A comedy legend now has a permanent place in his hometown. A statue of television icon Don Knotts best known as comedy’s most famous TV sheriff’s deputy, Barney Fife, on the hit 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, was unveiled in Morgantown, West Virginia. The unveiling was part of a two day celebration called Don Knotts Days over the weekend which was scheduled close to what would have been Morgantown’s favorite son’s 92nd birthday. The statue is placed in front of the Metropolitan Theatre in Morgantown where Knotts had performed during his career.
The party of all things Don Knotts included memorabilia displayed inside the theater lobby during the celebration which also included replica police cruisers matching the ones driven on the Andy Griffith Show, plus Barney Fife impersonators. The actor’s fans (known as Knott-Heads) (Okay, that was made up) shared in the hometown love which ended with a comedy performance from Don Knotts’ daughter Karen, who has followed her father into the family comedy business. Karen Knotts’ one woman show is a tribute to her dad called “Tied Up in Knotts”, which is about growing up with a famous comedian father.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the statue features Don Knotts sitting on a bench with his trademark Barney Fife deputy’s hat in one hand and the script for one his famous films in the other. Sculptor Jamie Lester also hailing from Morgantown, explained the design of the statue which incorporates both Knotts’ TV and movie work. He said, “It’s a prop that is a symbol for the script for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken which he did around the same time. So, it’s a nod to his film work in his left hand and nod to his TV work with the Andy Griffith Show with the prop for the Barney Fife hat in his right hand.”
Karen Knotts said “I love Jamie Lester’s statue. It captures Don Knotts the person beautifully, while he holds Barney Fife’s hat.”
If the bronze tribute seems overdue, that could be because this isn’t the first Don Knotts statue that was commissioned. The original in 2006 featured Don Knotts solely as Barney Fife, the character that brought him 5 Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy Awards, the most of any actor in his category. That idea was scrapped and the statue destroyed when it was rejected by Don Knotts’ widow Francey and his co-star Andy Griffith who firmly believed that the statue should honor “Don Knotts as Don Knotts”. It was a career that was too big to be defined by just one character.
Knotts’ early career included work on Broadway in “No Time For Sergeants” with Andy Griffith in the 1950s which led to Knotts and Griffith reuniting for the film version. His career had the rare trajectory of going from TV to the movies, back to TV again scoring hits in each medium along the way. He appeared on the Bob Cummings Show and the Steve Allen Plymouth Show in the earlier days of television. Then in the early 60s, he began his Emmy Award filled run on the Andy Griffith Show. The mid 1960s started his movie career as film’s favorite coward with comedies like The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968) and How to Frame a Fig (1971) and the Disney “Apple Dumpling Gang” movies. The late 70s and 1980s brought another hit TV role as the landlord Mr. Furley on the comedy “Three’s Company”. The late 80s and early 90s reunited Don Knotts and Andy Griffith once again on Griffith’s “Matlock” television detective series.
Don Knotts was listed in the top ten on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time where Deputy Barney Fife came in at #9.