors met during the Broadway production of the military farce No Time For Sergeants in the 1950s. Griffith played Will Stockdale and Knotts as Corporal Manual Dexterity.
Don Knotts discussed his roles in the play with the Archive of American Television in 2015. “I played two parts. I played a preacher who came out in the beginning and introduced Will Stockdale, who was Andy Griffith.
“But the main part I played was a psychologist who had these rings who had to try to take them apart, put them together, and so forth. It was very funny.
“When I went to read, there were a lot of actors who had been called to come in and read [for the part]. A friend of mine told me ‘They’re looking for Southern types; it’ll be right down your alley.’”
Knotts called Griffith to invite himself on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
According to Daniel de Visé, author of 2015’s Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Don Knotts reached out to his old friend when he saw him on television one night on the Danny Thomas sitcom, The Danny Thomas Show in 1960.
The pilot for The Andy Griffith Show would 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?’”
The rest was history
Knotts’ call to Griffith was greeted enthusiastically. Griffith put Knotts in touch with The Andy Griffith Show‘s executive producer, Sheldon Leonard, and soon Knotts was signed up for a five-year contract.
As de Visé noted, when Knotts found out the part of deputy Barney Fife was his, he almost passed out from happiness.
“I had a good feeling about this,” Knotts recalled. “I had a real good feeling, even before it started.”
Sixty years later, fans most definitely agree with Knotts’ assessment.
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