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He was the incredible Mr. Limpet.  Luther Heggs in “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken”.  The Shakiest Gun in the West.  Hollis Alexander Figg – as in “How to Frame a…”.  Ralph Furley in “Three’s Company”.

But of course, we all knew and loved him best as “Deputy Barney Fife” from “The Andy Griffith Show”, or anything even remotely having the slightest bit to do with Mayberry RFD.

Jesse Donald Knotts lost his battle with lung cancer Friday night in Los Angeles.  He was 81.

Don Knotts was pretty much typecast as a lovable goofball with a nervous streak about him during his time with The Steve Allen Show in the late 1950s.  He parlayed that into roles in the aforementioned movies (Limpet, Ghost, Figg), plus “The Reluctant Astronaut” and Disney’s “Apple Dumpling Gang” with Tim Conway.

But it was as Barney Fife that his fans will always remember him

a fully realized stooge, a hick-town Don Quixote who imagined himself braver, more sophisticated and more competent than he actually was. His utter lack of self-control led him into desperate jams that usually culminated with Fife at the end of his rope, bug-eyed and panting with anxiety. Sheriff Taylor allowed his deputy to carry just one bullet, which he was obliged to keep separate from his service revolver due to past trigger mishaps.

Asked how he developed his most famous character, Knotts replied in a 2000 interview: “Mainly, I thought of Barney as a kid. You can always look into the faces of kids and see what they’re thinking, if they’re happy or sad. That’s what I tried to do with Barney. It’s very identifiable.”

Thank you, Don, for entertaining us all for over half a century.  You will be very much missed.

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