Don Knotts portrayed high-strung Mayberry Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife in the 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Fife was a quixotic smalltown crime-stopper projecting a veneer of situational command that didn't fool anyone (including his acting peers, who accorded him four Emmy Awards for the role). The Museum of Broadcast Communications described Fife as "self-important, romantic, and nearly always wrong. While Barney was forever frustrated that Mayberry was too small for the delusional ideas he had of himself, viewers got the sense that he couldn't have survived anywhere else."
Knotts (b. Jesse Donald Knotts, July 21, 1924, Morgantown, W. VA.; d. Feb. 24, 2006) first teamed with Griffith in the 1958 film No Time For Sergeants. In 1960, when Griffith signed to star in his own sitcom, Knotts was recruited as his sidekick. Knotts, believing the show would end after five years, signed a multi-picture deal with Universal in 1965. When Griffith announced the TV series would continue, Barney's absence was explained on-camera as a "promotion" to the Raleigh NC police force.
The neurotic Knotts persona beguiled fans on the big screen in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), and others. He later played landlord Ralph Furley on TV's Three's Company. He even brought Barney back to the soundstage, reuniting with Griffith in the 1986 made-for-TV movie Return to Mayberry. In 2000, Knotts was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Disclaimer: The Drew Friedman portrait is a parody of LIFE magazine in the mid-1960s. This is NOT a replica of an actual LIFE cover.